From Historical Hastings

The “Amsterdam,” was a Dutch ship of some value, which foundered on the shoreline adjacent to Bulverhythe Road on the 26th January, 1749 at approximately 3 p.m. The time is able to be fixed, due to the crew's firing of the ship's guns to signal distress disturbing a service at St. Clements Church. The first on the scene at was reportedly Sir Charles Eversfield[1].

Originally destined for Batavia and other Dutch settlements, the vessel carried a varied cargo for her owners, the VOC. Losing her rudder on a rock off Beachy Head and slipping her anchor the Amsterdam drifted for some time; the crew eventually becoming sickly and reportedly mutinous. A cutter was launched off Hastings with the intention to tow her to a safe harbour, but failed in their efforts - the ship being abandoned off Bulverhythe on what was described at the time as a marshy beach.

A Mr. Whitfield was commanded by the VOC to commence salvage operations. By the third of February 1749 the Amsterdam had become water logged and rapidly filling with water - having sunk four feet into the sand of the beach. By the 26th of February 1749, this depth had increased to eight feet with the sea covering her upper decks at high tides. Whitfield's attempt at lifting the hatches to salvage the cargo were now foiled by the water logged and swollen timbers. His battle with the sea was rapidly being lost with each new tide. On the 11th of March 1749, Whitfield was forced to admit defeat; the Amsterdam having sunk to eighteen feet and the VOC instructing him to cease operations[2]. The masts now being the only visible portion of the wreck at high tides were later cut off.[3]

In March 1827, some forty Bexhill inhabitants succeeded in raising many valuables from her including boxes of drinking glasses, tobacco pipes and assorted cutlery , however, the Revenue services intervened and prevented the complete plunder of the wreck. This investigation did reveal a number of skeletons of the crew[4].

Re-discovery and investigation

Following the discovery of five bronze cannons and French wine in 1969, a further investigation took place in 1970; a coffer-dam was constructed around the vessel and much of the sand which had filled the wreck was removed leading to a number of finds being unearthed. Following this, the wreck was re-covered with sand to ensure its preservation.

Campaign to return to home-land

During 1976, a campaign was launched by a foundation "Save the Amsterdam" led by Peter Marsden, a marine archaeologist and the magazine "The Holland Herald" with a view to raising the remains of the vessel; a weight estimated at around 5,000 tons, and shipping it to a museum that would be constructed in order to properly display the remains by 1979. This would entail the construction of a coffer-dam extending from the high tide line, surrounding the wreck in order water could be removed and the remains carefully excavated and lifted[5]. This campaign did not however achieve its aim; the museum curator J. Manwaring Baines remarking that only a hulk remains - the bulk of her cargo was lifted by both the local population's plunder, the 1749 recovery and 1827 explorations.

At low tides her ribs and large masses of timber from the ship's upper structure may be seen. It is, however theorised that the vessel has suffered a broken back, preventing the removal.[6]

Wreck of The Amsterdam. Photographer:- [ Ricky Nye


References & Notes

  1. The Wreck Walker's Guide (Kendall McDonald 1982) ISBN: 0906798167
  2. The Sussex Smuggler retrieved 25/07/2023
  3. British Newspaper Archive London Evening Standard 13 September 1827 Pg. 0001
  4. Montreal Gazette - 10th Dec. 1827
  5. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 11 December 1976 Pg. 0008
  6. Osborne's Visitor's Guide to Hastings and St Leonards c1854 3rd ed. Pg. 67 Google Books