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HER Number:MDV58271
Name:Salcombe Cannon Wreck

Summary

Site of a 17th century vessel indicated by number of cannon and anchors. The balance of evidence tends towards the conclusion that this was a Barbary Pirate. The finds include African, Dutch and English artefacts. The Bronze Age assemblage recovered from the designated area in 2004 is presumed to be unrelated to the Cannon Wreck and may be associated with the nearby Moor Sand site.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 755 361
Map Sheet:SX73NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishUnknown
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishUNKNOWN

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 1439037
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX73SE/59
  • Pastscape: 1121972

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • ARTEFACT SCATTER (Bronze Age - 2200 BC to 701 BC)
  • WRECK (XVI to Post Medieval - 1501 AD to 1750 AD (Between))

Full description

Allan, J. P., Salcombe Wreck (Correspondence). SDV160995.

Pots from Salcombe wreck, including a Dutch Delft ware dish with running scroll decoration, a medallion from a Westerwald jug and a Low Countries redware dish. Also Low Countries redware tile, perhaps from ship's galley. May point to Dutch origin for ship, probably 17th century.


Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 1996, Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites Annual Report, 36 (Report - non-specific). SDV358080.


Porter, V., 1997, Devon Wreck, Photos (Un-published). SDV160991.

No wreckage yet found. Divers recently recovered over 400 gold coins, ingots and jewellery (earrings and pendants) as well as fragments of Delft pottery, pewter and lead weights. The coins and jewellery have all been identified as Moroccan; the coins struck by the Sa'did Sharifs, who ruled from mid 16th to mid 117th century. The date of the wreck can be narrowed to a 15 year period around the 1630s or 1640s. The latest coins so far identified date to the reign of Al-Walid, who ruled 1631-1636. Pot and pewter are also thought to date up to c1640. The only non-Islamic coins are two copper specimens, of which the only identifiable with certainty was struck in Friezland in 1627. In 1585 the Barbary Company was established to facilitate trade between England and Morocco, which was ruled by Ahmad Al-Mansur (reigned 1578-1603), who was known as 'The Golden One'. He had excellent relations with Queen Elizabeth I. Over 100 of the coins from the wreck were struck by this ruler, and another 100 by his son Mawlay Zaydan (1608-27). The rest are mostly coins of other members of the family down to the 1630s. The fact that much of the jewellery is in pieces suggests that it was obtained as bullion to be melted down.


British Museum, 1997, Photo from British Museum (Photograph). SDV161000.


DCMS, 1997, Press Release (Schedule Document). SDV160990.

17th century vessel containing Islamic gold artefacts from Morocco. Designated as an historic wreck 24/10/1997. Thought to be of north west European or north African origin, and may have traded between Britain and Africa. First discovered in 1992 by South West Marine Archaeological Group, at which time it was described by Archaeological Diving Unit as a 'cannon site with nothing else visible'. In 1994, seabed movement revealed numerous gold artefacts, including jewellery and coins. Designated area extends 250m around 50.12.696N,03.44.679W.


South West Maritime Archaeology Group, 1997, Salcombe Cannon Site (Article in Monograph). SDV178111.

The Salcombe cannon site surveyed by South West Maritime Archaeology Group has produced widespread material from four deep rock gullies. Finds include nine cannons over 2.5m long, two swivel guns and three anchors. The dinars and jewellery recovered has been deposited with the British Museum. The report has descriptions and illustrations of artefacts including pewter, ceramics and unusual items such as a lead fish sounding weight, a brass merchants' seal and a ceramic pharmaceutical jar.


Gibbs, G., 1997, Weekend Dive Brings Moroccan Gold Treasure to the Surface at Site of 17th-Century Shipwreck (Article in Serial). SDV160998.


Unknown, 1999, Maritime archaeology in Britain and Ireland 1997, 1998 (Article in Serial). SDV361584.

Reference to Salcombe Dekler’s Cliffs, Cannon wreck. Survey and excavation. Interim report by South West Maritime Archaeological Group.


Oldham, N., 2000, A Barbary pirate off Salcombe, 45 (Article in Serial). SDV160994.

Presence of ship indicated by number of cannon and anchors scattered on sea bed. Coins found were 430 Moroccan dinars. Also 15 items of gold jewellery and 19 gold ingots. Other artefacts include a Dutch 17 ounce weight and a seal bearing letters 'M R'. A collection of pills in a Somerset pot, sounding weights, cannon balls and bar shot.


Waterhouse, R. E., 2000, East Portlemouth Heritage Appraisal: An Archaeological History of the Parish, 28 (Report - non-specific). SDV161003.


Unknown, 2000, Salcombe Cannon Site, West Prawle, Devon, England (Report - non-specific). SDV339425.

