Schiedam

Basic Site Facts
Period: post medieval (1684)
Location: off Gunwalloe, Cornwall
Depth: 7m
Reason for Designation: historical significance

Wreck History and Loss

Formerly a Dutch fluit in the East India service, the 'Schiedam' was captured by Corsairs off Gibraltar on 1 August 1683 after taking on a cargo of timber in northern Spain. Soon after capture she was re-taken as a prize by the 'James', an English galley frigate captained by Admiral Clowdisley Shovell, and taken to Cadiz where the cargo was sold. The 'Schiedam' then served in the English fleet as a sixth rate and was sent to Tangier to load a company of army miners, horses, stores, machinery, and captured iron guns and stores, following an assault there. As the 'Schiedam' does not appear in the Sailing Navy List, it is assumed that her function was as a transport (as demonstrated by her cargo), rather than as a warship.

Returning to England loaded with the captured stores, the 'Schiedam' drove ashore at Jangye Ryn near Gunwalloe Church Cove on 4 April 1684 during a gale. The local populace descended on the wreck and plundered the stores as well as the ship's sails and cables.

The fluit or fluyt was a narrow vessel with a flatter hull shape than the 'retourschip' or 'spiegelretourschip', first making its appearance in the late 16th century and ships of this type had three masts. The pink was a later development of this type of vessel.

Discovery and Investigation

Discovered in July 1971 and 16 iron cannon were observed along with a rudder which was subsequently recovered. Periodic fluctuations in seabed level caused the site to remain covered for successive years.

In 1995, it was reported that an area of concretion with a multitude of finds discovered in 1993 had completely disappeared – a product of the dynamic surf action as the site lies in the shallows.

When sand levels were low and the site exposed in 1998, parts of the reef were clear of the seabed by one to two meters. Larger gullies were filled with small boulders, and there was little marine growth on the reef. At this time, eleven cannons were observed as well as a piece of sheet lead and two large circular concretions. In addition, the remains of a deadeye and fragments of ironwork concreted onto the reef were seen.  

Despite the site being in the highly dynamic ‘surf zone’, since its last exposure in 1998, it has remained covered by sand.

Artefacts

In the past, a range of material has been recovered inshore of the site, including two well preserved grenades broken free from concretions by storms, and a badly eroded mortar. Other artefacts from the site include mainly metal objects including pewter spoons, brass candlesticks. Copper cooking kettles and copper hoops may form components of military stores while undiagnostic fragments of marble and brass castings are attributed to the assault on Tangier and the returning military ordnance.

Of particular interest are three lead containers (one of which is marked 1675). Although their function is unknown, others have been recovered from English warships dated 1690-1750.

Further Work

Frequently, conditions meant diving wasn’t undertaken, and while these same conditions usually cover the site in sand, storms have been noted to move (up to 25cm) and even damage the cannons, let alone the smaller or more fragile items. No diving has been noted on the site.

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