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A painting showing what the Holy Ghost ship would have looked like.

600-Year-Old Royal Ship of Henry V Found Buried in Hampshire River

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A wooden shipwreck believed to be one of King Henry V’s greatest ships has been tentatively identified in the River Hamble in southern England. The 600-year-old warship, known as the Holigost (Holy Ghost) was commission by the king in his war against France.

The finding was announced today by Historic England , after it was spotted in an aerial photograph by British maritime historian, Dr Ian Friel. A faint U-shaped outline in the mud at the edge of the river is prompting an investigation using sonar, remote sensing, and drone equipment to create a computerized image of what lies beneath the mud. 

The location is just 50 meters from the wreck of Henry V’s flagship, The Grace Dieu, the largest ship in Europe at the time – it measures 66 meters long.

The aerial photograph showing a U-shaped outline (circled blue) on the bank of the River Hamble, located just 50 meters from Henry’s flagship The Grace Dieu (circled green).

The aerial photograph showing a U-shaped outline (circled blue) on the bank of the River Hamble, located just 50 meters from Henry’s flagship The Grace Dieu (circled green). Credit: Historic England.

Dr Friel first stated that the Holy Ghost wreck must be located in the River Hamble close to The Grace Dieu , more than 30 years ago. The Mail Online reports that after identifying the U-shape in grainy aerial photographs, he and a team of archaeologists visited the site at low tide and discovered something hard beneath the surface. But it is only now that Dr Friel has been able to present enough evidence to prompt a full-scale investigation by Historic England, who have said it is a “tangible link” to Henry V.

The River Hamble where the wreck of the Holy Ghost is believed to lie.

The River Hamble where the wreck of the Holy Ghost is believed to lie. Credit: Historic England

The Holy Ghost was constructed from the timbers of a captured Castilian ship, The Santa Clara , which had been overrun by English pirates in 1413. The ship was taken to Southampton, England, and rebuilt as part of King Henry V’s war machine. It was the third biggest ship in Henry’s navy, capable of carrying up to 200 crew and 750 tons of weapons and equipment.

The Holy Ghost joined the royal fleet in November, 1415, and fought in two major sea battles during the Hundred Years War – the Battle of Harfleur (1416) and the Battle of Chef de Caux (1417). The ship played a key role in conquering territory in France in the early 15 th century. However, after suffering serious damage, the ship was docked in the naval anchorage in the River Hamble and abandoned.

Depiction of the royal fleet of King Edward I of England. From Jean de Wavrin's 'Chronicles of England'

Depiction of the royal fleet of King Edward I of England. From Jean de Wavrin's 'Chronicles of England', c.1470-80.

Archaeologists believe that the wreck of the Holy Ghost is likely to be better preserved than that of The Grace Dieu, and they are hoping that it could reveal a great deal about life aboard the ship, naval warfare, as well as 15 th century shipbuilding.

“To investigate a ship from this period is immensely exciting,” said Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England. “It holds the possibility of fascinating revelations in the months and years to come.”

Featured image: A painting showing what the Holy Ghost ship would have looked like. Credit: British Library / Historic England.

By April Holloway

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