The Liberty and the London: Fishing for guns, 1650–1665
Little has been written about the history of English underwater salvage in the mid-seventeenth century. The navy of the 1650s and the 1660s needed divers and salvagers for their expanded operations, especially during wars against the Dutch. Ships sunk deep at sea were irretrievable, but vessels lost near shore in tidal waters could yield recoverable materials. This article offers new insights into wreck recovery during the period of the Interregnum and the Restoration. It investigates the archival evidence of efforts to recover ordnance from the English naval vessels Liberty (also named Charles) that sank in the North Sea in 1650, and the London that blew up in the Thames in 1665. Despite difficult tidal and weather conditions, Robert Willis and others were able to recover several tons of bronze guns for re-use.