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HMS London wreck.jpg
The wreck of The London
Career (England) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: The London
Ordered: 3 July 1654
Builder: Taylor, Chatham
Launched: June 1656
Fate: Accidentally blown up, 7 March 1665
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: 64-gun second-rate ship of the line
Tons burthen: 1,104 long tons (1,121.7 t)
Length: 123 ft 4 in (37.6 m) (keel)
Beam: 41 ft (12.5 m) (after girdling)
Depth of hold: 16 ft 6 in (5.0 m)
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Armament: 64 guns of various weights of shot

The London was a 64-gun second-rate ship of the line of the English Royal Navy, originally built for the navy of the Commonwealth of England at Chatham by Captain John Taylor, and launched in June 1656.[1] She gained fame as one of the ships that escorted Charles II from Holland back to England during the English Restoration, carrying Charles' younger brother James Duke of York, and commanded by Captain John Lawson.[2][3]

London was accidentally blown up in 1665 and sank in the Thames Estuary.[1] According to Samuel Pepys 300 of her crew were killed, 24 were blown clear and survived, including one woman.[4] Lawson was not aboard at the time of the explosion though many of his relatives were killed. The wreck was rediscovered in 2008, resulting in the port authorities changing the route of the shipping channel to prevent further damage and to allow archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology led by Frank Pope to investigate, leading to what was the largest ever post-war salvage operation on the Thames.
London featured in "Thames Shipwrecks: A Race Against Time," a BBC series on shipwrecks in the Thames.[5]

The two sites where the remains lie were designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 on 24 October 2008.[6][7] The wreck is considered important partly for its historical references and partly for its insight into an important period in British naval history. Although the Port of London authority had voluntarily taken action to reduce the risk of damage to shipping, the removal of bronze cannon from the site without any archaeological investigations being carried out showed that the site was at risk of destruction through looting and hence required immediate protection.[7][8]

A Letter to Sir Joseph Williamson

A letter written on the 8th of March 1665 to Sir Joseph Williamson reported: ‘The brave ship London has blown up near the Hope’, leaving behind only her hull and stern. [9]

Pepys Diary Entry

Samuel Pepys wrote about hearing of the loss of The London, on 8 March 1665, writing:

"This morning is brought me to the office the sad newes of “The London,” in which Sir J(ohn) Lawson’s men were all bringing her from Chatham to the Hope, and thence he was to go to sea in her; but a little a’this side the buoy of the Nower, she suddenly blew up. About 24 [men] and a woman that were in the round-house and coach saved; the rest, being above 300, drowned: the ship breaking all in pieces, with 80 pieces of brass ordnance. She lies sunk, with her round- house above water. Sir J(ohn) Lawson hath a great loss in this of so many good chosen men, and many relations among them. I went to the ‘Change, where the news taken very much to heart."[10]

On the 11th Pepys recorded the results of an inspection of the wreck by Sir William Batten and Sir John Mennes: ‘out of which they say, the guns may be got, but the hull of her will be wholly lost’ [11] Those guns continued to be the focus of administrative attention for a good 30 years afterwards: recoveries made in 1679 caused some wrangling that surfaced in 1694-5, as the salvor attempted to leverage payment of a debt. [12]

Letter to Henry Bennet

Another letter, this time to Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, passes on coffee-house gossip, blaming the easy availability of gunpowder ’20s a barrel cheaper than in London’ and therefore by implication suspect in provenance and quality. [13]

John Evelyn

On the 9th, John Evelyn, the other famous diarist of the period, ‘went to receive the poor creatures that were saved out of the London frigate, blown up by accident, with above 200 men,’ for he had been appointed one of the Commissioners for sick and wounded seamen by Charles II. [14]

Michiel van Gogh

The Dutch ambassador, Michiel van Gogh, had more specific intelligence on numbers than Pepys, or perhaps more details were known by the time of his letter on 10th March: ‘The London, prepared for Vice-Admiral Lawson, was blown up while sailing up the river, and only 19 out of the crew of 351 saved.’ [15]


Gun carriage lifted from seabed

On 12 August 2015, an unique 17th-century gun carriage has been successfully lifted from the seabed off Southend-on-Sea . As it was brought to shore at Leigh-on-Sea it already looked like a museum object, every detail perfectly preserved, the wheels ready to turn again. Alison James, Historic England’s maritime archaeologist, said: “This 350-year-old gun carriage is in near-perfect condition. It’s a national treasure and the key to new knowledge of our social and naval history.” [16]

Notes

The London Was never "HMS". She has no references in historical documents to her being "HMS" London.


References

  • Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650-1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.
  • Winfield, Rif (2009) British Warships in the Age of Sail 1603-1714: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-040-6.

