Hopes for permanent Norfolk museum to house royal wreck's treasures

The Wreck of the Gloucester off Yarmouth, 6 May 1682, by Johan Danckerts, 1682

The Wreck of the Gloucester off Great Yarmouth, 6 May 1682, by Johan Danckerts, 1682. The ship carried the future King of England - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A permanent museum for artefacts from the remarkable shipwreck dubbed Norfolk's Mary Rose could be created in Great Yarmouth.

In what would be a huge tourism boost for the town and county, a purpose-built museum is mooted to display finds recovered from the Gloucester.

Lord Dannatt is supporting the historic rescue project of the Gloucester found off Great Yarmouth.

Lord Dannatt - Credit: UEA

Lord Dannatt, Norfolk deputy lieutenant and the former head of the British Army, is chairing a new charity looking to keep the treasures from the royal wreck in Norfolk.

Marine Parade in Great Yarmouth

The finds from The Gloucester could go on permanent show in Great Yarmouth - Credit: James Bass

He hopes that museum will be in Yarmouth, close to where the ship sank in 1682 - with the future king of England James II on board.

Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, who discovered the wreck of The Gloucester which sank 340 years ago

Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, who discovered the wreck of The Gloucester which sank 340 years ago, holding some of the artifacts they discovered - Credit: Danielle Booden

The ship was found in 2007 by Norfolk divers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, with their friend James Little, after a four-year search covering 5,000 nautical miles.

But its discovery has only just been revealed, after the long process of identifying it by its cannon, as well as issues around site security.

A temporary exhibition of finds from the ship, including clothes, shoes and unopened wine bottles, will go on display at Norwich Castle Museum next year.

A Shaft & Globe wint bottle, Bartmann jug and a ceramic medicine or food jug found by Julian and Lin

A Shaft & Globe wint bottle, Bartmann jug and a ceramic medicine or food jug found by Julian and Lincoln Barnwell found in the wreck of the Gloucester. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant 2022

But Lord Dannatt said the aspiration was to create a permanent Yarmouth home for those - and for other finds yet to be recovered from the waters.

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He said: "That's the long-term aim. There's lots of hoops to jump through first, not least to get all the permissions from the Ministry of Defence and the Receiver of Wreck.

"That's why we're establishing the charitable trust - the 1682 Trust - to see this through."

There would be significant costs for conserving the artefacts, historical research and mounting such an exhibition.

The bell of the Gloucester which sand in 1682 off Great Yarmouth

The Gloucester's bell was the key to its identity after the remains of the ship were located in 2007. - Credit: UEA

It is not yet clear whether The Gloucester could ever be raised - or even if it should be.

Lord Dannatt said: "At this stage we do not know. The ship's back was broken when it went down, so the only part which might be raiseable is the stern castle, which would be highly decorated.

"But what really matters is the artefacts which are being brought up. And, given the high number of courtiers of high rank, who would all have been carrying cabin luggage, there is more waiting down there.

"That will give us a wonderful view of what life was like for such people in the 17th century."

The Larking Gowen Tourism survey results seminar. Pete Waters of Visit East Anglia. Picture: DENISE

Pete Waters, from Visit of East of England - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Pete Waters, executive director of Visit East of England, which works to boost tourism in the region, said such a museum would bring a tremendous lift to the town and county.

He said: "The idea of a permanent museum in Great Yarmouth to bolster the town's year-round offer would be fabulous.

"The town has been pushing its arts and heritage offering and this would be a wonderful addition."

In the meantime, people can look forward to the temporary exhibition 'The Last Voyage of the Gloucester: Norfolk’s Royal Shipwreck’ at Norwich Castle Museum from February to July next year.

And there are hopes that exhibition, curated by Norfolk Museums Service and the University of East Anglia, will also get people flocking to the county.

Stefan Gurney from the Norwich BID team.Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Stefan Gurney, chief executive of Norwich BID - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Stefan Gurney, chief executive of Norwich Business Improvement District, said the national coverage of the find helped raise the profile of the county, the city and the coast.

He said: "It's great news for Norwich and for Norfolk. It's another reason for people to come to the county and to the city."

Lost royal ship the Gloucester found off Great Yarmouth

Bothers Lincoln and Julian Barnwell with some of their finds from the Gloucester. - Credit: UEA

Jo Warr, head of development at Norfolk Museums Service, said: "We are excited for the opportunity to exhibit finds from a such a significant discovery.

"Visitors will be transported back to a real moment in history and see objects that have been sitting on the sea floor for over 300 years.

"This will be a rare and important experience, and is down to the hard work and passion of everyone who has made this possible.”

Lady Dannatt, Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, paid tribute to the brothers who located the wreck.

Lady Dannatt MBE. Picture: Michael Waller-Bridge

Lady Dannatt - Credit: Portrait by Michael Waller-Bridg

She said: "The Barnwell brothers are complete legends. We are so proud of them, here in this county, for what they have discovered and for preserving its safety.

"We very much hope what has been found will stay here. The aim is for there to be a permanent museum in Great Yarmouth, which would be amazing.

"It is a remarkable discovery. It's going to be great for Yarmouth and wonderful for the county and the country as a whole."

While the charitable trust is set up, the UEA will receive and hold donations for the 1682 project under its own charitable status.

Those wishing to contribute should email David Ellis at supporter@uea.ac.uk.