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Dartmouth: Eilean Rubha An Ridire, Sound Of Mull

Fifth Rate Warship (17th Century)

Site Name Dartmouth: Eilean Rubha An Ridire, Sound Of Mull

Classification Fifth Rate Warship (17th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Inninmore Bay; Hms Dartmouth

Canmore ID 102424

Site Number NM74SW 8002

NGR NM 72384 40684

Datum WGS84 - Lat/Long


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Maritime - Highland
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Maritime
  • Former County Not Applicable

Summary Record (March 2013)

The Dartmouth investigation, 1973-1975

The Dartmouth was built at Portsmouth in 1655 for the Commonwealth by Sir John Tippets as one of a new class of light and manoeuvrable small warships derived from Dutch and Danish prototypes. Rated at 240 tons, she had a keel length of 80 ft, a beam of 25 ft, and carried up to 32 cast-iron guns of which the largest were 9-pounders. After a long career which included service in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean she was involved in naval operations following the accession of William and Mary in 1688. In 1689 Dartmouth participated in the Battle of Bantry Bay and was a major player in the relief of Londonderry. The following year she was engaged in anti-Jacobite operations off the west coast of Scotland, based at Greenock and Carrickfergus. While preparing to attack the Macleans of Duart on Mull she was struck by a violent storm on 9 October 1690 and wrecked.

Her remains were found in August 1973 in depths ranging from 3 to 7 metres by a group of divers from Bristol (John Adnams, Ray Bishop, Allan Carr, Roger Holman, and Andrew Wheeler) close to the small islet of Rudha an Ridire, on the Movern side of the south-east entrance to the Sound of Mull (NM 723407). Their preliminary survey revealed a linear scatter of cast-iron guns and a number of finds which included a ship’s bell bearing the government pheon , the letters ‘DH’, and the date 1678. Subsequent research indicated that the only vessel of this type and general period known to have sunk in the vicinity some time after 1678 was Dartmouth, and the identification of this site as that of her wreck is beyond serious question. All the finds subsequently made are attributable to a late-17th-century date, with the latest coin dated 1689.

The discovery was reported to the Receiver of Wreck and the recoveries were voluntarily donated to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland by the finders. Soon afterwards the site became one of the first to be designated under the then recently enacted Protection of Wrecks Act. The finders formed themselves into the Bristol Undersea Archaeology Group with the intention of mounting a responsible investigation of the wreck. A partnership was established with the National Museum through the good offices of its Keeper, Dr Robert Stevenson, to conserve and subsequently curate the recoveries, and the then recently-founded Institute of Maritime Archaeology at St Andrews University which would provide professional archaeological and diving support under the direction of Colin Martin.

A further field visit was made in 1973, followed by two full seasons in 1974 and 1975, with the intention of partially excavating the site. Most of the on-site work was conducted by the St Andrews team comprising Tony Long, Colin Martin, Keith Muckelroy, and Paula Williams. Visiting scholars included Jeremy Green (Australia), Thijs Maarleveld (Holland), Celie O’Rahilly (Ireland) Jill Sweetnam (UK), David Switzer (USA) and Lous Zuiderbaan (Holland). The Bristol group and others assisted during their holiday periods, with specialist contributions by Richard Larn and Peter McBride.

Excavation revealed a substantial section of the lower hull, part of which was raised for disassembly and conservation in Edinburgh. This work, and conservation of the varied collection of small finds, was conducted in the first instance by Hugh McKerrell and Jack Howells, and subsequently by their successors. The collection (apart from the timbers) is currently in storage at the NMS repository in Leith, and during 2012 and 2013 Colin Martin has been studying and recording it with a view to a full publication of the project in the near future. Jackie Moran of the Museum has facilitated this work.

It has already emerged that Dartmouth’s lower structure does not follow conventional techniques of shipbuilding in the 17th century, although this may be the result of the major re-build which the ship underwent in 1678. Finds associated with the ship include the bell, lead draught marks, lead patches and other evidence of repair, rigging fittings, and lead scupper liners. A well-preserved caulking mallet of traditional type was found. Navigational items include three pairs of brass dividers, a brass protractor, part of a log slate, and the horizon vane of a backstaff. Administration and accounting on board is exemplified by brass weights, a wine thief, and two folding calculator rules, one of which is in outstanding condition. Medical equipment is represented by two pewter urethral syringes and ceramic medicine jars.

An example of each type of gun carried by the ship was cleaned and recorded in situ, and a sample specimen raised. A corresponding sample of iron shot was also raised for statistical analysis. Other weaponry includes the stock of a highland sporting musket and a small flintlock pistol, and many thousands of lead balls mainly of musket calibre. A number of hollow cast-iron grenades and associated wooden fuse plugs were found. Lighting equipment includes candlesticks and a three-wick gimballed cabin lamp. Domestic items include knife handles, glass bottles and pottery (redwares, scraffito slipware, Rhenish salt-glazed wares, Westerwald, tin-glazed wares, Spanish olive jar, and fragments of local crogain ware). Also of local origin is a fine Highland ring-brooch of brass. The tightly-dated clay-pipe collection is dominated by the products of James Colquhoun of Glasgow.

All the finds are owned by the National Museums of Scotland. A selection of items is currently on loan to the City Museum, Londonderry, where it is displayed in connection with the relief of the city in 1689.


Adnams, J., 1974, ‘The Dartmouth, a British frigate wrecked off Mull, 1690’, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 3.2: 269-74.

Holman, R., 1975, ‘The Dartmouth, a British frigate wrecked off Mull, 1690. 2. Culinary and related items’, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 4.2: 253-65.

McBride, P., 1976, ‘The Dartmouth, a British frigate wrecked off Mull, 1690. 3. The guns’, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 5.3: 189-200.

Martin, P., 1977, ‘The Dartmouth, a British frigate wrecked off Mull, 1690. 4. The clay pipes’, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 6.3: 219-23.

