Basic Site Facts
Period: post Medieval (1753 and 1811)
Location: The Needles, Isle of Wight
Reason for designation: historical significance
Wreck History and Loss
The site contains what is thought to be the remains of two fifth rate frigates; 'HMS Assurance', a 44-gun, fifth rate warship lost in 1753, and 'HMS Pomone', a 38-gun, fifth rate warship lost in 1811.
'HMS Assurance' was lost en route from Jamaica to Portsmouth, she was a wooden sailing vessel built in 1747 at Bursledon. The ship was carrying the Governor of Jamaica home to Portsmouth when she struck Goose Rock, close to the Needles.
'HMS Pomone' was built in 1805 at Frindsbury. She was returning from the Mediterranean (Constantinople) when the captain tried to navigate the Needles at night when she too struck Goose Rock. The vessel was carrying Sir Halford Jones, late Ambassador to the Persian court.
Discovery and Investigation
The site was discovered in 1970 by Derek Williams who had been researching the 'Assurance'. When John Bingeman became involved in 1978, he realised that the site comprised more than one wreck.
The site lies on an exposed wave cut platform, at an average depth of 5m. The wave cut platform is heavily eroded, and is inhospitable to all but the most resilient flora. Seabed investigation focused first on the ordnance; their relative positions suggested that material from the 'Assurance' lay to the north while the 'Pomone' lay to the south. By 1985, over 3500 carefully recorded artefacts had been recovered and catalogued by the Isle of Wight Archaeological Unit.
In 1997, the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology undertook a geophysical survey of the site.
Most artefacts represented only the inorganic components of shipboard equipment although some organic remains have survived encased in concretion. The finds assemblages therefore include a scatter of musket shot, copper alloy nails, concretions, iron cannons, blue glass fragments, a wooden broom handle, and iron shot. Also approximately 36 third-century Roman coins have been raised. Many artefacts are in the care of the Isle of Wight County Archaeology Collection although other finds from earlier excavations are in storage within the City of Portsmouth Museum Conservation Department.
Part of 'HMS Pomone' lies several 100m outside of the designated area, in a much less dynamic environment. The remains are mainly structural, with some of the timber hull still evident. Site inspections have observed the erosion of artefacts, with the loosening of several cannon balls in their scour pits within chalk gullies. The exposed nature of the site means sediment levels are highly mobile, and are subject to erratic changes in level.
The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology launched a diver trail on the site in 2005 in an attempt to educate and monitor divers on the site.
The site is overlooked by the late 19th century Needles Battery, opened by the National Trust.