Visited 29/08/1999. At least 10 iron guns were visible, including 2 small breech-loading swivel guns. The larger guns are all about 2.5m long, and apre probably 8 pounders. Some were associated with concretions of shot. Two iron anchors present. One measuring just under 2m across the flukes, with a shank over 3m long. Timber fragments and many other concretions, including bar shot, were exposed during a previous visit. A 'brick wreck' that is said to be close by and which may be within the designated area, could be the remains of a shop's galley. The exact locationof the bricks, and extent of the site, is yet to be determined.The overall assemblage includes shipboard items consistent with a North West European vessel, but a vessel of North African origin cannot be ruled out.


Wessex Archaeology, 2003, Salcombe Cannon Wreck (Photograph). SDV323392.

Visted in 2003 by Wessex Archaeology to produce photo-mosaics of three of the gullies in order to provide the licensee with baseline data. Reprocessing of the multibeam data produced a detailed contour map of the site, within which archaeological features could be identified. Gully profiles were also produced as part of the creation of a digital 3-D image of the site.


English Heritage Maritime Archaeologist, 2004, Salcombe Finds Update (Correspondence). SDV355054.

Nineteen of the Bronze Age artefacts have been passed to the British Museum for identification and assessment. They have noted the unusual quality of preservation of some of the items. A date of 1300-1150BC is suggested which parallels the smaller Moor Sand collection. A rapier found as part of the original Salcombe wreck has been reassessed as Bronze Age in date and an item of jewellry may also be similarly reassessed.


Palmer, B. M., 2004, Salcombe Site B (Report - Interim). SDV323455.

Survey to the south of the site in September 2004 recorded a number of bronze artefacts on the surface of the seabed. It is probable that seabed levels have reduced in the area this season. If such reduction has occurred it cannot be quantified, as seabed monitors have yet to be placed in the area. In 2000 a bronze blade was recovered. In 2001 a circular bronze ring, which was suggested by Martin Dean and Annabel Lawrence to be a pot handle, probably from a 17th century wreck. In the light of the 2004 recoveries, the team suggest the possibility that a Bronze Age wreck may be present on the site. The palstave axe heads appear consistent with a Bronze Age date, as does the pot handle (citing Cunliffe, with no further reference).


Black, J. + Webster, S., 2004, Salcombe, 10 (Article in Serial). SDV319166.

Site topography is that of a network of gullies within which lie a number or cannons and anchors. Several seasons of survey work have been carried out by South West Maritime Archaeological Group, with excavations in certain key areas. A multibeam survey was conducted over the site in 2002, to clarify the network of gullies that provide the backdrop to the wrecking incident. Unauthorised diving is reported to have taken place.


South West Maritine Archaeological Group, 2005, Bronze Age Site Meeting (Un-published). SDV351431.

Possibilities of how the Bronze Age material came to be in this location discussed, whether potentially onboard the 17th century vessel or a separate wreck. The artefacts show connections between Britain and continental Europe. Similarity with the material from the Moor Sand wreck noted. Summary of Bronze Age material from Salcombe and Moor Sand given. Current absolute dating for the assemblages is circa 1300 -1150BC (with the exception of the fragment of a probable Carp's Tongue sword from Moor Sand which is dated to circa 950-800BC).


Maritime & Coastguard Agency, 2005, Devon Divers Find 3,000 Year Old Bronze Age Artefacts On Shipwreck Site (Article in Serial). SDV352746.

A group of divers discovered a submerged hoard of Bronze Age artefacts off Salcombe, Devon. Finds included swords, rapiers, palstave axe heads, an adze, a cauldron handle, and a gold bracelet. The new site falls within the protected area of the Salcombe Cannon shipwreck site which is designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.
The finds from the new site belong to a phase of the Bronze Age, dating to around the 13th century BC, and archaeologists are wondering if they came from the same vessel as finds from 'Moor Sands'.


Maritime & Coastguard Agency, 2005, Devon divers find 3000 year old Bronze Age artefacts on shipwreck site (Un-published). SDV323395.

Bronze Age hoard found within the protected area of the Salcombe Cannon Shipwreck site in 2005.


Needham, S., 2005, Summary of Finds from Moor Sand and Salcombe Site B (Un-published). SDV320790.

Bronze Age finds from Salcombe B include palstaves, swords and a gold armlet.


Griffith, F. M. + Wilkes, E. M., 2006, The Land Named from the Sea? Coastal Archaeology and Place-names of Bigbury Bay, Devon, 86-7 (Article in Serial). SDV339814.

Site of a 17th century wreck which contained gold and artefacts of Moroccan origin which may have led to the closest beach being named 'Moor Sands'.


Yates, C., 2006 - 2007, Salcombe Cannon Site. End of Season Report - November 2006 (Report - non-specific). SDV339404.


Diver Group, 2007, Divernet (Website). SDV351715.