Martin, C., 1978, ‘The Dartmouth, a British frigate wrecked off Mull, 1690. 5. The ship’, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 7.1: 29-58.


Loss (9 October 1690)

Diver Inspection (19 November 1973)

This wreck was discovered on the 19th November 1973 by amatuer experienced divers, now Bristol Undersea Archaeology Group during an exploratory dive.

Information from RCAHMS (HDS) 8 January 2013

Source: J R Adnams 1974.

External Reference (11 April 1974)

(Dartmouth: site no. 7). The site of the wreck was designated in 1974. Investigation started in November 1973 and continued under the guidance of Dr Colin Martin until 1978. The designation order was revoked in 1979 without consulting Dr Martin. Following reports of material, including guns, being removed from the site by sport divers, the wreck was re-designated in 1992.

Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites 2005.

Reference (1974)

This wreck was discovered by amateur divers in August 1973, anchors, cannon, timbers and a bell being initially recognised and recorded. Further survey, under professional supervision, took place in November of that year. The wreck lies on Eilean Rubha an Ridire, close to those of the Ballista [NM74SW 8003] of 1973 and an unknown wreck of c. 1940 [River Tay: NM74SW 8008].

Nineteen guns were initially recognised; all appear 'badly decomposed'. Nos. 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 appear to have been broken in the past, but the remainder preserve their original dimensions, the shape of the moulding-rings being preserved under a layer of concretion. Gun 10 has a broad arrow, and their lengths are as follows:

5.5ft (1.7m): nos. 1, 2, 10

6ft (1.8m): nos. 15-17

7.5ft (2.3m): nos. 18-19.

8.5ft (2.6m): nos. 3, 5, 11-14.

One anchor of 12ft (3.6m) length and two others 8ft (2.4m) length were also found, as were seven lead scupper-pipes ranging in length between 9ins (0.23m) and 15.5ins (0.4m). A lead pipe of length 4.5ft (1.35m) and ending in a sloping flange was found trapped under gun 15.

The bell measures 15.5ins (0.394m) in height and 73lb (32.9kg) in weight, and was found firmly concreted to gun 15. One side bears the inscription DH 1678, and the reverse bears the design of the pheon, indicating a ship of the Royal Navy.

Timbers were noted in various locations, and an area of 50ft (15m) by 15ft (4.5m) was uncovered, this being identified as part of the hull with the inside ceiling planking downwards. Under the lower edge and face downwards, there were found sections of horsehair and pitch paying stuff secured with light deal boards, a 17th century defence against shipworm. Framing-timbers and part of the keelson or a lower deck clamp were also prominent.

A variety of small artefacts were located and recovered. These include lead Roman numerals (apparently draught-marks), pieces of lead sheet measuring up to 5ft (1.5m) by 1.5ft (0.45m) and probably used as sheathing, and parts of wooden blocks and sheaves. Three thick leather perforated discs of diameter 3.9ins (0.1m) were also found, but their function remains unknown.

Numerous bricks and tiles found around gun 15 may indicate the location of the galley. Three shaped slates were possibly log slates, and a shoe was found under gun 15, in apparent association with bones.

Two rectangular lead cannon-aprons, seven sizes of iron round shot, and three sizes of lead shot were also found, as well as two grenades of 3.5ins (89mm) and 4.1ins (104mm) diameter respectively. All the iron shot have lost weight through combination of the iron with the surface concretion layer, while the grenades retained their gunpowder and (in one case) its wooden plug.

The pottery found on the wreck has been dated to the late 17th century, and includes Bellarmine and Westerwald stoneware, brown glazed ware (probably made in the Midlands), and blue and white Delft ware from Holland or SE England. Other items used on the ship included wine bottles, clay pipes, a pewter plate, a brass spoon, a brass candle-holder and some unidentified bronze objects.

This ship may be identified as the Dartmouth, a 5th rate which is recorded as having been wrecked on 9 October 1690, and is the only Royal Navy ship wrecked off Mull or off the Western coast of Scotland during a long period after 1678. The letters 'DH' on the bell support this identification. The date of the bell is later than the original construction (1655) and presumably reflects replacement in refit or rebuilding. The sizes and number of guns carried are compatible with those of a 5th rate if it is assumed that some were removed in contemporary salvage operations. The loss of the ship is well documented as having been occasioned by her being driven across the Sound from her anchorage near Duart Castle; her Commanding Officer (Capt. Pottinger) was drowned with all but six of his men.

The Dartmouth is recorded as having been a typical 5th rate of the time, and may well be that illustrated by Van de Velde the Younger in 1675. She was built at Portsmouth by Sir John Tippets in 1655, and measured 80ft (24.2m) in length along the keel. Her beam, depth (within the hold) and draught were 25ft (7.58m), 10ft (3.02m) and 12ft (3.64m) respectively. She was outfitted and complemented as follows:

peace: 90 men, 28 guns

war abroad: 115 men, 28 guns

war at home: 135 men, 32 guns.

(Illustrations include site plan to date of article and studio photographs of bell and draught-marks. Specific references cited to documentary sources and guns allocated to a 5th rate specified by type and number, weight and deck).

J R Adnams 1974.

Reference (1975)

Eilean Rudha an Ridire, Sound of Mull, Argyll: HMS Dartmouth. Further work in 1974, carried out in conjunction with the St Andrews Institute of Maritime Archaeology, has been directed towards clearing and recording the extensive structural remains of the ship.

Finds made in the course of these investigations include pottery and glassware, clay pipes, a comb, a razor, navigational instruments and slates, mica lozenges from the stern windows, pewter plates and spoons, wooden and bone knife handles, part of a gimballed cabin lamp, a bronze mortar, brass weights, a flintlock pistol, the stock of a Highland musket, a Celtic ring-brooch, leather shoes, pieces of rope, and a variety of rigging fittings.

Conservation of this material is being undertaken by the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.

J Cherry 1975.

