Project information

HMS Invincible

The excavation and conservation of artefacts from the wreck of the first HMS Invincible. The importance of the project has been recognised by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in a letter to project partners.

July 2016 - July 2020

Charity information: Bournemouth University

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  • Need


    HMS Invincible’s remains, located in the Eastern Solent, represent the most complete and best preserved wreck of a mid-18th century warship. She is in a perilous position on the edge of a sandbank, and is included in the top 10 most-at-risk heritage sites in the UK. She includes a wealth of information about life on board, which may include the personal possessions of her sailors and marines. We need to record and recover artefacts before they are lost to the elements forever.


    BU is partnering with the Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust (MAST) and the National Museum of the Royal Navy on a four year project to excavate, record, conserve and display artefacts from six areas of the wreck. The project will also run a NEET mentoring scheme, using ex-military personnel, training the volunteers in recording and conservation methods.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Excavate, record and conserve artefacts from six areas (A-F) of the HMS Invincible wreck site:


    » Excavation areas: A: the bow; B: ship’s bottom; C: midships; D: the stern; E: collapsed starboard structure; F: the lower part of the starboard stern.
    » Record artefacts recovered (following standard archaeological practice), including location, condition, adjacent objects etc.
    » Each artefact will have a detailed conservation plan depending on the material and condition. For instance, wood can take c2 years to conserve.

    What success will look like

    Successful excavation and recovery of important artefacts from the wreck before they are lost to the elements.

    Aim 2

    NEET (16-24 yr olds) mentoring programme in conjunction with serving and veteran military personnel.


    » NEET's will be offered training on recording and conservation by our archaeologists, and will be mentored by individuals from the armed forces.

    What success will look like

    Through qualitative / quantitative survey methods initially: longer term through employment / education rates of the NEET volunteers, and health / wellbeing of forces volunteers.

    Aim 3

    Museum display of the artefacts


    » The Museum of the Royal Navy will display all the artefacts and timbers recovered in both static and travelling displays.

    What success will look like

    Understanding and knowledge about HMS Invincible and the era in which she sailed are effectively communicated to the public.

  • Impact


    Study of the vessel will significantly increase our understanding of 18th century maritime history. The wreck is thought to contain fascinating evidence of shipboard life and naval combat not found on other ships of the period, including HMS Victory. The mentoring programme will benefit the employability of the participant NEETs and the mental wellbeing of the veterans / armed forces volunteers.


    As with any marine archaeology undertaking, it is possible that the project could need to be halted due to poor weather conditions. The tides in the area and poor visibility make diving challenging. Recovering artefacts could be difficult owing to the location of the wreck and larger items may need specialist lifting gear. The project has been designed in self-contained stages to greatly mitigate the risks.


    Regular updates on the project will be posted on our website, and donors will receive personalised reports and other bespoke communications about the progress of the project.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £3,030,764

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £1,320,423 Excavation Plus associated costs.
      £937,630 Staff costs Including project managers, archaeological consultants etc.
      £240,711 Equipment Including diving equipment.
      £532,000 Museum display Including storage of artefacts.

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    LIBOR funding (UK govt) £2,000,000 Guaranteed
    Charitable trusts £114,250 Guaranteed
  • Background


    Invincible was a Royal Navy third rate ship of the line, a 74 gun warship originally captured from the French in 1747. Her design and construction was used as a template by the Royal Navy for the 74 gun frigate class - the backbone of the fleet until the 1860s.

    The wreck is located in the eastern Solent, off Portsmouth. The sandbank on which she is resting, Horse Tail Sands, has migrated southwards significantly during the last 250 years and the wreck currently sits right on its edge.


    Study of the vessel will significantly increase understanding of 18th century maritime history for historians. archaeologists and the general public. The experience of working on the project will be of great benefit to the volunteers (NEETs and armed-forces personnel / veterans).

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Bournemouth University has a great deal of experience in the field of marine archaeology and has worked on a number of similar projects, most recently the Swash Channel Wreck in Poole Harbour. We also have very strong project partners in the form of the Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust (MAST) and the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Associate Professor Dave Parham

    Associate Professor in Marine Archaeology and project lead within BU.

    Jessica Berry

    CEO of MAST

We have at last captured the Invincible which until now have only been able to admire from a distance. She is a prodigious fine ship.

Admiral Anson, capturer of the Invincible from the French, in 1747