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HER Number:MDV9871
Name:Church Rocks Wreck, approximately 150 metres offshore from Teignmouth

Summary

Evidence of a 16th century wreck, probably Venetian, found at a depth of 3.0-7.34 metres, approximately 150 metres offshore from Teignmouth. Finds from the site include Venetian bronze cannon, majolica pottery, sherds of Wan-Li Chinese porcelain and a Spanish fire-pot as well as timbers from the vessel. See associated monuments for details of particular finds.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 947 732
Map Sheet:SX97SW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishTeignmouth
DistrictTeignbridge
Ecclesiastical ParishOFFSHORE

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 1082124
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX97SW/30
  • Tide Project: 15/04/2020

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • WRECK (XVI to Post Medieval - 1501 AD to 1750 AD (Between))

Full description

Teignmouth Museum and Historical Society, Teignmouth Museum Book (Monograph). SDV303440.

Evidence of a 16th century wreck was found 183m off Church Rocks, East Teignmouth, in 1975. Possibly Venetian. No part of the structure of the wrecked vessel has been found; nor, so far, has any documentary evidence of the wreck come to light in the records. However it is known that the wrecked vessel was not a part of the Spanish Armada. The water over the wreck site varies with the tide from 3.0-7.34 metres, in depth. In such shallow and consequently turbulent conditions nothing of the structure of the ship will remain except, possibly parts of the keel and bottom strakes should these have sunk into the sand soon after the foundering of the ship. All that can be expected is the survival of heavy objects, and this has been the case. Two anchors have been located and remain on the site, one with a fluke still embedded in the reef. Anchors changed little from the 16th to the 18th century and the ones now found are unlikely to help in identifying the vessel. There have been other objects located which have been reburied by moving sand. However some artefacts have been salvaged and deductions made from them give rise to speculation which support an interesting theory but which, as yet has little substantiation in fact and may be invalidated by fresh finds. The theory is that the wreck is of a Genoese or Florentine trading galley of about 1600. The evidence is that the wreck occurred sometime between 1550 and 1620 and was a medium draught vessel of Mediterranean origin, carrying few but very expensive guns of the lighter ship-smashing kind with additional armament of boarder repellers. The most likely class of vessel to be involved is a trading galley. At this time there were two types of merchant galley frequenting the channel the Venetian, Florentine and Genoese galleys and the Spanish galleys. But the coat of arms on the salvaged guns are not the Royal Arms of Spain, nor the Arms of the Republic of Venice which equipped its own merchant fleet and hired the vessels to the merchants, so the likeliest supposition at the moment is that the wreck is a Genoese or Florentine trading vessel.

Department of Trade, 1977, Statutory Instrument 1977 (Schedule Document). SDV303456.

Wreck site designated under Protection of Wrecks act 1973. Surveying details: H1291/77 2.9.77. Area enclosed by NG coords (a) SX9465E, SX7330N, (b) SX480E, SX7330N, (c) SX9465E, SX7312N, (d) SX9480E, SX7312N (Statutory Instrument (1977) No 1357).

Teignmouth Museum and Historical Society, 1978, The Sixteenth Century Wreck off Church Rocks, East Teignmouth, Devon (Monograph). SDV303369.

Finds include ordnance (see MDV9872), cooking pots, fire pots (see MDV71592) and ship's gear.

Unknown, 1978, Unknown (Article in Serial). SDV303453.

Unknown, 1979, Church Rocks, Teignmouth. Post-medieval wreck site, 16 (Article in Monograph). SDV303441.

Designated Historic Wreck site. Limited excavation has been planned. Conservation facilities for bronze metal and wood have been set up.

Burton, P., 1980, News (Article in Serial). SDV358992.

Burton, P., 1980, News and Notes (Article in Serial). SDV358989.

Burton, S., 1981, Two Hands High for Treasure, 14 (Article in Serial). SDV303443.