Reference (1975)

The 5th rate (frigate) Dartmouth sank on 9 October 1690 while on patrol for William of Orange in his campaign against the Catholic Scots of the Western Isles. She was a typical 'workhorse' ship of the period and at the end of her long career, so her artifactual assemblage may be considered typical of the period. Comparison with artefacts from the wreck of the 5th rate Sapphire (built 1675 at Harwich, sunk in action against the French off Newfoundland in 1696, and archaeologically investigated in 1973) may illuminate:

1. the degree of standardisation then prevalent in the equipment of warships,

2. the origin of pottery on board (in the light of contemporary trade routes), and

3. the nature of personal possessions (including tableware) carried on board.

The pottery carried comprises items of lead-glazed earthenware, stoneware and tin-glazed ware. Pieces of the first (a coarse brown ware) were found strewn across the entire site of the Dartmouth and were probably derived from the lower deck. They were either single (internal only) or double-glazed in a dull grey fabric, and were probably storage vessels of East Midlands provenance; the presence of sparking grits is characteristic. The dark green lead-glazed ware found on the Sapphire was of similar form but lighter in colour and smaller in size. By comparison, the green earthenware found on the Dartmouth was crude in comparison; both the fabric and glaze resembling the dark grey clay used locally in Argyll. Dartmouth may have carried provisions which came on board with the Duke of Argyll's troops involved in the campaign. Fragments of sgraffito slipware dishes and a red earthenware jug (both probably of Staffordshire origin) were also found.

Fragments of stoneware vessels in a variety of fabrics were found. Bellarmine ware was found in small quantities in both wrecks, and was probably of continental origin. Salt-glaze ware of Westerwald type was found on the Dartmouth; jugs and mugs of this ware which may have been official issue after the accession of William of Orange. Delftware fragments were found on the Dartmouth, and were of types found in London.

Other storage and culinary items found on the Dartmouth include glass bottles, wooden galley and storage vessels, and pewter vessels. Culinary utensils recovered include brass tableware and items of cutlery. Numerous coarse green 'onion' bottles were found on both the Dartmouth and the Sapphire; analysis of the residue within a bottle from the former wreck suggests the former presence of a wine of Bordeaux type. Coarse 'brandy' type bottles (of slightly larger size and in a brown fabric were also found on both wrecks, as were pale green 'schnapps' bottles and small square-based bottles for ink, toilet water or medical supplies.

Barrels were apparently used widely at the time to store a wide range of commodities (including both victualling and ordnance stores). Staves and ends have been found on both wrecks. Pewter vessels (mainly plates) were found on the Dartmouth, but no identification marks have been discerned. A magnificent pewter spoon was also found, as were handles in scrimshaw, ivory, bone and hardwood, and a brass dish and spoon; the former may have been silver-coated.

The potential for the recognition of specific areas within the wreck from the artefacts found within them may also be noted. Specifically, the distribution of the artefacts may be affected by the factors:

1. the ship is much more broken up at the bow than the stern, where rock falls have prevented further dispersal of the structure and its contents, and

2. the bow of the ship is in an area of stronger currents, assisting the dispersal of wooden barrels and buckets.

In general terms, the ship may be seen as having been wrecked with her stern towards the island, and the richer artefacts in and around the Great Cabin. Comparison with documentary sources [specified] suggests an element of standardisation ('high degree of commonality'), although officers took at least some personal items of value. The crew apparently ate of pewter plates with knife and spoon (probably personal rather than 'issue'), but may have had no drinking vessels as such. The midshipmen, bo'sun and quartermaster had similar eating ware but drank from the apparently copious supply of wine in bottles and jugs. The officers used conventional cutlery and pewter tableware with some silver-dipped pieces, and had fine mugs (including delftware) for use on occasion.

(Artifacts described individually, with drawings and/or studio photographs of selected examples. List of culinary objects found on the Dartmouth tabulated, with original locations suggested. For background account of the Sapphire, see Barber, VC in IJNA, 6 (1977), 305-13).

R G Holman 1975.

Reference (1976)

Eilean Rudha and Ridire [sic.], Sound of Mull, Argyll: HMS Dartmouth. A third season of work by Bristol University Archaeology Group in conjunction with the Institute of Maritime Archaeology, St Andrews University, has been completed on this wreck. Twenty foot [6.1m] of the keel 'all that remains' has been uncovered, together with part of the starboard side of the ship extending in all for some 50 ft [15.2m]. The remains were drawn in situ and a photo-mosaic of them was made before the keel and a 12ft by 12ft [3.65 by 3.65m] section of frames and planking were lifted. This is being conserved at the Research Laboratory of the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, and will eventually be reassembled for display in the Museum with the rest of the finds. These include an iron gun; ship's fittings including the bell; shot and grenades; navigational and surgical instruments; pottery and glassware; pewter; two gold guineas (of James II and William and Mary); weights and measures; a caulking mallet; shoes and other organic remains.

J Cherry 1976.

Reference (1977)

Assigned to class 2 ('broken').

K Muckelroy 1977.

Reference (1977)

The artifactual assemblage of the Dartmouth (now held by the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland) offers a dated assemblage (from shortly before October 1690), which is presumably of largely Scottish manufacture and may be studied in comparison with recent standard works (by Oswald and others).

The assemblage includes twenty diagnostic bowls or fragments; a further eighteen bowl- and nine stem-and-bowl fragments cannot be specifically assigned. Twice as many marked pipes were found as unmarked, but only four different marks were noted. The most common marks were I C (25 examples, presumably by James Colquhoun of Glasgow, post-1668) and M L (9 examples, unattributed, but probably not Scottish).

A remarkable variety of shapes and sizes is represented, and may be placed within a more restricted chronological range than would have been the case if they were found in a different context. Comparison with the finds from other wrecks of the periods will prove instructive, specifically the Mary (1675), the Sapphire (1696) and the Association or Tearing Ledge site (1707).

P Martin 1977.

