Horse Tail Sands (G-B): Archaeologists identify mystery shipwreck

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A diver visits the wreck of the Flower of Ugie.Picture courtesy of The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Trust for Marine Archaeology.

A mysterious shipwreck that lay in the Solent for 160 years has finally been identified by archaeologists, and its fascinating history revealed for the first time.

The wreck, which lies on the Horse Tail Sands three miles east of Bembridge, was first discovered by fishermen in 2003, but it was another eight years before archaeologists from the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology were able to put a name to the vessel.

Its identity has been revealed to conincide with the release of a new book about the history of the wreck.

The trust said the wreck was that of the Flower of Ugie, a 19th century wooden sailing barque that sank in the Solent on December 27, 1852 following a great storm in the English Channel.

The vessel was a three-masted sailing barque built in Sunderland in 1838. During its career it made regular voyages around Africa and onto India and the Far East.

Later it was employed in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and across the Atlantic, carrying cargo to and from America and Canada.

On the night of December 26, 1852, while carrying coal from Sunderland to Cartagena, Spain, the Flower of Ugie ran into a storm off Portland.


The ferocious weather that battered the whole of the south coast that night nearly capsized the ship, and the crew were forced to cut down two masts to right it.

In the early hours of the following day, the Flower of Ugie sought shelter in the Solent, but it grounded on the Horse Tail Sands and the crew were forced to abandon ship before the vessel broke apart later that day.

The vessel was not seen again until 2003, when a local fisherman snagged his nets on the wreck.

The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology surveyed the site between 2004 and 2008 but initially they were unable to conclusively identify the vessel, which now lay in two parts, 12 metres below the surface of the water.

Following funding from the Marine Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund, further research was carried out which eventually led experts to the Flower of Ugie.

See diver and trust volunteer Trevor Jenkins video of the wreck below: