Elizabethan ship sunk for divers

Divers will be able to explore the remains of an original Elizabethan shipwreck which is set to be lowered into a lake.

The remains of the 16th century "Gresham Ship" are to be moved to the Stoney Cove National Diving Centre in Leicestershire more than 400 years after it sank in the River Thames.

The move will be co-ordinated by the Nautical Archaeological Society, which will use the ship as an "underwater classroom" to train the next generation of nautical archaeologists.

The wreck, which dates from 1574, was recovered from the River Thames in 2003 by a team of archealogists after it was discovered by the Port of London Authority.

Five sections of the hull and an anchor were raised from the river and moved to a diving centre at Horsea Island Lake near Portsmouth.

Iron bars, pieces of pottery, a silver spoon, as well as leather shoes and part of a sailor's boot were also recovered, along with some pewter and copper vessels. A cannon, bearing the initials of Sir Thomas Gresham, a famous Elizabethan financier and founder of the Royal Exchange, was also found.

But since the centre closed down, a new home has been sought for the wreck.

Now the ship is set to be raised and carefully transported the 160 miles to Stoney Cove on June 1.

Mark Beattie-Edwards, from the Nautical Archaeological Society, said: "The largest section is over eight metres in length and weighs some eight tonnes, so it's not going to be easy. Once we get the hull sections into the water at Stoney Cove, we'll be using lifting airbags to help float them across the lake to get them into their new positions. I've hand-picked a team of eight divers to work on this difficult task: they are all very experienced, so I'm sure that we can sink the pieces in the right place at the right time".

Martin Woodward, of the Stoney Cove National Diving Centre, said: "Although we already have a remarkable range of underwater features for divers to explore here at Stoney Cove, including boats and planes, the very welcome addition of the Gresham Ship is a most spectacular bonus: it takes our displays to a whole new level - or should that be to new depths?"