Remnants of 214-year-old shipwreck found on a Jersey beach

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Around 21 pieces of copper sheathing, thought to be from HMS Severn, were recently found on Grouville beach, with most being stamped ‘1794’ – the same year the vessel was reported to have finished undergoing a refit at a Plymouth Dockyard.

The discovery follows the unearthing of a wooden gun carriage in the same area in April which is also believed to have originated from the ship.

According to research, in December 1804 HMS Severn was damaged during a gale in the Royal Bay of Grouville,
during which she broke her rudder, one fluke of her anchor and damaged her bottom.

It was intended that Thisbe, a ship from Guernsey, would recover Severn. However, deteriorating conditions prevented it from doing so.

Soldiers from the nearby Fort Henry and Fort William, along with local residents, are said to have tried to save the ship and her crew but were unable to. It was only when another boat, Alcmene, intervened that her crew were successfully

After the vessel was carried closer to shore by spring tides, it is thought that soldiers were tasked with unloading the cargo from the wreck.

Metal detectorist Johnathan Bull explained how he made the ‘bucket list’ discovery alongside his friends Daniel Clark, Steven Andrews and Billy Burst.

‘We were there to recover something else and we ended up doing a bit of detecting and found some small pieces of copper, all of which had naval broad arrows on them along with the square nail holes. I knew instantly that it was something old and naval,’ he said.

‘We found three bits of copper and had a chat that evening and decided that we should probably go back down. The next day some big sheets came up – there were 21 in total and six were complete.’

Mr Bull, who has been metal detecting for five years, added that he then declared the find to the receiver of the wreck and handed the items over to Jersey Heritage to be stored and preserved.

He also found a shrapnel ball from the same era two weeks earlier, which he thinks could have come from one of the nearby forts, a ship or Mont Orgueil.

‘I am really happy and surprised – I knew there were bits and pieces down there – but not that much. I was particularly happy about how the sheets had been date-marked,’ he said.

‘It is definitely the Severn. I do not know how it cannot be. Although the ship was built in 1786, we know that it underwent a refit in 1793 and had the copper fitted to it and it headed out in the summer of 1794.’

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