The Discovery of the Wreck

Alderney is notorious for its fierce currents and hazardous reefs. Over the centuries these have claimed many fine ships, not least of which was a gunned Elizabethan vessel with a military cargo that was discovered by Alderney fisherman Bertie Cosheril in 1977.”

Members of the Alderney Dive Club (Dave Rendell, Alan Johnson, Trevor Davenport, Fred Shaw) with a concretion they recovered when they relocated the wreck in 1991. When broken up it was found to contain many artefacts. The long item that can be seen within the concretion was another musket.

“. . . Bertie took them to the spot and while Dave Rendell remained on the surface to look after the boat, Fred Shaw dived. Bertie’s last words before heading off to tend his pots were ‘I hope you find a cannon, Fred’.”

Discovery

Fisherman Bertie Cosheril with the concreted musket that he found tangled up within his lobster pots. April 1977

Fisherman Bertie Cosheril with the concreted musket that he found tangled up within his lobster pots. April 1977

The wreck was discovered in April 1977 by Alderney fisherman Bertie Cosheril, when he found a long concreted object tangled up in the back-line of one of his lobster pots. Several days later Bertie took it to the Alderney Museum whose then curator agreed with him that it was most likely a nineteenth century shoulder-arm. Back at home he broke away the concretion with a hammer to reveal a musket. Unfortunately the musket no longer survives, but in the photograph above it can be seen in its original concreted state on the day it was found.

Some time later Bertie contacted the local dive club and Fred Shaw and Dave Rendell decided the site was worth investigating. It was agreed that they would rendezvous at sea with Bertie at a spot not far from where the musket had been recovered. It was early evening when they met; there was a breeze and the sea was ‘lumpy’. Bertie took them to the location and while Dave remained on the surface to look after the boat, Fred dived. Bertie’s last words before heading off to tend his pots were “I hope you find a cannon, Fred”.

Fred made his descent directly on to a cannon. Moving out he found a second cannon and a timber which was ‘flapping slightly in the current’.

Several further dives were made during which clay pipe 237 and gaming piece 1105 and a range of pottery fragments were recovered. No further diving took place until 1990, but it was not until the following year that the site was relocated and the wreck was tentatively dated to the sixteenth century or very early seventeenth century.

During this phase, which lasted nine months, nearly 200 artefacts were recovered. These included a sounding lead, animal bones, muskets, pan weights and additional pottery fragments. In the above right photograph we see four members of the Alderney Dive Club with a large iron concretion they had just recovered and which was found to contain a number of artefacts.

The discovery was announced to the world at a press conference on the 26th June 1992. Also that day an article by David Keys concerning the wreck appeared in The Independent newspaper. Keys and a colleague had conducted some research at the Public Records Office, London, and had learned of an unnamed ship which had been ‘cast away about Alderney’ in November 1592. It was carrying dispatches from Lord Burghley to General Sir John Norreys who was the head of an English expeditionary force that was active in Britanny at the time.