TAL-Y-BONT WRECK; BRONZE BELL WRECK
Map Reference SH52SE
Grid Reference SH5664922292
Unitary (Local) Authority Gwynedd
Old County Caernarfonshire
Type of Site WRECK
Broad Class MARITIME
Period Post Medieval
Site Description This site is designated as a Historic Wreck under the Protections of Wrecks Act 1973. The protected area is a radius of 300m from the co-ordinate 52 46 73N 04 07 53W. Diving or any interference including filming, survey and excavation within the protected area of a designated wreck is a criminal offence unless a license has first been obtained from the Welsh Assembly Government. Cadw should be contacted in the first instance. Http://www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/
The wreck lies in 10m on a sandy bottom. The position of the anchors suggests that the vessel may have been trying to run ashore when it hit an isolated patch of boulders. The main cargo lies amidships and consists of approximately 65 tonnes of Carrera marble, comprising 42 blocks ranging in size from 80cm (31in) cubes to blocks measuring 2.8m x 1m x 0.8m (9ft x 3ft x 2.5ft). Many of the blocks appear to be in the positions into which they were originally loaded. The vessel was heavily armed and the site still contains 25 cast-iron guns and one wrought iron breech loading gun. Trial excavations undertaken in 1987 revealed that there was no great depth of wreck material under the surface of the seabed, rather the seabed consisted of a thin veneer of sand overlying a substratum of hard clay. Natural scouring under the marble blocks has left them elevated on top of rocky outcrops and suggests that no coherent timber structure from the vessel itself has survived.
Event and Historical Information
The site was found in 1978 by divers from Glaslyn and Harlow Sub Aqua club who came across the large stone blocks, cast and built-up iron guns and a Bronze Bell. The divers formed themselves into the Cae Nest Group and together with the Welsh Institute of Maritime Archaeology and History at the University of Wales (Bangor) applied for site designation and a licence to survey. Haverfordwest Museum offered to conserve the finds and the Royal Armouries undertook to excavate, raise and conserve one of the breech-loading wrought iron guns. Finds include a bronze bell cast with the date 1677 and a stack of pewter concreted to one of the main guns. One of these platters is shaped like a cardinal's hat with a hallmark stamp of Lyon dated 1700. Coins from 10 countries suggest a date of post 1702 for the wreck. Other finds include navigational dividers, fine cutlery, a dental plate, a seal, remains of pistols and a rapier, and a gunner's rule. The weight of the marble blocks calculated at 66 tonnes, suggest that the vessel was not large despite all the armament. The origin of the guns and majority of coins suggests that the vessel was a French trader, and was carrying marble from the Italian quarries of Carrera exported via Genoa or Leghorn. There is a strong location tradition that artefacts from the wreck found their way into everyday use within Cors y Gedol Hall. The ship's timbers were incorporated into a building in the hall's grounds. A survivor called Juan Benedictus may also have lived as part of the local community. His death is entered in Llanendwyn Parish Register in 1730. Many of the recovered items from the wreck are now on display at local museums, including Barmouth.
Fenwick, V. and Gale, A., 1999, Historic Shipwrecks: Discovered, Protected, and Investigated, Tempus Publishing, pg122-3
Illsley, John, 1982 Admiral Lord John Edward Russell and the Building of St Paul's Cathedral, Mariner's Mirror, Vol 68, 3: 305-16. NA/ME/97/005e
Konstam, A., 1988, Site Excavation Report of the Bronze bell site, Gwynedd, unpublished Licensee report. Document within NA/GEN/2005/002e.
Mullen, R. 1993, Echoes of a Bronze Bell, Scuba World, July 1993 pg 28-30
Nichols, M., 1984, The Bronze Bell Wreck, Popular Archaeology, January 1984, pg34-6
Wignal, S. 1979, The Bronze Bell Wreck: Archaeological Survey of a late 17th century shipwreck lying in Cardigan bay, unpublished Licensee report. Document within NA/GEN/2005/002e.
Wessex Archaeology, 2006, Tal-y-Bont, Cardigan Bay, Designated Site Assessment: Full Report, report ref 53111.03t. NA/GEN/2006/009e
Wessex Archaeology, 2010, Wrecks off the Coast of Wales: Marine Geophysical Surveys and Interpretation, Report Ref: 53111.02-5, pg52, WA ID 7137
Statutory Instrument: 1989 No 1766, Protection of Wrecks, The Protection of Wrecks (Designation No. 1 Order 1979)(Amendment) order 1989
Statutory Instrument: 1979 No 31, Protection of Wrecks, The Protection of Wrecks (Designation No. 1) Order 1979
Maritime Officer, RCAHMW, June 2012.