This text was copied from Wikipedia on 17 April 2024 at 4:10AM.

Artistic impression of the wreck of London shortly after she sank. All the parts of the ship shown here above the seabed had gone when the wreck was rediscovered.
Royal Navy EnsignEngland
Ordered3 July 1654
BuilderTaylor, Chatham
LaunchedJune 1656
FateAccidentally blown up, 7 March 1665
General characteristics [1]
Class and type76-gun second-rate ship of the line
Tons burthen1050 bm
Length123 ft 6 in (37.6 m) (keel)
Beam41 ft (12 m) (after girdling)
Depth of hold16 ft 6 in (5.0 m)
Sail planFull-rigged ship
  • 360 men in 1660
  • 450 men in 1665
  • 64 guns in 1660
  • 76 guns in 1665

London was a 76-gun second-rate ship of the line in the Navy of the Commonwealth of England, originally built at Chatham Dockyard by shipwright John Taylor, and launched in June 1656.[2] 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.[3][4]

London was accidentally blown up in 1665 and sank in the Thames Estuary.[2] According to Samuel Pepys 300 of her crew were killed, 24 were blown clear and survived, including one woman.[5] Lawson was not aboard at the time of the explosion but many of his relatives were killed. The wreck is a Protected Wreck managed by Historic England.[6]

Active service

London was launched from Chatham Dockyard in June 1656. She was commissioned in 1657 under the authority of Rear-Admiral Richard Stayner and first put to sea in 1658 under the command of Captain William Whitehorne as acting commander-in-chief of Commonwealth forces in The Downs. Stayner resumed direct command of London in 1659, remaining in The Downs.[1]

In 1660 on the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, the vessel passed bloodlessly back into Royalist hands. The ship was part of the fleet, commanded by Stayner, that brought King Charles II back to England from his exile on the continent. The royal convoy left from Scheveningen on 23 May and landed in Dover on 26 May. While the king sailed on the flagship, Royal Charles, London carried his younger brother James, Duke of York, the future King James II, as her principal passenger.[7]

Nominal command was vested in Captain and later Vice-Admiral John Lawson from 1660 to 1664. Thereafter, London was the flagship of Admiral Edward Montagu and directly commanded by flag-captain Jonas Poole.[1]

The ship was lost on 7 March 1665. She had been briefly transferred back to John Lawson's command for the purpose of bringing her from Chatham to the Thames, when her powder magazine was accidentally ignited. The subsequent explosion caused immense damage, leaving little but wreckage on the surface of the river.[8] On hearing of the loss, Samuel Pepys wrote on 8 March 1665 that:

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."[9]

The precise cause of the explosion is unknown. Another letter, this time to Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, passed on coffee-house gossip which blamed the easy availability of gunpowder ’20s a barrel cheaper than in London’ and therefore by implication suspect in provenance and quality.[8] On 9 March, 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. [10] [11]

On 11 March Pepys also 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."[12] Those guns continued to be the focus of administrative attention for 30 years afterwards: recoveries made in 1679 caused controversy when the salvor attempted to leverage their return as payment of an unrelated debt.[13]

Rediscovery of wreck

The wreck of London was rediscovered in 2005, resulting in 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.[14] The site where the remains lie was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 on 24 October 2008.[15][16][6] 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.[16][17]

On 12 August 2015, a gun carriage was lifted from the seabed off Southend-on-Sea which was described by Historic England as being in near-perfect condition, and important to England's knowledge of its social and naval history.[18][19]

The wreck is at on-going risk of loss through erosion, so between 2014 and 2016 a licensed programme of surface recovery and limited excavations (funded by Historic England) took place, with around 700 small finds recovered, almost half of which were made of wood. A report on the wooden finds was published in 2019[20] as was a further report on copper alloy and tin alloy objects, which included an urethral syringe.[21] Historic England also commissioned an updated Conservation Management Plan for the London protected wreck site in 2016, which was published in 2017.[22]

An exhibition of finds recovered from the London including one of the cannons was held at Southend Central Museum between 22 September 2018 and 20 July 2019.[23]

In September 2019 a German parachute mine from World War II was removed from the wreck.[24]


  1. ^ a b c Winfield 2009, p.27
  2. ^ a b Lavery, Ships of the Line vol.1, p160.
  3. ^ "The Commission". Archived from the original on 16 October 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2009.
  4. ^ "Sir John Lawson". The Diary of Samuel Pepys.
  5. ^ "Pictured: Divers discover amazingly preserved shipwreck of HMS London on bottom of Thames| News | This is London". Archived from the original on 3 July 2009. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  6. ^ a b "LONDON - 1000088 | Historic England". Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  7. ^ Pepys, Samuel (1893), "23 May 1660", in Wheatley, Henry Benjamin (ed.), The Diary of Samuel Pepys, vol. 1, London: George Bell and Sons, p. 157, .. the Duke of York went on board the London ...
  8. ^ a b "Charles II – volume 114: March 1–15, 1665".
  9. ^ Pepys, Samuel (1894), "8 March 1664/5", in Wheatley, Henry Benjamin (ed.), The Diary of Samuel Pepys, vol. 4, London: George Bell and Sons, p. 368
  10. ^ "The diary of John Evelyn;".
  11. ^ Evelyn, John (1850), "9 February 1665", in Bray, William (ed.), Diary and correspondence of John Evelyn, vol. 1 (new, in four volumes ed.), London: Henry Colburn
  12. ^ "Saturday 11 March 1664/65". The Diary of Samuel Pepys.
  13. ^ "Volume 28: May 16 – July 27, 1694".
  14. ^ "BBC Two – Thames Shipwrecks: A Race Against Time, Episode 1". BBC.
  15. ^ "The Protection of Wrecks (Designation) (England) Order 2008". 13 May 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  16. ^ a b "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] Culture Minister Barbara Follett takes action to protect the wreck of HMS London, sunk in the Thames estuary in 1665". Archived from the original on 23 October 2008.
  17. ^ "Divernet – Diver Magazine Online – SCUBA – Diving – Dive Shows – Gear Tests – Travel – News".
  18. ^ Kennedy, Maev (12 August 2015). "17th-century HMS London gun carriage lifted from Southend seabed". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  19. ^ Keys, David (4 August 2015). "The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved". The Independent. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  20. ^ Zoë Hazell, Emma Aitken (2019). "The London protected wreck, The Nore, off Southend-on-Sea, Thames Estuary, Essex: Wood identifications and recording of wooden remains recovered between 2014 and 2016. Historic England Research Report 15/2019".
  21. ^ Stroebele, Schuster (2019). "The London Protected Wreck, The Nore, off Southend-on-Sea, Thames Estuary, Essex: Compositional analyses of copper alloy and pewter objects. Historic England Research Department Report 04/2019". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  22. ^ Evans, Sally (2017). "The London: Updated Conservation Statement and Management Plan 2017. Historic England Research Department Report 86/2017". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  23. ^ "Opening of HMS London, museum exhibition". Leigh Times. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  24. ^ "Navy divers destroy WW2 bomb found in 17th Century warship". BBC News. 28 September 2019. Retrieved 14 May 2020.


  • 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

11 Annotations

First Reading

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

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)…

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)…

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:…

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."

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.

Second Reading

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:… 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."

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Pictures and an update on the exploration of the wreck of The London. The wreck was partially excavated in 2014-2016 and finds included leather shoes, glass bottles and an incredibly rare and extremely well-preserved 350-year old wooden gun carriage which was raised from the seabed. These artefacts provide greater understanding of our seafaring past.…

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