From the Gloucester to Invincible: Shipwrecks found off the Norfolk coast

The wreck of The Gloucester has been found off Great Yarmouth

The wreck of the Gloucester off Yarmouth, 6 May 1682, by Johan Danckerts. It was one of the most famous ships of the 17th century which sank 340 years ago while carrying the future King of England, James Stuart. - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The remarkable discovery of The Gloucester shipwreck found off the coast of Great Yarmouth made international headlines.

But the 17th century warship is not the only vessel to have met its fate while sailing around Norfolk's treacherous coast. 

Here is a look at some of the shipwrecks which have been found around the county's seaboard.

Rock Armour at Happisburgh Beach to prevent coastal erosion.Photo by Mark Bullimore

The Walkure sunk after running aground on Haisborough Sands off Happisburgh - Credit: Archant

1. The Walkure

 The Scottish-built vessel is one of the most researched shipwrecks in Norfolk, according to the National Coastwatch Institution.

Built in 1896, the barque set sail on December 1, 1911, from Hamburg bound for Santos, Brazil, carrying a cargo of tinned food, household goods and cars. 

The trip was cut short two days into the journey when it became stuck on the dreaded Haisborough Sands, off Happisburgh, and had to be abandoned after the mainmast made a hole in the hull.

The crew of 24 were rescued by Gorleston lifeboat crew and taken back to shore, where two kind volunteers, Mr and Mrs Bracey, fed and clothed them. 

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Some of the cargo was later recovered from the wreckage and went on to be sold at auction in Great Yarmouth with items such as bicycles, china, sewing machines, medicines and brass reading lamps on offer.

Hunstanton Beach was almost deserted the day after lockdown was partially-eased Picture: Chris Bish

Part of the Steam Trawler Sheraton wreck can still be found on Hunstanton beach - Credit: Chris Bishop

2. Steam Trawler Sheraton

The fishing vessel was built in 1907 but was later used for defence work in the First World War and as a search vessel in the Second World War, for which it was fitted with a six pounder gun. 

It was later retired and used as target practice while moored off Brest Sand until a gale on April, 23, 1947 caused the Steam Trawler to break free and drift onto Hunstanton beach.

Much of the boat was salvaged but today the bottom of the hull still remains on the beach in the intertidal zone.

A memorial stone dedicated to the lives lost following the sinking of the HMS Invincible off Happisburgh

A memorial stone dedicated to the lives lost following the sinking of the HMS Invincible off Happisburgh - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

3. HMS Invincible

Before The Gloucester, one of the most famous wrecks found off the Norfolk coast was HMS Invincible. 

This third rate Royal Navy ship was first launched on March, 9 1765 at Deptford and went on to fight in a number of battles over the years.

It saw combat during the battles of Cape St Vincent in 1780, the Battles of the Chesapeake in 1781, and was present at the Glorious First of June in 1794.  

Under the flag of Rear-Admiral Thomas Totty, it sailed out of Great Yarmouth in 1801, with the intention of joining the Admiral Sir Hyde Parker's Baltic Fleet.  

But strong winds forced the ship off course and it became stuck near Haisborough Sands.

Despite the crew working tirelessly through the night, it could not be saved from sinking and dropped to the seabed the following day.

Around 400 men perished and their bodies were placed in a mass grave once they washed ashore.

A memorial stone can be found at St Mary's Church in Happisburgh that commemorates the lives lost.

The shipwreck of the Ispolen which has remerged on Sheringham beach.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The shipwreck of the Ispolen which has remerged on Sheringham beach.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

4. The Ispolen

The German-built ship was travelling from Norway to Gravesend in January 1897 laden with a cargo of ice but got into difficulty during a fierce storm that lasted several days.

The wreckage has appeared and disappeared from Sheringham beach several times, notoriously emerging from the sand in 2012 before vanishing.

It was believed to have been destroyed in 2013 by a tidal surge but it reappeared the following year near the west promenade.

The wreck of The Gloucester has been found off Great Yarmouth

The wreck of the Gloucester off Yarmouth, 6 May 1682, by Johan Danckerts. It was one of the most famous ships of the 17th century which sank 340 years ago while carrying the future King of England, James Stuart. - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

5. The Gloucester

The Gloucester sank off the Norfolk coast 340 years ago while heading to Edinburgh and carrying the future king of England, James II.

Disaster struck in 1682 when it ran aground on the Leman and Ower sandbank located around 30 miles from Great Yarmouth.

Within an hour, the ship had sunk, with the loss of up to 250 souls.

Luckily for James II, he was able to flee the stricken vessel in a small boat and was taken to the safety of an accompanying yacht, the Mary.

Because it sank so quickly, nothing was saved, offering the exciting prospect to uncover chests full of personal and royal items waiting to be explored.

Artefacts recovered so far include clothes, shoes, and unopened wine bottles, providing a rich time capsule of life on board a 17th century ship.

The wreck was found in 2007 by Norfolk divers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, with their friend James Little, after a four-year search covering 5,000 nautical miles.

After a lengthy process of identification, the discoveries were announced on June 10, 2022.

It has been hailed as the most significant maritime discovery since the raising of the Mary Rose.