Lines and buoys marking the protected Salcombe Cannon Site off South Devon's Prawle Point have been vandalised. The incident involved the deliberate severing of three site boundary buoys and a larger, main site position buoy. Lines were winched up and cut, leaving buoys to float away. The lines were connected with a labrynth of bottom lines with archaeological mapping tags, many of which were torn out and will need to be relaid. The main position buoy's half-ton anchor weight was even hauled off the bottom and dumped in a different position.


English Heritage, 2008, Shipwrecks at Risk (Report - non-specific). SDV340653.

Listed as being at risk owing to "significant decline" and "extensive significant problems".


Yates, C., 2009, Moor Sand and Salcombe Cannon Sites, End of Season Report 2009 (Report - Survey). SDV347977.

The licensees of the Moor Sand and Salcombe Cannon Sites have agreed that the archaeology takes precedence over site boundaries and the sitesare now being investigated as a single project. The artefacts found in 2009 have increased the number of of recorded Bronze Age by 100% and constitute approximately 70% of all Bronze Age copper ingots in the UK. The ingots are believed to be of continental origin and therefore would be clear evidence of cross channel trade. The distribution of artefacts is very wide and there appears to be distinct types of artefacts in distinct areas. The most likely explanation for this distribution pattern is that the site consists of the wrecks of a number of vessels.


Needham, S. + Parham, D. + Frieman, C. J., 2013, Claimed by the Sea: Salcombe, Langdon Bay, and other Marine Finds of the Bronze Age (Monograph). SDV360965.

The site of Salcombe B was discovered in 2004. The finds are not thought to be related to the 17th century wreck (Salcombe A). Only a couple of Bronze Age objects have come from within the main concentration of 17th century material. Salcombe B appears to be contemporary with and probably related to the Moor Sands assemblage to the east. The two sites are discussed together in the report. See MDV7065 for details.


English Heritage, 2013, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV350785.

Salcombe Cannon Site. Off Moor Sand, near Shag Rock, Devon.
Finds of cannon and timber fragments, which together with other finds (including a rich assemblage of gold artefacts) suggest a possible mid-seventeenth century wreck site, perhaps centred around 1636 to 1640. Subsequent artefacts of Bronze Age date, largely weapons, have also recently been recovered from the same location, but would appear to relate to a possible earlier wreck in the same area, rather than directly associated with the seventeenth century wreck.
The site was first described in 1992 by divers from the South-west Maritime Archaeology Group (SWMAG) as a cannon site with nothing else visible. When divers returned to the site in 1995, seabed levels had changed exposing a rich assemblage of gold artefacts. Earrings, pendants, tiny gold ingots, and over 400 gold coins were recovered. The gold derives from Morocco, and dating of the coins suggests that the ship was lost in the mid-seventeenth century. All recovered artefacts were declared to the Receiver of Wreck, and are now held by the British Museum as the largest assemblage of Islamic coins ever found in the UK.
At this stage it is difficult to suggest the origin of the vessel. The overall assemblage includes shipboard items consistent with a NW European vessel but further information needs to be collected from the site before a North African vessel can be ruled out, as the initial analysis of the coins at the Coins and Medals Department (MD) of the British Museum indicates a North African origin. Although only a proportion of the total assemblage has been studied so far the dates range from 1578 to 1635 with Marrakech as the dominant mint: Historical evidence suggests there was regular trade in gold from North Africa at this time.
In 2004, a Bronze Age assemblage of swords, rapiers, palstave axe heads, an adze, and a gold bracelet was recovered from the designated area. These artefacts may be associated with the nearby designated Moor Sand Bronze Age site.


Pink, F., 2014-2015, South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment (Interpretation). SDV357736.


South West Maritme Archaeological Group, Nov 2004, Salcombe Cannon Site. End of Season Report (Un-published). SDV351432.