Reference (1978)

The investigation of this wreck has comprised 24 weeks of fieldwork by the Institute of Maritime Archaeology and the Bristol Undersea Archaeology Branch of BS-AC. Although some peripheral areas of the site remain unexcavated, it is considered that the full extent of the surviving structure has been defined.

The dimensions of the ship were documentarily recorded as cited by Adnams (above), and her established armament comprised 16 demi-culverin drakes (9-pdrs), 16 saker drakes (6-pdrs) and 4 minion forts (4-pdrs). Sir John Tippetts, who became Surveyor of the Navy in 1672, had studied ship design and construction in Denmark during the reign of Charles I, and the design of small British warships had developed rapidly in the 1640's, notably through the introduction of the revised hull form that was derived from the 'Dunkirk frigates' and was exemplified in the construction of the Constant Warwick, built in Pett's yard at Ratcliffe in 1646. The Dartmouth was built on the basis of these developments, and was reflected in Van de Velde's sketch of the mid-1670's, which well portrays the sleek light hull characteristic of this type. An itemised account of the work carried out in the major refit in 1678 and two succeeding surveys (of 27 October 1679 and 10 October 1680 respectively) form major documentary sources for ship construction of this period.

The wreck of the vessel has entered the folk-memory of the area, although often confused with the 'Tobermory wreck' [San Juan de Sicilia: NM55NW 8013]. Jacobite-inspired witchcraft features heavily (and improbably) in accounts which also mention the vessel drifting stern-first across the sound after her anchor-cables had given way and other anchors dragged on the third day of a storm. The vessel was probably at least partially capsized before she was driven by the wind for about 2 miles (3.2km), and the location on 'King's Point in Morvern' was remembered until at least the mid 19th century.

Although two modern wrecks lie nearby, they are separated from the archaeological site by a rock spur and most of the intrusive material recovered reflects island picnics and hunting or shooting parties, probably of the 19th century. A steady tidal stream runs across the N side of the islet from NE to SW, but the site is reasonably well protected from currents. It is also well protected from heavy seas, although exposed to the NW; the maximum fetch of 11 miles (17.7km) in this direction is too short to allow the development of a large swell. The stability of the seabed is increased by a luxuriant coverage of kelp (Laminaria digitata).

The wreck lies at the foot of a sloping rock against the side of the island. At the shoreward end, wreckage is contained within a wedge-shaped gully only 8-10ft (2.44-3.05m) deep at LWS; one gun (no. 20) lies in even shallower water. Another gun (no. 2) lies partly up-ended in a nearby cleft, and three more (nos. 1, 3 and 5) were found close to the base of the northern rock face. Excavation of the shoreward end of the wreckage has revealed artefacts clearly associated with the after end of the vessel: navigational and surgical instruments, a flintlock pistol, balance weights, and fine tableware in pottery and pewter. Leaded mica pieces found in this area probably came from the windows in this part of the ship, and may be identified with the 'Muscovy glass' specified at the time of refit. This serves to confirm the traditional view that the ship struck stern-first.

The main spread of coherent structure starts where the mouth of the gully starts to widen out and slopes gradually seawards, following the base of the rock down to a depth of 17ft (5.18m). About 18ft (5.49m) of the keel survives at the inshore end. Before excavation, the timber structure was covered by up to 2ft (0.61m) depth of shingle and boulders, and was further pinned by several large concretions which included guns, shot and an anchor 13ft (3.96m) long. Much of this material was evidently ballast as it contained flint chippings, several broken guns (nos. 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10) and fragments, and also shot too large to fit the armament carried.

Between the W end of the coherent structure and the inwards curve of the cliff towards the NW (a distance of some 9.14m), excavation revealed a gravely deposit up to 2ft (0.61m) deep which overlay bedrock near the shore and a firm clay/pebble conglomerate elsewhere. This deposit contained a quantity of scattered timber, most of it identifiable as elm planking or fir sheathing. Ballast flints were present throughout this area and in its western part there were found items of seamanship stores, consistent with the location of the bosun's store in the forward part of the ship. These comprised rigging fittings of various types (including cordage, parrel and shroud trucks, deadeyes, blocks of several sizes, and loose sheaves). Some of these items showed evidence of makeshift repair, while others were unused. Also located in this part of the ship was the armoury, represented by concreted boxes or kegs of hand grenades, with large quantities of lead shot of pistol and musket calibre. These identifications support the suggested general arrangement of the ship, lying ENE-WSW with the stern to the ENE and the bow to the WSW.

Some 30ft (9.14m) NW of the assumed centreline of the ship and roughly parallel with it, there was a linear scatter of guns (nos. 12-19) running for about 60ft (18.3m) from NE-SW at a depth of about 20ft (6.1m). Several Roman numerals cut from lead sheet and found near the SW end of this line are best identified as draught-marks from the stem. The line of the guns is also followed by a series of lead scupper-liners (close to guns 12, 14 and 16) which may be associated with the side of the ship at deck level.

Halfway along this line (around guns 15 and 16) lay a pile of bricks and tiles evidently connected with the galley structure. The bricks were of well fired red clay and typically measured 8.6 by 3.9 by 2.4 ins (218 by 99 by 61mm), dimensions significantly different from the 17th century English standard. The tiles were of softer and brighter orange fabric, and typically measured about 6 by 0.5 by at least 7 ins (152 by 13 by 178mm), and were pierced at the top by nail-holes. The brick-built floor of the structure apparently rested on the main deck of the forecastle, and supported a firebox, boiler shelf and flue of brick, while a tiling shroud on a wooden framework served to reduce the danger of fire. The slates previously noted by Adnams may have formed part of this structure. Among the remains of the galley, there were found considerable quantities of burnt debris, animal bones and coal, the latter being readily available in Greenock. A length of narrow-bore lead piping was found in this area. This was flanged at one end and may have formed part of the plumbing of the boiler. The bell would also have hung in this area.

