Page header
The ship
The wreck

A number of seemingly mundane objects were recovered, such as clothing, do in fact give us valuable insights into the lives of the people who made and used them. The finding of an impressive cannon with a grasshopper emblem is strong evidence to suggest links with the famous financier, Sir Thomas Gresham.

Life on board

Clothing was incredibly important to people onboard 16th century ships. It was a vital part of a seafarer's kit.

A piece of leather clothing and shoe soles were recovered from the Gresham wreck and are very significant finds.

Mariners joined ships as apprentices from as young as ten years old. They were given only two sets of clothes, one for everyday wear and one for holy days.

Pewter candlestick

A pewter candlestick holder was discovered at the wreck site. Remarkably, it still contains some remnants of candle wax. This wax tells us that these holders were being used by the people onboard.

Pewter, a mixture of tin and lead, was most commonly used for utensils as it was cheap to produce and had a silver-like appearance.

Mariners had unique ways to talk with each other. Their sea shanties told stories of their lives at sea and were a form of camaraderie.

Seamen communicated with other ships using lanterns. This was a way of finding out whether the other ship was known to them or not.

Mariner culture allowed the seafaring community to communicate and understand each other.

No bodies were ever found. What do you think happened to the people onboard?

"What might make a sailor leave his clothes behind?"


Thomas Gresham and trade in the 16th Century

Items found with the Gresham Ship wreck can tell us a great deal about international trade and merchant life in the 16th century port of London.

A cannon bearing the insignia 'TG' and a grasshopper motif was one of the most revealing finds. It links the ship and its cargo to Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579), the famous merchant.

Thomas Gresham owned two iron-founding furnaces in Kent, where the cannon may have been produced.

Trading ships carried cannons as their main weapons to defend against pirates and robbery, which was rife at this time. The gun industry became important and profitable because of the need to arm ships.

With the success of this industry and growing international trade, merchants like Thomas Gresham started to play a more important role in society.

Initials on gun

"taken awaye, robbed and dispoyled on the Ryver of Tamyse by certeyn pyrotts"

Their business contributed to the expansion of London as a port city as well as the wider development of the country.

In his later life, Gresham became a social benefactor, spending his money for the public good. He established the Royal Exchange, a centre of commerce for the city. He later founded Gresham College where free lectures were given, a service which continues today.