A summary of the investigation of this wreck site between 1975 and 1981 is given. The main artefacts were found in 1975, 1977, 1980, and 1981, whilst the 1978 and 1979 seasons concentrated on survey work. During this period the site became more difficult to work on as sand deposits accumulated. Work was aided by the use of a magnetometer and a sand dredge in 1980. In addition to guns and cannon balls (see MDV9872 and MDV9873), finds included, in 1980, nails, a pewter mug, and an iron anchor, and in 1981, a copper cooking pot containing bones and a fine bronze counter weight (see MDV71592). The article gives the wreck a probable date of 1500-1520, but this is surely a printing error.

Unknown, 1982, Unknown, 1 (Article in Serial). SDV303370.

Press report on recent work in 1982. Timbers belonging to the wreck have been found under six feet of sand. Also pottery, including a complete earthenware jar. No coins.

Dudley, E. R., 1983, Church Rocks Shipwreck Site (Worksheet). SDV350529.

List of artefacts from Church Rocks Shipwreck site.

Burton, P., 1983, Notes and News (Article in Serial). SDV303445.

Current research suggests date range of 1485-1684 for this wreck, which may be a Venetian galley of the early 16th century, or a Spanish ship of 1550-1600.

Burton, P., 1983, Notes and News, 347 (Article in Serial). SDV303459.

Dudley, E. R., 1983, Unknown (Worksheet). SDV322576.

In 1982 a steelyard weight (see MDV71592), a damaged pewter jug and a cauldron for pitching were recovered from the wreck.

Unknown, 1986, Wreck Research Hits Snag (Article in Serial). SDV358988.

Dudley, E. R., 1987, Unidentified Artefacts 10, 247, Figs. 2 & 3 (Article in Serial). SDV351986.

A bronze saker was found in 1976. One the barrel was a shield with a lion rampant in sinister, a wheel with eight spokes in dexter and an indeterminate object in chief. Effors to identify the shield have so far been unsuccessful.

Dudley, E. R., 1988, Church Rocks Wreck Site (Worksheet). SDV303446.

Publications listed.

Dudley, E. R., 1989, Alberghetti Guns, 268, Fig. 1 (Article in Serial). SDV351987.

Four Alberghetti guns have been found off the coast of England [1989] including one from The Church Rocks site.

Griffith, F. M., 1989, DAP/PM, 12-14 (Aerial Photograph). SDV342994.

Dudley, E. R., 1991, Church Rocks Shipwreck Site (Correspondence). SDV303448.

Shipwreck identified and now established as San Paulo, for circa 1603 sunk by English privateer while carrying baggage of the ambassador for the Doge of Venice.

Dudley, E. R., 1991, Documentary Research on Church Rocks Historic Wreck Site (Un-published). SDV303461.

Unknown, 1992, Note, 165 (Article in Serial). SDV303462.

Wilson, V., 1993, Burton's Bounty (Monograph). SDV303423.

Preece, C. + Burton, S., 1993, Church Rocks, 1975-83: A Reassessment, 257-265 (Article in Serial). SDV303421.

The closest parallels re with vessels of the Armada period, in particular 'La Trinidad Valencera', a Venetian merchantman acquisitioned by the Spanish. Both vessels produce small quantities of Chinese porcelain and majolica, and Lisbon alancia firepots. The Church Rocks armament has a uniform Venetian provenance. Ceramic and ordnance evidence suggests a post-1582 date.

Unknown, 1993, New Find on Devon Wreck (Article in Serial). SDV358990.

Wilson, W., 1993, The Story of Teignmouth's Mysterious Wreck (Monograph). SDV303464.

Dudley, E. R., 1994, Letter to SMR (Correspondence). SDV303463.

Teignmouth Museum, 1995, Church Rocks Anomaly Map (Illustration). SDV362863.

Seismic record map of anomalies around the Church Rocks wreck and map showing location of finds at Site A.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 1996, Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites Annual Report, 30 (Report - non-specific). SDV358080.

Unknown, 1996, Maritime archaeology in Britain and Ireland 1995, 267-270 (Article in Serial). SDV361582.

Teignmouth: Time Team investigation of Church Rocks wreck site. Continuing 1997, 1998.

Taylor, T., 1996, Teignmouth, Devon (Article in Monograph). SDV362754.

