Royall Oake 1665 - Research by Todd Stevens (IMAG)©

Going by all previously known writings about this wreck it is clear that its position had not yet been positively identified; there having been only speculation at best. Below are my own findings but first one must read the contemporary narrative below which is held in the Bodelian Library. (?)- means I could not read or fully understand what was written.

"Narrative of the Royall Oake and evidence of where this wreck might now be found.

The Manner in which ye ship Royall Oake, Mr Robt’ Locke commander, from ye east indies was cast away upon ye awesome rocks of Scilly, called Ye Bishop and Clerks. 

After setting sail from Bantam in ye ship Royall Oake bound for England, wee were attended with faire winds and pleasant weather, insomuch that wee dubled ye Cape of africa and came in seven weeks and odd days of short passage to ye Island of St Hellena, where we refreshed ourselves, gott on board fresh water and wayed anchor. From thence found all our men in perfect health that were aboard, News from St Hellena of wind and weather still favoured us soe much that we crossed the equinortiall and also gott all through night of 17 degrees North Latitude without any assailable wind, butt only on SSE and SE winds now being advanced as afore. So into ye height of 17 degrees North Latitude. These we mett with ye wind Westerly contrarie to our expectations. Yett as formally wee had made Ye best use of faire winds, soe wee did of this unexpected wind and forced to contenned with as best wee could. Wee were gott into ye Latitutde of -(?)- North Lat and by judgment 40 leagues to eastward of ye Island of St Maries. Now here the element faired very much different for ye lighted and thundered with much raine. And often finde terrible gusts of winde, Here for some days wee had ye winde soe variable and furious that wee gained little, the most winds were easterly and carried us into 17 North latitude. And by our reconing west from ye meridian of ye Lizard Cornwall. The wind came easterly with ye very terrible weather that wee were for-(?)- dry and still, yet first of this easterly winde was about ye-(?)- and continued soe faire that we could not hold oure own but were forced more westerly, faire weather presenting wee plyed it. Ye winde sometimes northerly and sometimes southerly, yet at last with much turmoyle wee were gott into ye latitude of 19 40 degrees by  (crossed out here) and by our judgment west of ye meridian of Ye Lizard point. Here wee sounded and gott ground-fine sand ye depth uniform. By reason of much wind and great sea our first striking ground was on ye 14th January, That night wee had a faire-(?)- ye wind easterly which continued-(?)- that 17-(?)- this 17 att noone by fine of our that-(?)- made 49 53. At 49 40 ye winde being then att WSW wee sailed ESE. When wee had gained by log: 30 miles E by S 40 miles which course -(?)-(?)-(?)- that last-(?)-made us judge ourselves in ye latt of 49 35 North wee diverted our course E, ye winde as afore so. Att WSW soe much winde as forced us to-(?)- In ye morning before daylight wee found ourselves invironed with rocks and beaches which terrible sight made us bestirred ourselves, Some in ye topps to see if there were any passage through, but could find none. Yet cast our best bower anchor after cutting our mast away, but all would not prevail, Ye winde being soe violent cast our ship between two rocks where she in ¼ of an hour splitt all in pieces. Some of us miraculously gott upon ye rocks, ye-(?)-we found ourselves on a low rocke that could not preserve us from being washed away at high water.  Soe wee ventured upon pieces of our ship and gott from ye rocke we first landed into a higher rocke that praysed bee god did nott overflow, butt sheltered us from ye raging waves, Here wee sadly beheld one another , most of us sorely cutt and wounded with ye sharpness of ye rockes, nott having meat? drinke or cloth to comforte us and many of us in a manner naked. -(?)-yet better able to-(?)-wee continued in this sad and lamentable condition from ye 18th night mourning til ye 20th in ye morning, in which time some of our pepper and severall pieces of our ship drove one shore to scilly, which signified to ye inhabitants news that some ship was cast away about there islands. Soe they looked out and descried our waste upon ye rocke where wee were preserved. Upon sight thereof-(?)- the-(?)- Edward Rosearicke then cheef in Scilly hastened boats to us-(?)- came and tooke us in and landed us at St Maries. On ye next day about noone soe that wee were about 52 houres upon ye shore on ye rockes where wee endured soe much cold that all our leggs and hands were soe swollen that wee could but few of us stand. This is the true relation of our sad passage.  Mr Daniels report of ye loss of ye Royall Oake in-(?)-returne from ye east indies."

