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The Bronze Bell Wreck

 
In the summer of 1978, members of the Glaslyn Aqua Club came across two cannons laying on the sea bed off the shore of Dyffryn Ardudwy (Dyffryn Ardudwy is about five miles from Barmouth on the road to Harlech). There is a reef that runs for some twelve miles out to sea into the Cardigan Bay and it is now thought that in 1709, a ship foundered there followed by a second ship, years later, which lay on top of the first ship. One was carrying loaded cannons and the other a cargo of pure white marble destined, some theorize, for St Paul's Cathedral. In addition to the cannon and marble, a Bronze Bell was also recovered from some 30ft of water and it bears the inscription "Laudate Dominus Omnes Gente" (All peoples praise the Lord) and dated 1677. It also bears profiles in relief of Christ and the Virgin mother. The Bronze Bell wreck is possibly Spanish, and is believed to be the most important wreck found in Welsh waters. The ship is estimated to have been  a 300-500-ton merchantman. Identification suggests that the marble blocks originated in Northern Italy at the renowned marble quarries of Cararra.

In all, the group have found 26 cannon, eight swivel guns, three anchors, 42 huge blocks of marble, dozens of cannon balls, bar shot and pewter plates. Many of these finds are currently being kept in a bank vault until 16,000 pounds can be raised to permanently display the artifacts in "Ty Gwyn", the historical building located on the harbour front in Barmouth. If the money cannot be raised in the next 18 months, the artifacts will be sent somewhere else in Wales to go on display (Today's date is April 30th, 2002).

Application was made to 'Cadw', the Welsh historic monuments department, for permission to raise about eight of the blocks lying loose outside the wreck but without disturbing the ecosystem. The total weight of the sunken stones is estimated to be 70-80 tons. At this time the site is protected by "The Receiver of Wrecks" and no-one may go near the site. The Italian quarries are now depleted and the marble is therefore extremely valuable. Frank Cocksey, a local sculptor has almost completed a sculpture using one of the blocks raised from the wreck (see opposite) and it is soon to be put on display near Barmouth Harbour..

If you would like to help to raise the money or make a contribution to have the artifacts stay in Barmouth please contact me.

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Tony Iles

I met Tony during my visit to Barmouth (21st - 23rd April, 2002). He graciously invited me in to his home for a coffee and a chat which I very much enjoyed. Tony has written a paper describing the finding and subsequent survey of the wreck and has kindly permitted me to post it here when I have it all dictated into my website. He is obviously enthusiastic about his work and hopes to continue researching the subject. Tony also gave me a very interesting article about 'The Gunner's Rule' which I will post in due course.

 

Tony showed my this swivel gun which came from the wreck and  is amazingly well preserved. The gun can be mounted on a ships rail, loaded with shot and pointed using the long handle seen at the rear of the gun. Mainly used as an anti-personnel gun there is a breech as well as a block containing the gunpowder seen at the rear of the barrel.

 

Frank Cocksey was working on the sculpture when I arrived and was very welcoming and friendly. He allowed me to take pictures of the marble sculpture which I will put on a separate web site so it can be seen in more detail. It is amazing and very beautiful and it is obvious that Frank has put his heart and soul into the work which will be appreciated by future visitors to Barmouth. It will be mounted close to the harbour and opposite "The Last Inn".

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Swivel Gun

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Frank Sculpting

 


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