Extensive survey carried out to north of known site. Bronze Age artefacts unrelated to the 17th century site have been found to the south-east (Salcombe B). It is believed there have been four incidents of illegal diving on the site. A list of the artefacts recovered from Salcombe B is given as an appendix.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV160990Schedule Document: DCMS. 1997. Press Release.
SDV160991Un-published: Porter, V.. 1997. Devon Wreck. Press Release. A4 Stapled + Digital. Photos.
SDV160994Article in Serial: Oldham, N.. 2000. A Barbary pirate off Salcombe. Council for British Archaeology South West Newsletter. 5. 45.
SDV160995Correspondence: Allan, J. P.. Salcombe Wreck. Letter to Historic Environment Record. Letter + Digital.
SDV160998Article in Serial: Gibbs, G.. 1997. Weekend Dive Brings Moroccan Gold Treasure to the Surface at Site of 17th-Century Shipwreck. The Guardian. Newspaper/Magazine Cutting + Digital.
SDV161000Photograph: British Museum. 1997. Photo from British Museum.
SDV161003Report - non-specific: Waterhouse, R. E.. 2000. East Portlemouth Heritage Appraisal: An Archaeological History of the Parish. Unknown. 28.
SDV178111Article in Monograph: South West Maritime Archaeology Group. 1997. Salcombe Cannon Site. History from the Sea: Collection of their six Reports on Historic Wrecks o. Vol 1. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV319166Article in Serial: Black, J. + Webster, S.. 2004. Salcombe. Nautical Archaeology Society Newsletter. 2004.3. 10.
SDV320790Un-published: Needham, S.. 2005. Summary of Finds from Moor Sand and Salcombe Site B. A4 Single Sheet + Digital.
SDV323392Photograph: Wessex Archaeology. 2003. Salcombe Cannon Wreck.
SDV323395Un-published: Maritime & Coastguard Agency. 2005. Devon divers find 3000 year old Bronze Age artefacts on shipwreck site. Press Release. Newspaper/Magazine Cuttin.
SDV323455Report - Interim: Palmer, B. M.. 2004. Salcombe Site B. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV339404Report - non-specific: Yates, C.. 2006 - 2007. Salcombe Cannon Site. End of Season Report - November 2006. South West Maritime Archaeological Group Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV339425Report - non-specific: Unknown. 2000. Salcombe Cannon Site, West Prawle, Devon, England. Archaeological Diving Unit Report. 99/26. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV339814Article in Serial: Griffith, F. M. + Wilkes, E. M.. 2006. The Land Named from the Sea? Coastal Archaeology and Place-names of Bigbury Bay, Devon. Archaeological Journal. 163. A5 Paperback. 86-7.
SDV340653Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2008. Shipwrecks at Risk. English Heritage Report. Website.
SDV347977Report - Survey: Yates, C.. 2009. Moor Sand and Salcombe Cannon Sites, End of Season Report 2009. South West Maritime Archaeological Group Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV350785National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2013. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital.
SDV351431Un-published: South West Maritine Archaeological Group. 2005. Bronze Age Site Meeting. Minutes of South West Maritime Archaeological Group Meetings. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV351432Un-published: South West Maritme Archaeological Group. Nov 2004. Salcombe Cannon Site. End of Season Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV351715Website: Diver Group. 2007. Divernet. www.divernet.com. Digital + A4.
SDV352746Article in Serial: Maritime & Coastguard Agency. 2005. Devon Divers Find 3,000 Year Old Bronze Age Artefacts On Shipwreck Site. Council for British Archaeology South West Newsletter. 15. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV355054Correspondence: English Heritage Maritime Archaeologist. 2004. Salcombe Finds Update. Email regarding the Salcombe Bronze Age material. A4 Single Sheet + Digital.
SDV357736Interpretation: Pink, F.. 2014-2015. South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment. AC Archaeology Report. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV358080Report - non-specific: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 1996. Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites Annual Report. Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2010. A4 Stapled. 36.
SDV360965Monograph: Needham, S. + Parham, D. + Frieman, C. J.. 2013. Claimed by the Sea: Salcombe, Langdon Bay, and other Marine Finds of the Bronze Age. Claimed by the Sea: Salcombe, Langdon Bay, and other Marine Finds of the Bronze Age. 173. Digital.
SDV361584Article in Serial: Unknown. 1999. Maritime archaeology in Britain and Ireland 1997, 1998. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. 28.2.

Associated Monuments

MDV7065Related to: Bronze Age Metalwork off Moor Sand, Devon (Maritime)

Associated Finds

  • FDV3 - COIN (Unknown date)
  • FDV6 - TILE (Unknown date)
  • FDV4 - WEIGHT (Unknown date)
  • FDV1105 - HANDLE (Middle Bronze Age - 1500 BC to 1001 BC)
  • FDV7105 - INSTRUMENT NON SPECIFIC (Middle Bronze Age - 1500 BC to 1001 BC)
  • FDV7103 - TORC (Middle Bronze Age - 1500 BC to 1001 BC)
  • FDV5448 - BRACELET (Middle Bronze Age - 1300 BC to 1150 BC)
  • FDV5446 - PALSTAVE (Middle Bronze Age - 1300 BC to 1150 BC)
  • FDV5447 - SWORD (Middle Bronze Age - 1300 BC to 1150 BC)
  • FDV7 - ANCHOR (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV1 - CANNON (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV9 - COIN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV11 - Gun (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV8 - INGOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV2 - JEWELLERY (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV5 - POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV12 - SHOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV1 - Site Assessment
  • EDV4294 - ADU Diving Visit, Salcombe Cannon Site
  • EDV4295 - Fieldwork 2005 First Session, Salcombe Cannon Site
  • EDV4296 - Fieldwork 2005 Second Session, Salcombe Cannon Site

Date Last Edited:Jan 17 2019 11:41AM