 

Because the above narrative states the “Bishop and Clerkes” in its opening title, it has always been supposed that the Royal Oak was lost somewhere around Bishop Rock itself. However, because the Bishop is awash at high tide and there are no rocks nearby it that stay dry, this scene does not quite fit with the narrative. Because of this fact, various positions of old wrecks, that lie here or there at Scilly, have been suggested as being the Royal Oak. Some divers have even put in some effort into looking for it elsewhere and this includes myself. Had we all failed to find it? Whilst researching another East India Company loss of a similar period in history, (the John 1645) I also searched for further evidence to try and take the Royal Oak project forward too. Unfortunately, some of the information I found in the archives regarding the Royal oak is in amongst a 600 page document that’s written in latin, and not being in anyway academic, I could not possibly read through it in order to find anything to do with this wreck. However, among many other things I did come across was the Simon Bayly chart presented here. I believe this chart holds the clue as to where the Royal oak might actually lay. Closer examination of the chart shows that Bayly has clearly written the words: Cap Locke Lost among the western rocks, close to a rock named Pednathise Head. Was Bayly making a reference to Captain Locke the commander of the Royall Oake? There was only one way to find out, and that was to start diving in that area.

Indeed, whilst searching that area, I came across an as yet unidentified shipwreck lying near Pednathise Head by a large rock called the Daisy. This wreck, I believe, was actually first found many years ago by a diver named Chippy Peirce. (now deceased) Later I was lucky enough to be handed drawings and information of all the wreckage, ie cannons and anchors, that Chippy had dived on in the position, during his time. Placing these together with the Simon Bayly chart and the narrative presented above, to me, this wreck site seemed to fit the bill of the Royal Oak.  I visited the site regularly and produced my own site plan of it. From this, it is easy to see that this wreck must have been heading in an Easterly direction which fitted with the narrative; and being very close to Pednathise Head, it also fitted well with the Simon Bayly chart. Further to this, there are rocks to either side of this wreckage, a small one just to the north that becomes awash at high tide, and very prominent is the Daisy to the south, where most of the wreckage lies, which is dry at all states of the tide. Again this also appears to fit well with the narrative. The narrative also states the Bishop and Clerkes; a term not in use today. Through time, the Clerkes have been known as being either the Crim rocks or the Western Rocks; or both as a whole. Pednathise and the Daisy both form part of the western rocks and therefore once known as the Clerkes. Was the Royal Oak lost on the Clerks and not the Bishop rock itself? In the narrative stating the Bishop “and” Clerks, was it just being general? and so simply meant that the ship was lost among the western rocks at Scilly? It appears so.

 If I was correct about the wreck near Pednathise, then there must be further wreckage that Mr Peirce was unaware of, surrounding the nearby smaller rock to the north of the Daisy. If so, then that would add further evidence of this being a very good candidate for the site of the Royal Oak. I searched in the shallows around the smaller rock and did indeed find iron ballast (then known as kentledge); numerous iron shot and another iron cannon. With this further evidence in mind, to me, the scene of this wreck fits the narrative well and the chart perfectly. The narrative shows that the ship hit the smaller rock and the men alighted onto it at low water. Their broken ship was then pushed by the sea across the gap between the two rocks and the men ventured over the wreckage to the larger rock (Daisy?) to preserve themselves from the rising tide. The narrative shows that the Royal Oak was lost in shallow water which also fits with this wreck site. Of course further work is needed on this wreck to prove or disprove my theories, unfortunately this wreck has been well smashed by the sea and long since pillaged by many. Next we turn to a previously unrecorded wreck Shaftesbury; an historically important loss for Canada that occurred at Scilly in 1678.

 

Schematic Plan of the Site by Todd Stevens

 

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