A MYSTERIOUS shipwreck that lay at the bottom of the Solent for 160 years has been identified by archaeologists.
The wreck, which lies on the Horse Tail Sands in the eastern Solent, was first discovered by fishermen when they caught their nets on it in 2003.
Now, after eight years of painstaking research, experts say the wreck is that of the Flower of Ugie, a 19th century wooden cargo ship that sank on December 27, 1852, following a great storm in the English Channel.
Dr Julian Whitewright, of The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology, said: ‘It’s a significant find.
‘In terms that of all the shipwrecks we know of around the British coastline, we didn’t previously have one from this period that has been identified.’
The Flower of Ugie was a three-masted sailing barque built in 1838.
It made regular voyages around Africa, on to India and the Far East and was later employed in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and across the Atlantic, carrying cargo to and from the US and Canada.
It would take British goods such as coal and beer abroad and bring back items such as raw cotton, saltpetre and sugar.
On the night of Boxing Day 1852, while carrying coal from Sunderland to Cartagena, Spain, the ship ran into a storm off Portland.
The ferocious weather, which battered the whole of the south coast, nearly capsized the ship and the crew were forced to cut down two masts.
In the early hours, the Flower of Ugie sought shelter in the Solent, but it grounded on the Horse Tail Sands and the order was given to abandon ship.
The wreck was identified after divers analysed the hull structure, fastenings and sheathing – which narrowed the search to five ships which sank in the eastern Solent in the mid-19th century.
Key features such as copper bolts, which have a chemical composition unlikely to have been used after 1850, and the use of yellow-metal – an industrial brass patented in 1832 – led researchers to positively identify the ship.