Stunning finds from the London wreck on display

February 20, 2023

A specially chosen selection of 1,192 items recovered from the wreck of the London are now on permanent display at Southend Central Museum.

They include a Dutch cannon, a bronze sundial and Bartman jugs that are currently on display to showcase the way of life on board the London.

The London was a 76-gun ship in the Navy of the Commonwealth of England, built at Chatham Dockyard between 1654 and 1656 and was part of a convoy sent to collect the exiled King Charles II from The Netherlands in 1660 in order to restore him to the throne. Sadly she sank in March 1665 following an on-board gun powder explosion.

Rediscovered in 2005 during preparation works as part of the London Gateway Port development in Thurrock, Essex, in October 2008 she was designated under the ‘Protection of Wrecks Act 1973’ and placed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

Between 2014 and 2016 a licensed programme of recovery and excavations took place and the majority of the artefacts from the wreck were discovered, but there is still minimal recovery ongoing by a group of local volunteers under the direction of site licensee Steve Ellis and a nominated archaeologist.

Ciara Phipps, director of Southend Museums, said: “We are so excited to be unveiling a selection of the London Shipwreck finds in a small display about the wreck and what life on board such a ship might have been like. This beautiful collection is a significant addition to Southend Museums offer and strengthens the nationally important cultural heritage within the City which we are keen to expand and promote the heritage of Southend.”

Angela Middleton, Senior Archaeological Conservator at Historic England, said: “It has been a privilege to conserve the artefacts from the London wreck and work together with the licensed divers and Southend Museum on this project. I am pleased to see the pocket sundial and the linstocks that hold slow matches that fire the cannons go on display, so soon after conservation has been completed.”

There is an accompanying free trail for children available from Southend Central Museum.

Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment, culture and tourism, said: “While the gunpowder explosion was an awful tragedy and sad loss of life, it has left behind a legacy and the displays show a fascinating part of English history and an insight, not just into life aboard a ship, but life in 17th century England. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this exhibition and visit as soon as they are able.”

“Here in Southend we have an amazing heritage related to the sea and the City. The London is a part of this, along with the Saxon Prince and the Ekco story which are currently exhibited. It would be great to harness the undoubted love of our history in the City and to get more people involved with bigger and better exhibitions.”

The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm. Visit for more information.


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