The brothers who spent a fortune searching for lost royal ship

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

Julian and Lincoln Barnwell who discovered the wreck of The Gloucester which sank 340 years ago. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant 2022

The eyes of the world are on Great Yarmouth as media from across the globe queue up to hear the story of the lost royal wreck.

News crews, journalists, and photographers set up their shoots at the town's historic jetty ready to share the story of the Gloucester's discovery across Norfolk, the nation, and beyond.

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

Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, who discovered the wreck of The Gloucester which sank 340 years ago, being interviewed by BBC Radio Norfolk. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant 2022

Billed as an internationally important find which could do for Great Yarmouth what the Mary Rose has done for Portsmouth and the 'car-park King' for Leicester there was no shortage of excitement from academics, historians - and the two Norfolk brothers who found the shipwreck.

For Julian and Lincoln Barnwell it was a chance to share something they had been keeping under their hats for 15 years.

And for the Wroxham-based brothers, who run Barnwell Print in Aylsham, it was more than appropriate that it all started with a book.

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

Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, who discovered the wreck of The Gloucester which sank 340 years ago, being interviewed by BBC Look East. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant 2022

It was Lincoln, 51, who decided to go for the Gloucester - picking it from a list of around 4,000 wrecks listed in the Shipwreck Index of the British Isles - his imagination fired by mention of cannons and the prospect of a thrilling quest.

For them it has been the ultimate boys' adventure.

Julian and Lincoln Barnwell with the wreck of the Gloucester off Great Yarmouth

Brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell measuring a canon on the seabed. The discovery of the royal Gloucester has set historic hearts racing. - Credit: Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks

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Completely self-funded (apart from a donation from Alan Boswell Insurance) it has cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds and involved taking out a maritime mortgage for a vessel capable of going that far out to sea and carrying all the equipment.

Since they finally located the wreck after four years of searching, in 2007, they have carried out more than 200 dives to the site, bringing some incredible finds into the sunlight.

Some of the artifacts discovered by Julian and Lincoln Barnwell in the wreck of The Gloucester. Pict

Some of the artifacts discovered by Julian and Lincoln Barnwell in the wreck of The Gloucester. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant 2022

Finding the bell that would later confirm the ship's identity was a moment for a sharp intake of breath - translated as a brotherly hand-shake underwater.

Hauntingly, the last time it tolled would have been to signal the vessel's distress as it foundered on the sandbank.

Finally going public meant sharing a story the brothers had known about for 15 years.

"It is a relief being able to talk about it publicly," Lincoln, 51, said.

"I am not saying it has been a burden but it is always in the back of your mind.

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

Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, who discovered the wreck of The Gloucester which sank 340 years ago, holding some of the artifacts they discovered. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant 2022

"We see ourselves as the guardians of the wreck site."

Julian said: "It is a site that should be shared.

"We have only just scratched the surface of what it has to offer.

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

Lincoln went on: "Barnwell Print is our trade and the whole thing came from a book.

"We had an index full of every shipwreck around the UK. I was flicking through one night and the dates were getting older and older til I came to the Gloucester in 1682. I picked the phone up to my brother and that was it."

The brothers have dived wrecks and reefs all over the world and just love the underwater world and all the astonishing things that can be found there.

"What is so fascinating," Julian said, "Is that a lot of shipwrecks have not been dived before and each one has a story.

The wreck of The Gloucester has been found off Great Yarmouth

The wreck of the Gloucester off Yarmouth, 6 May 1682, by Johan Danckerts. It was one of the most famous ships of the 17th century which sank 340 years ago while carrying the future King of England, James Stuart. - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

"It is just an honour to be talking about it. And we want to do the wreck justice.

"It's a diver's dream. Really special."

On Thursday morning the media scrum at Yarmouth Jetty, the sea glittering in the background, was mostly local.

Prof Claire Jowitt being interviewed by local media. Picture: Danielle Booden

Prof Claire Jowitt being interviewed by local media. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant 2022

But academics at the UEA, who are leading with the Gloucester project, say interest has been global, with America "waking up" to the story and seizing on the link with the Legge family – ancestors of George Washington, the first US president whose crest is a forerunner to the Stars and Stripes flag. 

National TV crews are poised to do live interviews at the scene with a bevvy of back-to-back interviews lined up with the brothers.

Below the waves (they will not say how far below) there is still much to discover - they have so far just found the little finger of a whole body that is still down there, the brothers say.

Tantalisingly, the future king's quarters - called "the king's castle" - looks to be still sitting beneath a pile of sand.

If that is intact it could be brimming with finds and it is hoped the wooden walls could still, at least in part, be covered with gold leaf.

Prof Claire Jowitt, of the UEA, said substantial fundraising would need to be done to mount more archaeological work at the site.

She said it was "internationally significant" because of one person on board who did not die - and though there was his story to tell, there were  hundreds of others too.