In 1975, 13-year-old Simon Burton found a Venetian saker gun in shallow water about 150 metres off the Eastcliffe shore in Teignmouth. His find was the beginning of a long search into the origins of the ship, which even after all these years remain a mystery.
The site comprises the stern and lower starboard side of a lightly armed merchantman associated with a variety of metal and ceramic objects. The identity of the vessel is unknown but both the objects and the ship structure itself probably date the wreck to the 16th century or possibly early 17th century.
At present the site is buried in up to 1.5 metres of sand and is monitored regularly for exposure.
Despite 20 years of historical and archaeological research, the origins and class of vessel on the Church Rocks wreck site remains a mystery, although it certainly dates from the 16th Century. From studies so far made, the ship appears to have been two-masted, carvel built of some 100 to 200 tons and not dissimilar from the ‘Zabras’ the small fast communications and service vessels that accompanied the Spanish Armada in 1588.
The oak, carvel-built vessel is of a type indicative of a Mediterranean origin; this is supported by the associated artefacts which include a Venetian cannon bearing the initials SA (presumably of the Venetian Alberghetti family, similar to the one from Yarmouth roads) and ceramics. Venetian trade with south coast ports is documented during this period and it is possible that this vessel was either off-course or headed for a south-western port when she was blown ashore.
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