27 January 2023
An unknown Protected Wreck off the coast of Sussex has been identified as the 17th century Dutch warship Klein Hollandia.
Over the past year, specialists from Historic England, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and the Nautical Archaeology Society have been working on its identification through evidence gathered during dives of the wreck by a team of professional and volunteer divers, as well as through archival research and dendrochronological (tree ring) analysis of the wood samples. Until now, the wreck, which lies 32 metres under water on the seabed, was known as the ‘Unknown Wreck off Eastbourne’ – but it has now been identified as the Klein Hollandia (built 1656 – sank 1672).
The Klein Hollandia, owned by the Admiralty of Rotterdam, was involved in all major battles in the second Anglo-Dutch war (1665-1667). In 1672, the ship was part of the squadron of Admiral de Haese to escort the Smyrna fleet while sailing from the Mediterranean into the English Channel, en-route for the Netherlands. At the Isle of Wight, the squadron was attacked by an English squadron under Admiral Holmes. A fierce battle broke out on the second day, March 23, resulting in the Klein Hollandia being damaged severely. The commander of the ship, Jan Van Nes was killed in action. The ship was boarded and taken as a prize by the English, but shortly after the Klein Hollandia sank with both English and Dutch sailors on board. This surprise action by the small squadron under Sir Robert Holmes and Sir Frecheville Holles contributed to the start of the Third Anglo-Dutch War.
The condition of the wreck is remarkable and could offer a wealth of information about how 17th century Dutch ships were built and the activities of the warship during its final voyage. Material found on the seabed includes much of the wooden hull, cannons, Italian marble tiles and pieces of Italian pottery. The marble tiles came from the Apuan Alps quarries close to Carrara in Italy. They were conserved by Historic England archaeological conservators, prior to the investigations. The marble tiles were bound for the Netherlands and would have been used to build high-status homes.
Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said, "The identification of the Klein Hollandia offers a glimpse back into the 17th century, giving us a chance to learn more about the maritime history of this period and to uncover treasures which have been underwater for hundreds of years.”
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