External links

Coordinates: 51°29′48″N 0°44′23″E / 51.4966°N 0.7397°E / 51.4966; 0.7397

9 Annotations

vicenzo  •  Link

The London was no 2 ship [64 guns]in the Fleet to pick up the King, used by Vice Admiral Lawson John, it
had a better State room.
Built in 1656, accidently blown up in 1665. weight 1104 tons.
gleaned from Google and
http://anglo-dutch-wars.blogspot.com/2005/03/sq...

Pedro  •  Link

The London.

1663: Sir George Smith of EICo instrumental in interest in tea import to London, with Henry Page at Bantam consigning tea to Smith in ship London by 1663. (See Sir Percival Griffiths, The History of the Indian Tea Industry. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967., p. 17)

http://www.danbyrnes.com.au/merchants/merchants...

Pedro  •  Link

The London.

Sandwich had gone to sea in July 1664 in the flagship London, which called back and assigned to Lawson as his flagship for the fleet to be set out in the spring of 1665. Sandwich went to the Revenge.

(see letter from DOY to Sandwich posted by Terry)

http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1665/02/11/#pre...

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Diary annotation by Rex Gordon on Tue 26 Aug 2008 (1665):

Wreck of HMS London found in the Thames Estuary …

This isn’t related to today’s diary entry, but today’s Daily Mail has an amazing photograph of the HMS London, which blew up and sank in 1665, resting in remarkably good condition on the floor of the Thames estuary. Here’s the link:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-...

Sam would have known this ship well. Its demise was certainly a major event.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

New (2008) theory about the explosion, methane from the accumulation of rotting faeces

"HMS London, a royal warship, had left Chatham Docks and was shouldering her way up the Thames to pick up her captain when, without warning, she exploded.

Naval historians have been mystified about the cause, one theory being that an unstable mix of chemicals ignited the ship's supply of gunpowder.

Now a 20-year study of another 17th-century warship has blamed instead the personal habits of the men on board: in particular their tendency to relieve themselves into the deepest recesses of the ship.

The theory suggests that rotting faeces in the bilges led to a build-up of methane that could have been ignited by a candle below decks.

Richard Enser, an engineer and naval historian, arrived at this explanation while researching the Lennox, launched a decade after the London exploded. Restoration Warship, to be published in the new year, takes the Lennox as the archetypal ship of the period. Among her records was an account of a curious incident, recorded while she was laid up at Chatham.

The ship's lieutenant fell down the well, an aperture running from the top deck beside the mast to the bottom of the hold, through which the crew could pump out the bilges. It appears that the skeleton crew had been using the well as a lavatory, rather than relieving themselves over the side as they would have done at sea. When two sailors were sent to find the fallen lieutenant, according to the report, "they were rendered in a manner dead by the stench".

Mr Enser told The Times: "They were unconscious. Of course, it is not the smell that makes you unconscious, it's the methane." This, he thought, could be the cause of many ship explosions reported in the 17th century.

"When you have that concentration of methane, all it would take is someone being sent down there with a lantern to set it off," he said. "The powder room is in the hold as well."

Charles Trollope, an authority on naval ordnance from the period, prefers the theory that the explosion occurred as the crew were reloading old cartridge papers with gunpowder in the magazine, a common practice. "When they stopped using secondhand cartridge papers there were no more explosions," he said. "Then again it could have been the two things together."
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts...

Geoff Minns  •  Link

I have been researching and writing a biography of Sir Christopher Myngs who was Knighted in 1665, after the Battle of Lowestoft, at which The London was to have been Sir John Lawson's flagship. Indeed she was heading up river to collect him and the squadron's flags and ensigns when she was destroyed. For anyone interested in the Navy of this period,I can definately recomend "A Distant Storm" The Four Days Battle of 1666. by Frank.L. Fox published in 1996. Christopher Myngs is mentioned a lot in Pepys diary,indeed Pepys and Sir William Coventry attended His Funeral on 13th June 1666. I hope this Ship can be preserved,as its priceless.

Phil Gyford  •  Link

As of May 2014 there are plans to excavate the remains of the London, whose final resting place was only confirmed in 2005: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/may/16/... The article says:

"The vessel was fitted for war when she blew up. The women on board were possibly officers' relatives. Perhaps they would have disembarked as the ship would have been fully prepared for war, Dunkley suggests. 'Pepys talks of ladies being on board. We don't know whether they were guests masquerading as crew members, which happened in Admiral Nelson's time. Or whether they were guests of the lower decks.'

"Although she blew up, the ship seems to be pretty complete, lying in two sections. She was once 37 metres long by 12 metres wide."

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References

Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.

1660

1661

1663

1665

1666