Maritime Archaeological Sea Trust
- On 09/09/2015
- In Underwater Archeology
By WBGraeme - West Briton
An archaeological dig will try to find the mass grave of more than 200 people who drowned in a disastrous shipwreck off The Lizard.
The National Trust has teamed up with experts from Bournemouth University, Maritime Archaeological Sea Trust (MAST) and The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Maritime Archaeology Society to survey Pistil meadow.
In November of 1721, 207 sailors lost their lives in a ferocious storm when their military transport galley, the Royal Anne, hit rocks and sank off Lizard Point.
Three people survived by clinging to wreckage. Among the dead was Lord Belhaven, who was leaving Britain to take up his newly-appointed posting as governor of Barbados in mysterious circumstances after the untimely death of his wife.
The Royal Anne was designed by the Marquis of Carmarthen and launched in 1709 as a small and speedy warship, designed to be powered by oar or sail so as not to be outmanoeuvred by pirates.
Her military postings had included protecting Russian trade off Norway, combating notorious Morocco-based pirates the Rovers of Sallee, and cruising Scottish waters during the Jacobite rebellion.
The wreck was found close inshore in the 1970s by divers who first located two guns, but its identity was only clinched in the 1990s by the discovery of silver cutlery with the Belhaven family crest.
The wreck site was protected in 1993 although the rocks and huge Atlantic swells meant only a scattering of objects survived. Other finds have included coins, watch parts, copper bowls and cannon shot.
It is believed the crew were buried, as was customary at the time, in un-consecrated ground.