Some 20ft (6.1m) W of the forward end of the line of guns lay a pair of medium-sized anchors measuring 7 and 8ft (2.13m and 2.44m) respectively in length and nestled crown-to-ring as if stowed and lashed when lost. A piece of lead sheeting and a lead pipe of large bore found nearby were possibly associated with the ship's sanitary arrangements; the latter may have been one of the 'pissdale pipes' of the 1678 refit.

A lateral trench of width 10ft (3.05m) was excavated from just forward of the coherent structure towards the line of guns and scupper-liners, so as to determine the relationship between the two main axes of the wreck. A deposit of loose stones and gravel some 18ins (0.46m) deep was found to overlie a firm n depth clay/pebble substratum of natural origin. The upper deposit was cleared down to this layer to reveal a scatter of artifacts. These present the impression of having been subject to a pronounced heeling motion towards the ship's side, where they were retained until the side rotted away.

The sectional relationship between the coherent structure and the seabed strata aft indicates that the ship came to rest heeled at an angle of 23 degrees to starboard. The port side of the ship would then have projected above the surface, and so has vanished above the inboard edge of its garboard strake. Much of this side is thought to have been salvaged [by persons unknown and presumably without diving]. The section also shows that the lower part of the keel and the entirety of the false keel were removed by abrasion. These two timbers are recorded as measuring 13ins (0.33m) and 8ins (0.2m) in depth respectively, and these measurements are reflected in the depth of the trench that was evidently driven by the wreck into the substratum while the ship was substantially intact, allowing water movement to rock the hull and cause the keel to act as a moving fulcrum. The starboard planking would then have fanned away to form the hollow into which it settled with minimal damage. A thick matte of wood splinters from the abraded keel and other organic components then settled beneath and around the stabilised hull remains while several substantial portions of framing (presumably from the disintegrated port side) settled into the trench. This trench also became a trap for about half the artifacts subsequently recovered, suggesting that the ship broke up fairly rapidly and in a continuous sequence before the natural seabed deposits became re-established.

The situation forward is rather different forward in that the coherent structure ends around a rock spur which projects beyond the keel axis almost as far as the large anchor amidships, strongly suggesting that the ship broke her back in this area (close to the mainmast step). The steep cliff and the sloping seabed would have acted together to roll the forward portion to starboard, into a position now represented by the line of guns. In this process, much of the planking would have sprung, releasing the ballast and many artifacts to fall onto the seabed. The forward part of the hull then settled onto its starboard side, forming a trap for a variety of objects, while the brick and tile galley fell onto the guns, with the belfry above it. The timbers themselves then rotted away (leaving the lead scupper-liners and draught numbers as markers) while the heavier objects worked their way through the seabed sediment, in some cases reaching the harder underlying substratum. The two westernmost anchors and the postulated 'heads' waste pipe indicate the location of the bow itself.

In general terms, analysis of the site formation processes (and also the demonstrable non-deployment of the spare anchors) supports the traditional account of the ship having drifted across the Sound on her beam ends before striking stern-first and going to pieces 'to the great rejoicing of the MacLeans'.

Individual structural components were recorded in detail. The keel was of elm and much abraded on the underside although clear toolmarks and traces of paying stuff (apparently white lead and oil) survived on the upper surface. The surviving portion measured 18ft (5.49m) in length and included the full length of a scarf joint; the deadwood bolt-holes and garboard recesses were clearly identified. The dimensions cited accord with those recorded at the time of refit, and this keel deadwood bolt-holes and garboard recesses were clearly identified and this keel must be that fitted in 1678. The overlying rising deadwood was also of elm, and served to retain the (non-continuous) frames in an unconventional manner, which may reflect the constraints of timber supply or the re-keeling operation.

C J M Martin 1978.

Reference (1987)

The fifth-rate warship Dartmouth was wrecked on 9 October 1690 on Eilean Rubha an Ridire, close to the SE end of the Sound of Mull. Her remains were located by amateur divers from Bristol in 1973, and excavated over the next two seasons under the auspices of the Scottish Institute of Maritime Studies and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland. A substantial portion of the lower hull was found trapped in a gully close inshore, and was shown by artifactual analysis to derive from after part of the ship. The vessel had evidently broken amidships, allowing the forward portion to roll into slightly deeper water before disintegrating and depositing its contents in a pattern which reflected their original locations.

Dartmouth had been built in 1655, and had been the subject of much repair. A major refit in 1678 had seen the replacement of her keel and the three lower strakes on each side. Itemised shipyard accounts survive for this work, and allow detailed study of 17th century carpentry practice, while the identification of a fixed point on the fragmentary keel has allowed the projection of the after lines from the curvature of the surviving frames.

Artifactual discoveries included the ship's bell, which was dated 1678 and was clearly associated with the refit of that year; a wash sketch by Van de Velde the Younger shows the belfry as empty. Navigational instruments found included dividers, a protractor, a log slate, part of a backstaff and a binnacle lamp. Drug pots, an apothecary's mortar and two pewter syringes probably came from the surgeon's chest, while the work of the purser is represented by a set of brass weights and a boxwood gauger's rule. Domestic utensils of pottery, glass, pewter and treen were spread widely across the site; their quality reflected their apparent origin in the officer's quarters at the stern. Personal items included an ivory snuff bottle and a Highland ring brooch.

Most of the ship's cast-iron ordnance was concreted and badly-degraded; this was generally left in situ, only one piece being raised for experimental conservation. Samples of iron Roundshot, lead musket balls and hand grenades were also recovered. Environmental material (including butchered animal bone) was sampled; a small quantity of leatherwork (including pump washers, footwear and a drawstring purse) found. Two gold guineas were found, one of James II (1687) and the other of William and Mary (1689).

C J M Martin 1987.

Excavation (23 September 1991)

Substantial surveying and salvage took place in 1991. The artefacts are in National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh. The site is now completely kelp-covered since work ceased.

Information from RCAHMS (HDS) 9 January 2013

Source: Dive NW Scotland by G Ridley 1985.

