Royal Anne Galley

Marine Environmental Assessment



Charles Galley

A galley-frigate the Charles Galley ( Jeremy Roche c1688)


The Royal Anne Galley was a galley-frigate, a type of small, fast warship, combining sail with oar propulsion. Designed by Marquis Carmarthen and built at Woolwich Dockyard, she was wrecked off the Lizard Point on 10th November 1721; about two hundred crew and passengers were lost including John, 3rd Lord Belhaven, who was en voyage to take up a new post as the Governor of Barbados.

The wreck site was rediscovered in 1991 by local diver Robert Sherratt when a large sounding lead was found adjacent to two iron guns. Subsequently numerous objects were recovered from the seabed in the vicinity of the iron guns, including items of cutlery bearing the Belhaven crest, which led to the identification of the wreck. The wreck was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) as the Royal Anne Galley in 1993.

Although the Royal Anne Galley lies close inshore in about 6m of seawater, the area is surrounded by rocks and large Atlantic swells make access difficult. The rocky seabed is a very dynamic environment with deep gullies and crevices obscured by thick kelp.


The Site

The Site


In 2005 English Heritage (EH) commissioned Historic Environment Projects, Cornwall Council (HE Projects), and Kevin Camidge to undertake a desk-based assessment of the Royal Anne Galley;  Phase 1 of a Marine Environmental Assessment (MEA) of the site. The purpose of the MEA is to allow English Heritage to make an informed judgment on best practice for field assessment and therefore to establish site stability and preservation potential.

Following completion of the Phase 1 report (RAG MEA DBA) which outlined a strategy for field assessment and monitoring of the site EH commissioned a  Phase 2 field assessment (RAG MEA Phase II). This was carried out during 2008 and 2009 and the following objectives were successfully accomplished:

  • A bathymetric survey was undertaken;
  • A marine biological assessment was undertaken;
  • A water sample was collected and analysed;
  • Sediment samples were collected and analysed;
  • Objects for monitoring dispersal (bricks and spheres) were installed on the site;
  • Objects to monitor the biological degradation of timber were installed on the site.



Diver recovering sediment samples

Diver recovering sediment samples from the site in 2009

The Phase 3 monitoring was carried out in 2010 by a team of CISMAS divers. An inspection of the site was undertaken and the oak sample blocks were recovered. The tracer objects, spheres and bricks, which had been placed on the seabed were located and surveyed. In total, 21 of the original 40 objects were located and recorded (8 spheres and 13 bricks).


Plan showing the positions of the tracer objects in October 2010 after 18 months on the seabed



Dispersal objects: movement, clearly showing how the bricks and spheres have been differentially moved. Bricks are shown in yellow and spheres in red.



The objects have been moved on the seabed by an average of 5.15m (spheres) and 4.89m (bricks). With a single exception the objects had been ‘sorted’ by the environmental forces acting on the site Analysis of the oak blocks exposed on the seabed of this site showed they are subject to attack by wood-boring organisms and that survival of any timber from the wreck of the Royal Anne Galley is unlikely. The RAG MEA Phase III report can be downloaded here.

The objectives of the Phase 4 fieldwork were to:

  • record the positions of the dispersal objects placed on the seabed in 2009;
  • record the two iron guns (G1 and G2); and
  • install new survey control points.

The fieldwork had been delayed since 2011/2012 by adverse sea conditions and then illness of the key member of the project team, but successful dives were made at last on 19 and 20 June 2014.

The site had changed considerably since the Phase 3 monitoring in October 2010, although the seabed conditions here are very dynamic, the storms of early 2014 had probably caused the extensive displacement of large rocks and also movement of the two iron guns. Some artefacts— cannon balls, etc.—had also been exposed on the seabed. It was also noted that the flora on the site seemed to have changed. Previously the site was characterised by an unusually tall and dense cover of kelp. The kelp on the site now is much smaller and sparser with much lower level, fine-filament ‘sea weeds’ having taken over.

The two guns were relocated, planned and photographed. Of the dispersal trials objects —20 bricks and 20 steatite spheres placed on the seabed in April 2010—only three spheres were located, in contrast to the eight spheres and 13 brick recorded in October 2010. None of the existing control points were intact and three new survey control points were established.


plan 2

Plan showing the dispersal objects in June 2014 – only three spheres were located in 2014


guns 2014

Plan showing the relative positions of Guns 1 and 2. The dashed outlines show the guns as they were in 2010; the solid outlines shaded in grey show the guns as they were surveyed in June 2014. The new control points installed in 2014 are shown in blue (CP1, CP2 and CP3)



A photomosaic of the two iron guns


The RAG Marine Environmental Assessment report phase IV can be downloaded from the CISMAS downloads page RAG MEA Phase IV