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HMS Invincible artefacts donated to National Museum by wreck finder

Artefacts from HMS Invincible that have lain on the seabed floor for over 200 years have been donated to a museum on the eve of a new dive season on the celebrated Solent wreck site.

A handful of everyday artefacts including shoes, tankard and grapeshot have been gifted to The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard by Arthur Mack, who found the underwater wreck nearly 40 years ago.

A keen fisherman, Arthur (83) from Eastney, Portsmouth was on the water in 1979 when his nets snagged on something underwater. He had rediscovered the wreck of HMS Invincible, considered by many to be one of the most significant warships ever built. She was built by the French in 1744 and captured by the British on the 3rd May 1747. Her 74-gun capacity and design was copied globally and her class became the backbone of the Royal Navy up to the end of the sailing navy and the beginning of the age of steam.

Over the years Arthur has collected and conserved a number of artefacts from the wreck including a wooden square plate, glass wine bottle,
two shoes and a tankard featuring the initials of a sailor onboard. 

These and other items have now been donated to The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for recording and safekeeping whilst the remainder of the wreck is excavated and before a permanent display is created.

Into the deep
The display is part of a much wider project called Diving Deep - The HMS Invincible 1744 Project which is a partnership with The Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust (MAST), The National Museum of the Royal Navy and Bournemouth University to archaeologically excavate, record, conserve and display the remains of the shipwreck Invincible, wrecked in 1758 in the Solent. The project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Arthur Mack explains: “We were out fishing and our nets snagged on something. As we pulled them up, they brought up a large piece of timber with wooden treenails and iron bolts – so we knew we were talking about a wooden ship. “My friends John Broomhead and Cdr John Bingeman helped identify the wreck as HMS Invincible and the rest, as they say, is history! 

“We’ve been closely involved with the project for nearly 40 years and we are still not finished. But I was keen to donate the artefacts to the National Museum in the meantime.”

Archaeologist and wreck site licensee Dan Pascoe welcomed the donation: “Arthur is very experienced in conservation and has cared for the artefacts really well. We really value his involvement in the project and long may it continue.” 

Preserved for future generations 
Christopher Gale, senior curator at The National Museum of the Royal Navy said: “We are delighted that Arthur has chosen to donate these artefacts to the National Museum of the Royal Navy. The variety and quality of these items are exemplary and it is a wonder that they have spent well over 200 years at the bottom of the Solent."

“One particular highlight is the wooden tankard. Research by Arthur has led to this object being personally connected to an Issac Robertson, who served on the ship. With the ongoing work to excavate and survey the remains of the HMS Invincible, these items will add greatly to the exhibitions being planned for this material in the future.”

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