Project (1994 - 2005)

Survey of maritime sites including: Dartmouth: Eilean Rubha an Ridire; Evelyn Rose (Possibly): Ardtornish Point; Glen Carradale: Loch Aline Jetty; Hispania: Sgeir Mor; John Preston: Rubha Dearg; Loch Tearnait, Crannog; Pelican: Calve Island; Rondo: Dearg Sgeir; Shuna: Rubha Aird Seisg; Strathbeg: Cnap A' Chailbhe; Swan: Duart Point; Thesis: Rubha an Ridire; Unknown: Calve Island; Unknown: Scallaslte Bay and a stone quay and Ardtornish.

External Reference (1995)

Horizontal Datum = OGB

Buoyage =

General water depth = 9

Circumstances of Loss Details


The Navy was wrecked in a storm, driven ashore and sunk.

Source: Ships of Royal Navy, vol.1.

Surveying Details


19 November 1973. The site was located at 56 30 12N, 005 41 55W in 4.5-9.1 metres of water.

Source: Bristol Undersea Archaeology Group.

17 May 1974. The site was designated as an historic wreck.

Statutary instrument 458/74.

12 February 1979. The historic wreck designation protection was revoked.

Statutory instrument no. 6/79.

10 June 1982. An iron cannon, anchors, and some timber showing.

Source: Diver magazine, 1982.

23 September 1991. Substantial surveying and salvage has taken place. The artefacts are in National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh. The site is now completely kelp-covered since work ceased.

Source: Dive NW Scotland -by G Ridley, published 1985.

19 December 1991. Significant archaeological evidence remains on the site. The correct position is 56 30 11.5N, 005 41 57W and a radius of 50 metres would include all associated material. A modern wreck, part of which projects above the surface, lies nearby.

Source: Archaeological Diving Unit report no. ADU 91/17. The site is to be re-designated as an Historic Wreck.

9 July 1992. An area, radius 50 metres, centred on 56 30 11.5N, 005 41 57W, was re-designated as a restricted area under the Protection of Wrecks Act, 1973.

Statutory instrument no.1229 (s.123) /92.

Hydrographic Office, 1995.

Reference (1996)

(Location cited as N36 30.19 W5 41.95: no part of the restricted area with a radius of 50m is above HWMOST).

(Original designation order: 1974, no. 6: 1974/458, dated 11 April 1974).

(Redesignated: 1992, no. 2; 1992/1229, S. 123, dated 25 June 1992).

The Dartmouth, a small frigate or fifth rate, was built in 1655 and refitted in 1678. Her long workman-like life came to an end in 1690 during a punitive campaign in the Sound of Mull. A storm drove her from anchorage and ashore on Eilean Rudha an Ridire, one of the rocky islands in the Sound, on 9 October 1690.

Discovered in 1973 by divers from Bristol, parts of the site were jointly investigated by them and the St Andrews Institute of Maritime Archaeology.

The site was re-designated in 1992 to prevent further damage from the uncontrolled activities of sport divers.

NMRS, MS/829/11.

Reference (1996)

Mull: HMS Dartmouth. This well documented ship was found, surveyed and identified by members of the British Aircraft Corporation branch of BSAC. Cannon, lead scuppers and a ship's bell helped to identify and date the ship, which was scheduled [sic.] as a designated site.

J Cherry 1976.

Note (1998)

Note (1998): visits to the site can be made, but only with permission from Historic Scotland who, together with the current licensee (Phil Robertson, Lochaline Dive Centre), operate a controlled visitor scheme to monitor and protect the site.

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Reference (1998)

(Classified as 22-gun frigate: date of loss cited as 9 October 1690). HMS Dartmouth: this vessel was driven from anchor at Duart Castle and wrecked in the Sound of Mull.

Registration: London. 266 tons burthern. Length: 24m. Beam: 7m.

(Location of loss cited as N56 30.2 W5 41.92).

I G Whittaker 1998.

See also NM64SE 8012 (Cancelled)

External Reference (2002)

The following finds from the wreck of the Dartmouth are held in the National Museums of Scotland (under the accession numbers cited):

H.HXD.1-33 clay pipes: mixed bowls, stems and heels,

H.HXD.34-8 flints: fragments, pieces, pebbles and scrapers

H.HXD.39-70 glass: fragments in various colours, including bottles and pieces (necks, bases and bottoms) thereof, also pieces of window-glass,

H.HXD.71-115 cannon and cannonballs (of unspecified calibres), grenades and fuses, musket balls and shot

H.HXD.116-123 miscellaneous iron objects: rods, lumps, pins and pieces

H.HXD.124-166 miscellaneous lead, copper and pewter objects and pieces, including lumps, discs, cups and sheet. Also lead scupper-pieces and plumb-bob

H.HXD.167-172 miscellaneous copper and bronze objects and pieces, including plates, pipes, handles, fragments and stopper

H.HXD.173 mortar [of unspecified material, probably brass]

H.HXD.174 ship's bell [of unspecified material, probably brass]

H.HXD.175-6 brass candlestick holders and related objects

H.HXD.177A-B brass fragments

H.HXD.178 brass lid, possibly of powder-flask

H.HXD.179-80 brass candle-holder and candlestick base fragments

H.HXD.181 brass pommel

H.HXD.182 wooden pistol-butt (with concretion)

H.HXD.183 protractor and nest of weights [possibly of brass]

H.HXD.184A part of lock, possibly of brass

H.HXD.184B piece of pewter

H.HXD.185 piece of (possibly) pewter

H.HXD.186 piece of lead or pewter

H.HXD.187 pewter plates

H.HXD.188 pewter handle

H.HXD.189-93 pewter pieces and fragments (often of plates)

H.HXD.194 pewter tankard-lid (with glass handle attached)

H.HXD.195-6 pewter spoons

H.HXD.197 pewter cup or wine-taster

H.HXD.198 pewter pieces

H.HXD.199 bronze rivet

H.HXD.200 bronze strap

H.HXD.201 hinge with nail (possibly of bronze)