The Church Rocks site lies 150 metres off shore from the railway line. A bronze cannon called a saker was found here in 1975. This was identified as Venetian, made by the Alberghetti family in the early 17th century. Other finds followed and the site was designated a protected wreck in 1977. Work continued at various times on the wreck and an assessment was published in 1993. Time Team joined the 1995 excavation season.
It is thought that the Church Rocks wreck was a Venetian galley and that it may have been involved in the Spanish Armada in 1588. Such merchant vessels were seized by the Spanish. However, there are no contemporary references to a shipwreck – the coast was well-watched at that time and it is suggested that it is more likely that the vessel was wrecked at night during a storm at some time before or after the Armada.
Venice was a major European sea power in the 14th-16th centuries and its trading contacts are well-represented by the finds from the wreck. These include, in addition to the Venetian bronze cannon, majolica pottery and a firepot (an early form of hand grenade) from Spain and sherds of Wan-Li Chinese porcelain dated 1560-1600.
The Time Team programme included a sonar and magnetometry survey which unfortunately failed to located the wreck and background research as well as underwater archaeology on the site. The latter revealed a substantial timber, in excess of 6 metres in length (part remained buried in sand) with part of the stern post attached.
Research into the shields on the cannon, previously listed as unidentified, suggested that they represent a number of Venetian merchants who had invested in the ship and that, therefore, it was not possible to give an absolute date.
See report for full details.

Flatman, J. + Blue, I., 1999, Maritime Archaeology in Britain and Northern Ireland 1997 & 1998, 174-99 (Article in Serial). SDV303451.

Flatman, J., 2000, Teignmouth Wreck (Correspondence). SDV319507.

In 1998 the ADU deployed a magnetometer and sub-bottom profiler on the site, plotting a previously unidentified anomaly that may include wreck material.

Preece, C., 2004, Evidence for High Status as Sea: The Church Rocks Wreck, 99-119 (Article in Serial). SDV322472.

Excavation of timbers in 1992, allied to the finds of the rudder pintle and strap in 1979 suggest that the ordnance as well as many of the finds are associated with the stern of the vessel. This, together with the cannons, suggests that the ship was a lightly armed merchantman, probably Venetian in origin. The lack of cargo (which may have been perishable or not yet located) makes it difficult to ascertain if the vessel was inbound or outbound. The ceramic assemblage appears to indicate onboard usage by officers, rich merchants or even an important passenger (rather than cargo). The vessel most probably dates to the last quarter of the 16th century or possibly the early 17th century. The wreck is one of ten Devon underwater sites designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. Apart from the cannons (see MDV9872), finds include cannon balls and shot (see MDV9873 and 71591), a caulking pot, a cooking pot, two lids with handles, seals (see MDV9876), a steelyard weight (see MDV71592), a lead sounding weight, adze, hammer head, knives, hook (see MDV71593), Wan Li porcelain (see MDV20302), a firepot (see MDV71594), an Italian tin-glazed sherd, a basal sherd of a lebrillo or large washing bowl, a sherd of unglazed orange earthenware and the neck and part of the shoulder of a flagon.

Unknown, 2006 - 2007, The Story of Teignmouth's Mysterious Wreck (Article in Serial). SDV339401.

Ruddock, M. + Watson, L., 2006+, The 16th Century Church Rocks Wreck at Teignmouth (Un-published). SDV363873.

