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Project information

HMS Invincible

The emergency rescue excavation of HMS Invincible 1747 and the subsequent conservation and exhibition at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

May 2017 - December 2021

Charity information: Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust

Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust logo
  • Need


    HMS Invincible’s remains, located in the eastern Solent, represent the most complete and best preserved known wreck of a mid 18th century warship. The site is recognised by Historic England as one of the top 10 most at risk heritage sites in the UK. It is vital that excavation proceeds as soon as possible, otherwise the site could be irreversibly damaged and many artefacts lost forever.


    MAST is lead partner with Bournemouth University and the National Museum of the Royal Navy on a four year project to excavate, record, conserve and display artefacts to be raised from six key areas of the wreck most at risk.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To complete the rescue excavation, conservation and subsequent exhibition of the artefacts


    » 2-3 years of fieldwork alongside concurrent conservation and recording of the artefacts as they are raised before being displayed at the NMRN

    What success will look like

    A far greater understanding of the wreck, its construction, era and the archaeological work required to recover it are effectively communicated to the public and volunteers.

    Aim 2

    The involvement, at each stage, of Service and ex Service personnel and disadvantaged youngsters


    » Their involvement in a key National heritage project will increase their identification within their local and wider communities

    What success will look like

    Serving and ex-Service volunteers are involved in a key National heritage project which also promotes productive interaction and understanding between the Services and communities

  • Impact


    Study of the vessel will significantly increase our understanding of 18th century maritime history. HMS Invincible’s remains not only represent the most complete and best preserved known wreck of a mid-18th century warship, they are also thought to contain fascinating evidence of shipboard life and naval combat not found on other ships of the period, including HMS Victory.


    Maritime archaeology is inherently risky. Much of this is down to the weather. Other risks are mitigated by structuring the project in self contained stages so that the project can be halted to keep within budget if faced with adverse conditions or unforeseen difficulties.


    Donors will receive reports at various stages of the project. The frequency and detail would depend on their desired level of involvement and reports will be tailored to their requirements.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £3,030,764

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

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    LIBOR £2,000,000 Guaranteed
  • Background


    Invincible was a Royal Navy third rate ship of the line, a 74 gun warship originally captured from the French in 1744. 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 and archaeology. The experience of working on the project will be of great benefit to volunteers who will acquire new, transferrable skills with wide applications that can also be used on other archaeological sites. By learning to appreciate their underwater cultural heritage, they will be enthused to protect it and impart this responsible outlook to others.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    MAST is acknowledged to be the responsible face of underwater archaeology, it is accredited to the governing bodies of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and is a Member of the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee. MAST’s partner in the field, BU, has significant and wide-ranging experience in managing large maritime archaeological projects. Museum partner, NMRN, is the UK’s leading exponent in the curation and display of Naval heritage.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Dave Parham

    Associate Professor in Marine Archaeology at Bournemouth University and project leader

    Jessica Berry

    CEO of MAST and project manager

"HMS Invincible is an invaluable part of the UK’s proud maritime history and it is important we work to save as much as possible. This hugely worthwhile project will support military veterans, serving personnel and disadvantaged teenagers to learn new skills put artefacts on display..."

Former Chancellor George Osborne