H.HXD.202 bronze coin

H.HXD.203 bronze sheet

H.HXD.204 pieces of sheet of [unspecified] metal

H.HXD.205 small tack of [unspecified] metal

H.HXD.206 small button of [unspecified] metal

H.HXD.207-234 objects, strips or ribbon, coin, pin, pieces, disc and fragments of [unspecified] metal

H.HXD.235-6 metal syringes

H.HXD.237-246 metal dish, spoons and pieces (also length of possible rope)

H.HXD.247 lead button

H.HXD.248 coin

H.HXD.249 casting sprues

H.HXD.250-253 piece of pitch, samples of 'black goo' and lump of unspecified material

H.HXD.254 metal candlestick

H.HXD.255-266 wooden objects and fragments including pulley block fragments, possible gunstock and square panel

H.HXD.267 wooden folding rules

H.HXD.268 wooden buttons

H.HXD.269-270 wooden knife-handles

H.HXD.271 wooden piece

H.HXD.272-273 wooden pulley sheaths

H.HXD.274-275 wooden pieces

H.HXD.276 part of musket stock

H.HXD.277-279 wooden handles

H.HXD.280 piece of wood (painted pink)

H.HXD.281-282 wooden pieces (including pulley and possible blocks)

H.HXD.283 wooden knife-handles

H.HXD.284 wooden pieces

H.HXD.285 wooden plate

H.HXD.286 wooden handles

H.HXD.287 chalk lumps

H.HXD.288-289 sawdust lump and samples

H.HXD.290-294 slate pieces and lumps

H.HXD.295-296 rope lengths and piece

H.HXD.297-300 leather fragments and pieces (including fragments of shoe)

H.HXD.301 bone knife-handle

H.HXD.302-307 bone piece, objects and disc (also bones and bag of charred bone)

H.HXD.308 fragment of bowl [presumably pottery]

H.HXD.309 brown jar [presumably pottery]

H.HXD.310 tiles

H.HXD.311 fragment and pieces of coal

H.HXD.312 pieces of fossilised shell

H.HXD.313 pieces of tortoiseshell razor-case

H.HXD.314 piece of sealing-wax

H.HXD.315-316 ivory container and threaded piece

H.HXD.317 fibre ring

H.HXD.318 brass ring-brooch

H.HXD.319 possible horn handle

H.HXD.320-321 horsehair (with wood attached)

H.HXD.322 sample of fur with plaster or mortar

H.HXD.323 pieces of unknown material

H.HXD.324A fragment of lead or pewter strap

H.HXD.324B iron nail

H.HXD.324C fragment of chalk

H.HXD.324D piece of white wax

H.HXD.325 playing [gaming] piece [of unstated material]

H.HXD.326-327 dividers (possibly bronze)

H.HXD.328-329 folding rulers (one possibly bronze)

H.HXD.330 sample of gold braid

H.HXD.331 piece of comb [of unstated material]

H.HXD.332 decorated screwtop case [of unstated material], possibly for navigational instruments

H.HXD.333 decorated jar [of unstated material]

H.HXD.334 small pot [of unstated material]

H.HXD.335 stoneware bottle

H.HXD.336 hazelnut shell

H.HXD.337-378 wood: pieces (including possible button and possible part of a rule)

H.HXD.379-380 wooden handles

H.HXD.381 dividers [of unstated material]

H.HXD.382 slate: pieces

H.HXD.383-400 wood: pieces (including possible button and possible handle)

H.HXD.401 wood: part of a rule

H.HXD.402-406 wood: pieces (including possible handle)

H.HXD.407 wood: piece (possible gun-butt)

H.HXD.408-413 wood: pieces

H.HXD.414 wood: piece (possible barrel-stave)

H.HXD.415-429 wood: pieces (including possible handles)

H.HXD.430 wooden piece, possibly part of a gunstock

H.HXD.431-437 wood: fragments and pieces (including possible handles)

H.HXD.438 handle, possibly of antler

H.HXD.439-504 wood: pieces (including lid, stake, discs, possible button, possible handles and parts of pulleys)

H.HXD.505-511 lead: piece

H.HXD.512 piece of [unspecified] metal.

NMRS, MS/829/52.

Note (10 January 2003)

This wreck is charted as a Historic Wreck in a about 4m depth of water on the W side of the Eilean Rubha an Ridire, which afford the remains considerable protection from the locally strong flood tide. The seabed type is not noted and the complex submarine topography of the area is not indicated in detail.

The low but rocky islands of the Eilean Rubha an Ridire are situated on the N side of the relatively narrow SE entrance to the Sound of Mull. They rise from a steep slope above the deep glacial trough to the W and SW, and are themselves protected from the SE by the prominent projecting headland of the Rubha an Ridire [name: NM 733 399].

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 10 January 2003.

HO chart no. 2390 (1976, revised to 1991).

Diver Inspection (9 November 2003 - 11 November 2003)

The wreck was visited by Wessex Archaeology between the 9th and 11th November 2003 under a contract for archaeological services issued by Historic Scotland in relation to the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973). Diving concentrated on the wreck site itself: the search for several 'missing' large artifacts proved unsuccessful although most of the remaining artifacts were recorded. The reported findspot of a recently-discovered Bellarmine vessel was investigated, no archaeological features being encountered. The reported findspot of a lead scupper pipe was not investigated, but the visitor trail was found to be in fragmentary condition.

Diving conditions were generally very good, the wreck being protected from tidal action by the island of Eilean Rubha an Ridire; the Bellarmine search are (to the N) was less sheltered. A dive time of 236 minutes was achieved in the main area.

The following positions were noted:

Statutory Instrument Position (1992/1229): N56 30.19 W5 41.95 [NM 7238 4069] (OSGB-36)

Centre point of Bellarmine search area: N56 30.275 W5 42.059 [NM 7227 4084] (WGS-84)

Obs. 1087 (anchor on the Main Site): N56 30.181 W5 42.053 [NM 7227 4084] (WGS-84)

Both the latter two positions were obtained tracked diver survey using the ROV-trak system. Proximity to Eilean Rubha an Ridire precluded correct positioning of the beacon array, placing the reading beyond normal working parameters, with consequent implications for reliability.

