The Gloucester Project

Mortlake Tapestry of the Battle of Solebay by Thomas Poyntz c. 1672
Mortlake Tapestry of the Battle of Solebay by Thomas Poyntz c. 1672

© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK.

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Royal Visit to the Fleet in the Thames Estuary by Willem van de Velde the Younger, 1696
Royal Visit to the Fleet in the Thames Estuary by Willem van de Velde the Younger, 1696

© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK.

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Samuel Pepys by John Hayls, 1666
Samuel Pepys by John Hayls, 1666

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Mortlake Tapestry of the Battle of Solebay by Thomas Poyntz c. 1672
Mortlake Tapestry of the Battle of Solebay by Thomas Poyntz c. 1672

© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK.

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The University of East Anglia’s project to provide a cradle-to-grave history of the Gloucester warship is based on new research in UK and international archives. A tragedy of considerable proportions in terms of loss of life, the full story of the frigate's last voyage in 1682 will be told, including its cultural and political importance and legacy. It is hoped that as more victims of the wreck are identified, significant family interest among descendants will be generated in the fate of their relatives.

The wreck's recent discovery also provides the opportunity to research and understand for the first time the Gloucester’s thirty-year history of service as a working ship, involved in maritime campaigns in the Commonwealth and Protectorate during the Anglo-Spanish War, and the Restoration period during the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars.

The Gloucester Project aims to foster new understandings of seventeenth-century maritime history as it uncovers the varied and complex material life of this 755/760-ton English warship within broader contexts of the careers of comparable vessels. This will include the contemporary third-rate frigates built, like the Gloucester, as part of the 1652 ship-building programme – the Essex, Plymouth, Torrington, Newbury, Bridgewater, Lyme, Marston Moor, Langport, Fairfax, Tredagh.

The project intends to stimulate debate and extend interest in a highly turbulent period of English naval and political history. The Gloucester’s story unfolds against the political background of regime change and the project will extend understandings of both the operations and the political, social, economic, and cultural history of the seventeenth-century navy, when both naval infrastructure and supply lines rapidly developed under a series of reforms.