adventure, Entertainment, history, Norfolk Adventures, review, Things To Do In Norfolk, Wanderlust

The Last Voyage of the HMS Gloucester Exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum.

If they are not already making a film about the discovery of HMS Gloucester, someone needs to get on that. Right now!

Dubbed ‘Norfolk’s Mary Rose’, the ship hit a sandbank and sank off the coast of Great Yarmouth in 1682. 

There it lay, undisturbed, for more than 300 years…

Until 2007 when two Norfolk brothers, Lincoln and Julian Barnwell, finally found it amid the shifting sands. 

Imagine their excitement! Imagine how hard it must have been to keep it a secret for another 15 years! That’s right, their amazing discovery was only made public last year. 

However, this year, the initial items they found on the seabed, including the ship’s impressive bell, spectacles and their decorative case, clothing items and beautiful wine bottles, are on display at Norwich’s Castle Museum – and this week, Freya and I (and my in-laws) went to see it.

A bit more history.

The HMS Gloucester was carrying James Stuart, Duke of York, brother of Charles II and future King of England. He was on his way to Edinburgh to collect his pregnant wife, Mary. 

Tragedy struck in the early hours. Between 130 and 250 crew and passengers drowned and, though James survived, controversy surrounded his role in the disaster. He is said to have pulled rank on the route the ship was to take, ignoring the advice of experienced seamen.

There’s much more to the story, which you can read about here.

The exhibition.

As with every exhibition I’ve been to at the castle, it’s really well designed to give maximum impact to the objects as well as telling the story of the ship, the people on board and acknowledging the tragedy.

I love the consideration they have clearly given to making sure younger visitors get the most out of it. As you go in, there is a basket of octopi/octopuses/octopodes. You get to pick a ‘Gloucesterpuss’, name it and then show it around the exhibition (and even have a little dance with it). 

The exhibition isn’t just a static display of the objects, there are buttons to push, lights, sounds, a film to watch and different things to read. I came away knowing a lot but wanting to know more.

There’s even a selfie-station, which Freya (and my father-in-law enjoyed). I obviously had to take the photos so couldn’t join in.

What next?

As we found out, there’s still a lot to be discovered about the ship and its contents – the majority of which are still on the seabed. If they can raise the money, there are plans for a permanent exhibition in Great Yarmouth.

This is a short video which tells you more about the project.

Norwich Castle is currently undergoing an exciting redevelopment so looks a bit worse for wear and has certain areas closed. Check the website here for more info about that and entry times and prices.

The HMS Gloucester exhibition is on until Sept 10th, 2023. We would definitely recommend a visit.


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