Anne, 17th Century

The creation and early development of the permanent Royal Navy is represented by the warship Anne, preserved in the beach at Pett Level, to the east of Hastings, whose lower 14 ft (3m) survived in the mud after she was wrecked in 1690. She was badly damaged in the Battle of Beachy Head against the French, and was beached and burnt by her Captain, John Tyrrell, to stop her being taken as a prize. A 70-gun galleon, she was launched in 1678, under orders of the then Secretary of the Admiralty Commission, Samuel Pepys and, in 1687, she carried to Lisbon a German princess, Maria Sophie of Neuberg, as the new wife of King Pedro II of Portugal. King James II went on board her to check on her conversion as a floating royal palace. Subsequently, the Anne led a squadron of warships to the dangerous Barbary States of North Africa, and was used in negotiations with the pirates for the release of captured Europeans who were being held as slaves.

The wreck of the vessel was formerly owned by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), but was given to the Warship Anne Trust, which was jointly set up by the Ministry and the Nautical Museums Trust (NMT) so that she could be managed by the Trustees of NMT as a subsidiary charity. The possessions of the people on board are still owned by descendants of the original owners but, as they cannot be found, the fate of the objects is decided by the Receiver of Wreck.

The Anne’s story reflects the beginnings of the Restoration navy in the period 1660-1700. She is the only known unaltered example of the famous new ‘thirty ships’ whose building was arranged by Samuel Pepys. Items from the vessel, or closely connected with it, are on display.

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