News

Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744

11 October 2018

William Wyllie painting outside his house

William Wyllie painting outside his house

A major showcase for most important underwater excavation in decades to begin with a call for volunteers.

Since 2017 the £2million underwater excavation of HMS Invincible 1744 by the Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust (MAST) in partnership with Bournemouth University has grabbed the nation’s imagination. A dedicated team of archaeological divers guided by Dan Pascoe, the site’s licensee, has been working against time in the Solent to reveal the wreck’s secrets in what is the country’s most significant maritime archaeology project since the 1980s.


Now the chance to share the important scientific findings, technology and history behind the project is secure, with confirmation that MAST and The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) have been awarded a £360,000 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, thanks to National Lottery players.
Invincible, built by the French in 1744 and captured by the Royal Navy in 1747, sank in the Solent in 1758. Her special design, unique lines and 74-gun capacity were copied and her Class became the backbone of the Royal Navy’s fleet right up to the end of the sailing navy and the beginning of the age of steam.
The generous National Lottery grant will fund a three-year project of events across the region including cutting edge digital resources and major exhibitions which aim to take these stories from the sea bed and the dive boat to the land.


Panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar by William L Wyllie

Diver holding intact tampion block for one of the 32lb cannon

The project starts with the creation of a significant volunteer programme in Portsmouth and in Poole which will get people involved in essential work. Up to 34 volunteers will be recruited in a variety of roles including:


• Recording and assisting with finds
• Getting hands-on to conserve the 100s of artefacts already recovered which are undergoing conservation in Poole
• Researching the artefacts and stories to feature in digital resources
• Assisting in preparation of major exhibitions at Chatham Historic Dockyard and The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
• Helping at events to inspire people with these stories


The first appointment to the project team has already been made as Community Archaeology Producer Eileen Clegg joins the National Museum. She will work closely with Senior Archaeologist Giles Richardson of MAST and Bournemouth University maritime archaeologist and Volunteer Co-ordinator Kevin Stratford in Poole. The last dive season on the wreck is due to commence April 2019 and will likely yield many more amazing artefacts.

Matthew Sheldon, Director of Heritage, The National Museum of the Royal Navy said:

“Seeing the technologies which the project’s archaeologists and dive team use to understand this amazing wreck has been fascinating – almost better than being there. I’m really looking forward to our team now sharing these with people inside and outside the museum.”

Jessica Berry, Chief Executive of the Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust (MAST) said:

“Invincible provided the model for the backbone of the Royal Navy right up to the end of the Age of Sail, the maintenance of her class of ship triggering the Industrial Revolution that began in Britain’s dockyards. This is a fascinating project and we are hugely grateful to the HLF for assuring splendid resources are being made available to the project. Up until now our hard-working divers have totalled 79,761 minutes, over 72 days during 1,011 dives. We are now able to look forward to another very productive season.”

Michelle Roffe – Head of HLF South East, said:

“We are delighted to see this volunteering project to excavate one of the most important shipwrecks of our time get underway. Invincible is hugely significant, being the most complete, and well preserved warship from the mid-18th century. Thanks to National Lottery players, the urgency to progress with this project can be addressed, whilst involving a fantastic team of enthusiastic volunteers and hopefully inspiring new audiences to learn about this valuable history.”


To learn more about the project and find out how to get involved as a volunteer please join us at Action Stations, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on 6 November with Dan Pascoe presenting “The Excavation of the Royal Navy’s first Invincible.”


There will be plenty of volunteering opportunities. To register interest, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Image credit: Mike Pitts