In 1975 a Venetian saker cannon was found by a 13 year old spear fisherman in shallow water about 150 metres offshore. Further finds followed and in 1977 the site was designated as a National Historic Wreck.
Excavation of the wreck continued until 1983 and then again from 1990-1992 when excavation of the ship's timbers began. These timbers were found to be the keel, lower starboard side and part of the stern.
To date six bronze guns have been recovered. The fact that they are of bronze, rather than iron, and bear insignia suggests that the owner of the vessel was wealthy. Details and photos of the guns are given. A list and photos of other artefacts recovered is also given which include a gun carriage, an alcania (Spanish fire-pot), a branding iron or seal, ships nails, pewter mug, pottery and Ming porcelain, a large copper cooking pot with animal bones inside and a copper caulking pot with pitch inside.
Comparison between the Church Rocks Wreck and other Spanish Armada wreck sites on the Scottish and Irish coasts, in particular the La Trinidad Valancera, El Gran Grifan, Santa Maria de la Rosa and Girona, show similar ranges of finds, although larger cannon, coins and jewellery have also been recovered from the northern wrecks.
The origins and class of vessel that comprises the Church Rocks Wreck still remains a mystery. The presence of bronze guns though suggests wealth. However, it can certainly be dated to the 16th century and appears to have been a two-masted, carvel built vessel of some 100-200 tons. The presence of Venetian cannon together with the fire-pot, limestone shot, high quality copper cooking utensils and earthenware pottery similar to that found on Scottish and Irish wrecks and considered to have been made in Spain do suggest that the ship was of Mediterranean, possibly Venetian origin and had possibly stopped in Lisbon and also possibly Cadiz before being wrecked off our shores.
The similarity of the firepot and the bronze steelyard weight to those recovered from the wreck of La Trinidad Valancera [which sank in Kinnagoe Bay, Co. Donegal in 1588] suggests that there was a relationship between the two vessels. Interpretations to date range from a communications vessel associated with the 1588 Spanish Armade to an armed Venetian merchantman.
See report for further details of the finds and a timeline of dives and surveys.

Panter, I., 2011, Conservation report for the artefacts and guns from the Church Rocks Wreck (Report - Scientific). SDV363874.

Description of the remedial conservation work undertaken on copper alloy, iron and timber artefacts recovered from the Church Rocks Wreck and now in Teignmouth Museum, following a decision to extend and refurbish the museum complex. The remedial work was funded by English Heritage.
See report for full details.

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

Historic England, 2020, National Heritage List for England, 1000064 (National Heritage List for England). SDV363414.

Church Rocks. Remains of wreck of late sixteenth century armed cargo vessel, suggested as possibly being a Venetian trading galley, which stranded on Church Rocks, off Teignmouth.
See listing description for full details.
Date first lised: 3rd August 1977

