Deeper Dorset, maritime history, one and the same

I received the following from Selwyn Williams, just goes to show you don’t always have to get wet to touch maritime history.

In 1982 I bought the rights to the Chesil Beach wreck of the Piedmont that we had found. She was a ship hired as a troop transport by the Transport Board in 1795 and she was part of a 300 strong fleet of naval ships and merchant ships destined to protect and take back any of the Islands in the West Indies from the French. This was similar to the Falklands expedition in 1982 and both had hospital ships as part of the fleet.
Over the years we undertook research in the archives as well as conducting an archaeological dig on the wreck and we are still looking for answers about the artefacts we found and also to the questions our research threw up.
Last year I went to Seville where the Archives of the Indies is situated as there is a strong Spanish American connection and I employed a researcher to go through the archives, which proved both very fruitful and fascinating. This opened up a rich historical thread that embellished and confirmed previous research I had already done.
Out of the blue I received an email via Grahame Knott’s Deeper Dorset website. A man called Xavier Cotter emailed Grahame saying what a great job Grahame was doing and asking if he knew anything about a wreck called the Piedmont. Grahame kindly forwarded it to me and a correspondence with Xavier has ensued.
It turns out that an ancestor of Xavier was the Captain of a ship called the Piemonte in the 1780s and the ship’s name would have been anglicised to the Piedmont as he thought the two ships were the same. This differs from our assumption of it being a British built ship so I am going back over previous research to see if this is confirmed. We know Alexander Davison, Nelson’s agent and benefactor, was engaged in hiring lots of the merchant ships, as well as providing cannons and small arms from Holland for the West Indies expedition, so he could well have bought the Piemonte.
Xavier had ship’s logs of its previous journeys to the East Indies and he also sent wonderful photos of a bust of his ancestor and the ship’s log book. (See above)
This shows that you never know when or where information about a wreck and its rich history may come from and this particular thread came as a result of putting wreck research into the public domain, something that is embedded within the ethos of Deeper Dorset. Grahame and I have always said that the real treasure of a wreck is its story and that evolves from its location and its artefacts, some of which need to be recovered but nowadays many, without that option, can be recorded and thus preserved by 3D photogrammetric models. Research follows to tell the full story and lots of ‘treasure’ is found in the archives.
Selwyn Williams October2017

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