A major exhibition is planned at the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery following the significant discovery of a 17th century shipwreck which sank while carrying future Kings James II and VII.
The wreck of the ‘Gloucester’ was discovered by two divers in 2007 after a four-year search, its location off the Norfolk coast was previously unknown. Its existence has been kept secret until now out of fear for the safety of the wreck.
Due to the age and prestige of the ship, the condition of the wreck, the finds already salvaged and the political context of the accident, the discovery is described by maritime history expert Professor Claire Jowitt , from the University of East Anglia (UEA), as the most important maritime discovery since the Mary Rose.
The resulting exhibition, scheduled for spring 2023, is a partnership between the Barnwell brothers who discovered the wreck, the Norfolk Museums Service and university partner UEA.
Running from February to July at the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, the exhibition will showcase finds from the wreck – including the bell that confirmed the ship’s identity – and share ongoing historical, scientific and archaeological research.
The curators of the exhibition are Ruth Battersby-Tooke and Francesca Vanke from the Norfolk Museums Service, and Benjamin Redding and Claire Jowitt from the University of East Anglia.
Professor Jowitt, a world authority on maritime cultural history, said the circumstances of the sinking of the wreck mean it “can be claimed as the most significant historic maritime discovery since the raising of the Mary Rose in 1982 .
“The discovery promises to fundamentally change the understanding of the social, maritime and political history of the 17th century.
“It is an outstanding example of underwater cultural heritage of national and international significance. A tragedy of massive proportions in terms of loss of life, privileged and ordinary, the full story of Gloucester’s last voyage and the impact of its aftermath must be told, including its cultural and political significance and its legacy.
“We will also try to establish who else died and tell their stories, as the identities of a fraction of the victims are currently known.”