Sources / Further Reading

SDV303369Monograph: Teignmouth Museum and Historical Society. 1978. The Sixteenth Century Wreck off Church Rocks, East Teignmouth, Devon. The Sixteenth Century Wreck off Church Rocks, East Teignmouth, Devon. Unknown.
SDV303370Article in Serial: Unknown. 1982. Unknown. Western Morning News. Unknown. 1.
SDV303421Article in Serial: Preece, C. + Burton, S.. 1993. Church Rocks, 1975-83: A Reassessment. The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploratio. 22.3. A4 Stapled + Digital. 257-265.
SDV303423Monograph: Wilson, V.. 1993. Burton's Bounty. Teignmouth Collector Series. 1. Unknown.
SDV303440Monograph: Teignmouth Museum and Historical Society. Teignmouth Museum Book. Teignmouth Museum Book. Unknown.
SDV303441Article in Monograph: Unknown. 1979. Church Rocks, Teignmouth. Post-medieval wreck site. Archaeology in Devon 1978. Unknown. 16.
SDV303443Article in Serial: Burton, S.. 1981. Two Hands High for Treasure. Diver. Unknown. 14.
SDV303445Article in Serial: Burton, P.. 1983. Notes and News. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. 12.4. Unknown.
SDV303446Worksheet: Dudley, E. R.. 1988. Church Rocks Wreck Site. Devon County Sites and Monuments Register. Worksheet + Digital.
SDV303448Correspondence: Dudley, E. R.. 1991. Church Rocks Shipwreck Site. Letter + Digital.
SDV303451Article in Serial: Flatman, J. + Blue, I.. 1999. Maritime Archaeology in Britain and Northern Ireland 1997 & 1998. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. 28.2. Unknown. 174-99.
SDV303453Article in Serial: Unknown. 1978. Unknown. NAT News. 2. Unknown.
SDV303456Schedule Document: Department of Trade. 1977. Statutory Instrument 1977. Protection of Wrecks Order 1977. Unknown.
SDV303459Article in Serial: Burton, P.. 1983. Notes and News. The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploratio. 12.4. Unknown. 347.
SDV303461Un-published: Dudley, E. R.. 1991. Documentary Research on Church Rocks Historic Wreck Site. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV303462Article in Serial: Unknown. 1992. Note. The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploratio. 21. Unknown. 165.
SDV303463Correspondence: Dudley, E. R.. 1994. Letter to SMR. Unknown.
SDV303464Monograph: Wilson, W.. 1993. The Story of Teignmouth's Mysterious Wreck. The Story of Teignmouth's Mysterious Wreck. Unknown.
SDV319507Correspondence: Flatman, J.. 2000. Teignmouth Wreck. Email to BritArch. Email + Digital.
SDV322472Article in Serial: Preece, C.. 2004. Evidence for High Status as Sea: The Church Rocks Wreck. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 62. Paperback Volume. 99-119.
SDV322576Worksheet: Dudley, E. R.. 1983. Unknown. Worksheet.
SDV339401Article in Serial: Unknown. 2006 - 2007. The Story of Teignmouth's Mysterious Wreck. Teignscene. Winter. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV342994Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1989. DAP/PM. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper) + Digital (Scan). 12-14.
SDV350529Worksheet: Dudley, E. R.. 1983. Church Rocks Shipwreck Site. Worksheet + Digital.
SDV351986Article in Serial: Dudley, E. R.. 1987. Unidentified Artefacts 10. The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploratio. 16.3. Hardcopy + Digital. 247, Figs. 2 & 3.
SDV351987Article in Serial: Dudley, E. R.. 1989. Alberghetti Guns. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. 18.3. Hardcopy + Digital. 268, Fig. 1.
SDV357736Interpretation: Pink, F.. 2014. South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment. AC Archaeology Report. ACD618/4/3. 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. 30.
SDV358988Article in Serial: Unknown. 1986. Wreck Research Hits Snag. Teignmouth Post. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV358989Article in Serial: Burton, P.. 1980. News and Notes. NAT News. 3. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV358990Article in Serial: Unknown. 1993. New Find on Devon Wreck. Diver. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV358992Article in Serial: Burton, P.. 1980. News. Nautical Archaeology. 9.3. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV361582Article in Serial: Unknown. 1996. Maritime archaeology in Britain and Ireland 1995. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. 25.3.& 4. 267-270.
SDV362754Article in Monograph: Taylor, T.. 1996. Teignmouth, Devon. Time Team 96. The Site Reports. Digital.
SDV363414National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2020. National Heritage List for England. Digital. 1000064. [Mapped feature: #127011 ]
SDV363873Un-published: Ruddock, M. + Watson, L.. 2006+. The 16th Century Church Rocks Wreck at Teignmouth. Digital.
SDV363874Report - Scientific: Panter, I.. 2011. Conservation report for the artefacts and guns from the Church Rocks Wreck. York Archaeological Trust. 2011/16. Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV9873Parent of: Cannon balls found in association with Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)
MDV9872Parent of: Cannon from Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)
MDV71591Parent of: Chain Shot found in association with Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)
MDV71594Parent of: Firepot found in association with Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)
MDV71593Parent of: Iron fish hook found in association with Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)
MDV9875Parent of: Leather Sheath found in asssociation with Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)
MDV71592Parent of: Steelyard Weight found in association with Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)
MDV9874Parent of: Timbers from Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)
MDV9876Parent of: Two Seals found in association with Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)
MDV20302Parent of: Wanli Porcelain found in association with Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)
MDV9877Parent of: Wheels found in association with the Church Rocks Wreck (Find Spot)

Associated Finds

  • FDV415 - ANCHOR (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV7431 - BUTCHERED ANIMAL REMAINS (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV422 - CAULDRON (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV7434 - GRINDSTONE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV7433 - HANDLE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV7430 - LID (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV421 - MUG (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV420 - NAIL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV7432 - POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV424 - SHERD (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV427 - WEIGHT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV8014 - Survey and excavation on the Church Rocks Wreck Site off Teignmouth

Date Last Edited:Oct 30 2020 7:50AM