‘Magnificent and furious – fast and fine,’ were the words used to describe the Royal Navy’s first Invincible, discovered as a wreck in the Solent in 1979 and now brought to life in a free exhibition at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant, running now until January 31 next year.
The Invincible was a French warship, launched at Rochefort in 1744. With two decks, 74 guns, and a crew of 700, she was the elite fighting ship of the day.
In 1747 she was captured by the English off the coast of Spain, and subsequently became a model for the design of Royal Navy ships – but she sank in the Solent some 250 years ago.
There she remained until local fisherman Arthur Mack brought up some remarkable timbers after snagging his nets in the eastern Solent.
The dive site now known as ‘Horsetail’ was explored by Isle of Wight divers Jim Boyle and John Broomhead, and later by Commander John Bingeman, and a team was formed to excavate the wreck under government license.
A significant number of items recovered from the Invincible can now be seen at The Spring, including fragments of fabric and clothing, a rigging truck, pieces of pottery, and an early writing kit.
Items such as musket balls and grapeshot bear witness to the vessels’ military purpose, and even the original fire buckets, made of leather, are on display, with their red paint still visible.
On January 28 John Broomhead will be on hand to present a Show and Tell, where the public will have the opportunity to hear about the discovery of the wreck, and touch and handle some of the original artefacts.
Tickets for this are £6. Call (023) 9247 2700 or go to thespring.co.uk