Solent wreck project ensured legacy with National Lottery award

As the first dive season on the wreck site of HMS Invincible in the Solent draws to a close this year, it has been announced the project has received initial Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) support to create a three-year programme to bring the excitement of the operation from the seabed to a much wider audience.

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, ‘Diving Deep – The HMS Invincible 1744’ Project is a partnership with The Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust (MAST), The National Museum of the Royal Navy and Bournemouth University to archaeologically excavate, record, conserve and display the remains of the shipwreck Invincible, wrecked in 1758 in the Solent. Development funding of £16,400 has been awarded by HLF to help the project progress their plans to apply for a full grant of £425,900 at a later date.

Considered by many to be one of the most significant warships ever built, Invincible was built by the French in 1744 and captured by the British on the 3rd May 1747. Her 74-gun capacity and design was copied globally and her class became the backbone of the Royal Navy up to the end of the sailing navy and the beginning of the age of steam.

The activity programme will be delivered across three sites: the National Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Bournemouth’s archaeological shore base and The Historic Dockyard Chatham. It includes an active volunteering programme, recruiting a total of 25 volunteers, and with an equally significant digital reach.

A major exhibition will be hosted by both Chatham and Portsmouth Historic Dockyards and once the National Museum’s Centre for Discovery is opened in 2020, there will be permanent access to the story of the excavations for those wanting to learn more about marine archaeology.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The National Museum of the Royal Navy said: “The dive on the wreck site of Invincible has really captured the imagination this season and this award will help us to build on this through creative activity and programming on land and digitally. We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and to the National Lottery players who make their funding possible, and look forward to working with our partners to bring the story of HMS Invincible alive.

“We have a handful of artefacts on show already from Invincible and cannot wait to preserve and display as many as 500 more.”

Jessica Berry, Chief Executive Officer of MAST, said: “This is a truly exciting project. Invincible’s remains represent the most complete and best preserved of a warship from the mid-18th century and the site holds invaluable clues to both French and British ship design, technologies and shipboard life. Uniquely, unlike HMS Victory, she contains material culture of shipboard life and warfare at sea and not just of the ship herself.”

Richard Holdsworth, Director of Preservation and Education at The Historic Dockyard Chatham said: “We are very pleased to be a part of this project. The Historic Dockyard Chatham has a long relationship with the Invincible. One of the first ships to be built off her lines was the Valiant, launched here at Chatham in 1759. Today we hold the representative collection of objects recovered from the earlier Invincible excavations that were recovered in the 1980s, many of which are on display here at Chatham. This project is an opportunity to provide an even greater insight into life on board an 18th century warship as well as linking these collections together, improving access and understanding of these important artefacts.”

Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said: “The excavation of Invincible is an exciting moment for the UK’s maritime heritage. I’m delighted that National Lottery players’ money can help people to discover the warship’s history through a great programme of events, volunteering opportunities, digital resources and exhibitions.”

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