Rules on shipwrecks clarified to preserve heritage

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The Independent Online

Treasures from the Stirling Castle, a 180ft man-of-war which sank in the Great Storm of 1703, went on display yesterday at the Maritime Museum in Ramsgate to mark the Government's new plan to save Britain's shipwrecks from destruction.

Treasures from the Stirling Castle, a 180ft man-of-war which sank in the Great Storm of 1703, went on display yesterday at the Maritime Museum in Ramsgate to mark the Government's new plan to save Britain's shipwrecks from destruction.

It is among 3,000 ships to have foundered in the Goodwin Sands in the English Channel - one of the greatest concentrations of wrecks in the world.

Among the pieces to go on display was a Rupertino gun and its carriage, designed in 1690 by Charles I's nephew Prince Rupert. Michael Cates, director of the museum, said the story of the Stirling Castle is typical of hundreds of thousands of wrecks around the British coastline - only 53 of which are protected and managed.

"Many of these ships are the archaeological equivalents to a small town. There were 3-400 people on board and everything that they needed to live. From thimbles to the wooden plates of the crew to the captain's pewter, it's all there. If you dug this sort of thing up in Berkshire it would be a World Heritage site," said Mr Cates.

It is a view shared by the Government and the Heritage minister Andrew McIntosh, as he announced proposals to clarify the "complex and unclear" rules on the discovery and ownership of finds.

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