The wreck came to rest within a wedge-shaped gully that starts at the base of a rock face which slopes down from the island and continues off to the SW with a gradually sloping floor. The seabed in the main wreck area comprises mixed coarse sediment and small pebbles and boulders. That within the Bellarmine search area comprises loose fine silty sand covering an aggregate of coarse sand and pebbles covered with extensive soft marine growth. This changes to large rocks and boulders with areas of protruding bedrock cut by small gullies filled with coarse sand and gravel as the seabed slopes up to the small rock outcroppings that start 150m N and NW of Eilean Rubha an Ridire. Notwithstanding repeated cutting for visitor access, there was overall coverage by kelp (Laminaria digitata), obscuring many artifacts. As might be expected, the kelp cover was dying back at the date of visit.

Inspection within the Main Site area failed to reveal an iron cannon (SOMAP 9) and two concreted masses (SOMAP 8 and 36) recorded on plan in 1994. Two anchors and cannon recorded in the 1970's were not identified, but further small artifacts recorded included a fragment of galley tile and two fragments of galley brick (all showing possible elements of burning), and three glass fragments (apparently of pre-20th century date). The small area of planking beneath the anchor (SOMAP 4) was found to demonstrate evidence of colonisation by shipworm (Teredo navalis). A small mound of stones (mixed with small areas of concretion) was identified as possible ballast material. A broken iron cannon (SOMAP 6) lay roughly parallel to, and almost touching, the shaft of anchor 4, while iron cannon (SOMAP 5) lay roughly parallel and less than 0.5m away. Fragments of modern iron cable were apparently associated with the recent loss of a fishing dredge bucket. The reported lead scupper pipe may derive from another vessel.

The Main Site was considered largely stable, although the exposed timber planking remains open to damage by swell. The apparent absence of several large artifacts (notably the cannon and anchors at the W end of the Main Site) may indicate sediment accretion in that area. The failure to discover archaeological features within the reported area of the Bellarmine fragment may indicate destruction by scallop-dredging.

(Detailed recommendations are made, and the history of the ship is summarised. Illustrations include location plan, comparative site plans of remains recorded in 1974 and 1994, and imagery indicating seabed conditions).


Reference (2011)

Whittaker ID : 300


Latitude : 563012

Longitude : 54155

Registration : LONDON


Tonnage : 266

Tonnage Code : B

Length : 24

Beam : 7

Draught : 7m

Position : Exact Position

Loss Day : 9

Loss Month : 10

Loss Year : 1690

Comment : Driven from anchor at Duart Castle and wrecked in the Sound of Mull

Reference (19 April 2012)

UKHO Identifier : 002713

Feature Class : Wreck

State : LIVE

Status : Historic

Classification : Unclassified

Position (Lat/long) : 56.50300,-5.70025

Horizontal Datum : ETRS 1989

WGS84 Position (Lat/long) : 56.50300,-5.70025

WGS84 Origin : Block Shift

Previous Position : 56.50317,-5.69917

Position Quality : Precisely known

Depth Quality : Depth unknown

Water Depth : 9

Vertical Datum : Mean Low Water Springs


Type : 5TH RATE, 32 GUNS


Length : 26.2

Beam : 7.6

Draught : 3.6

Tonnage : 260

Tonnage Type : Builders Measurement

Date Sunk : 09/10/1690

Bottom Texture : Rock

Contact Description : Notable debris

Original Sensor : Diver Sighting

Last Sensor : Diver Sighting

Original Detection Year : 1973

Last Detection Year : 1991

Original Source : Divers

Last Source : Other



Surveying Details : **H3954/70 19.11.73 LOCATED IN 563012N, 054155W IN 15-30FT OF WATER. (BRISTOL UNDERSEA UNDERSEA ARCHAEOLOGY GROUP).

**H2529/74 17.5.74 DESIGNATED AS AN HISTORIC WK. (STATUTORY INSTRUMENT 458/74). - NM 1109/74.








**15.3.07 EUT POSN: 5630.180N, 0542.015W. NE 2390.

General Comments : WELL SCATTERED

Chart Symbol : WK HIS


Date Last Amended : 12/01/2009

Management (1 November 2013)

The following Historic Marine Protected Area (HMPA) designations will come into force on 1 November 2013. On the same day Section 1 of the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) will be repealed and the statutory instrument for each designation under the 1973 Act will be revoked – see

Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 (Commencement No.3 and Consequential Provisions Order 2013

(1) The Duart Point Wreck (NM73NW 8005) is to be designated as the Duart Point HMPA

(2) The Dartmouth (NM74SW 8002) is to be designated as the Dartmouth HMPA

(3) The Mingary Castle Wreck (NM56SW 8001) is to be designated as the Mingary HMPA

(4) HMS Campania (NT28SW 8001) is to be designated as the Campania HMPA

(5) The Kinlochbervie Wreck (NC15SE 8001) is to be designated as the Kinlochbervie HMPA

(6) The Wrangels Palais (HU77SW 8001) and Kennemerland (HU67SE 8001) will be designated as the Out Skerries HMPA (ie two polygons making up one designation).

Also on 1 November 2013, the urgent designation of the Drumbeg wreck (NC13SW 8007) on 18 March 2013 for a period of two years under the provisions of Section 77 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 is to be revoked and replaced by a permanent HMPA designation order.

As it will not progress to Historic MPA status, statutory protection for the site of the Blessing of Burntisland (NT28SW 8008) is to be revoked altogether on 1 November 2013 by virtue of

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 (Commencement No. 3 and Consequential Provisions) Order 2013

Entered by RCAHMS (GF Geddes) 29 October 2013

Information from Historic Scotland (P Robertson) 15 October 2013


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