Hanover Cove

A small cove, earlier known as Vugga Hayle, which owes its name to the Falmouth packet ship “Hanover” that wrecked there on 2 Dec 1784. Rock falls on the cliff south of the cove have exposed part of the workings of Wheal Prudence, whose shafts are located on the cliff edge

The Hanover, a 100ft two-mast square rigger brigantine, built in 1757, was en route from Lisbon, Portugal to Falmouth, Cornwall carrying £60,000 in gold and valuables. She became wrecked when a SSW gale veered NNW and drove her into a small bay on the North Cornish coast on 13 December 1763. This area subsequently became known as Hanover Cove.

Located about half way between St Agnes and Perranporth this is Hanover Cove. The name comes from a ship that was wrecked here in 1763. ‘The Hanover’ was a a 100ft two-mast square rigger brigantine which was sailing from Lisbon to Falmouth carrying £60,000 in gold and valuables

The Hanover, a 100ft two-masted square-rigger brigantine, built in 1757, was en route from Lisbon to Falmouth with £60,000 in gold and valuables, estimated at a current value of £50m. She was wrecked when a SSW gale veered to the NNW, driving her into a cove on 13th December1763, which was subsequently named after the wreck. Only three people survived out of 27 crew and 3 passengers.

This vessel, carrying a large quantity of gold coin, was wrecked in the parish of St. Agnes. ‘The Collector of Customs at St. Ives and the agent for paquets, enrolled a body of 60 men, making an agreement with them for salvage. One very singular instance of the fidelity of the salvors ought to be recorded to their honour: At the time of low water, when neither Collector nor agent was present, some gold coin were found on the sands and immediate notice was sent to the Collector, who was 3 miles distant. Upon arrival, he found 59 of the 60 men scattered over the sand, and as a piece of gold was found, the finder dropt it into a hat held by the 60th man. The pieces of gold coin were from the value of 36s each to 2s 6d each and it is verily believed not one piece was concealed by any of the 60 men.’  Documentary evidence suggests that in April 1765 an iron trunk containing gold was recovered which, with the recovery of other valuables, satisfied the insurers.

Archaeological History: Discovered in 1994, 50 guns and a section of the ship’s structure were recovered from the site by a local diver three years later. (16) Identification is supported by the discovery of a bronze bell, inscribed “The HANOVER PACQUET, 1757”, reported as coming from the site. The site is covered by 2-3 metres of sand and is only periodically uncovered, with a maximum of 8m of water at MHWM. The site is highly dynamic and mobile.

Across the centre of the wreck is a large rock that stands some distance higher that the surrounding seabed. In all probability it must have been this rock that the Hanover struck first. In the heavy and confused sea state within the cove that day, this rock must have broken the ship’s back and broken her to pieces in a very short time. The fact that the survivors were described as being washed onto the rocks battered and frightened suggest that most of the dead were killed by being thrown against the shore rather than drowning, as is often the case in shipwreck. The survivors must have been lucky enough to have found footholds in the rock surrounding the cove to get above the height of the seas. The wreck must have fragmented very quickly in the violence of the seas in Hanover Cove and what the salvors saw the following week can only have remained because it was pinned down by the weight of cannons that had been in the Hanover’s hold. The violence of the wrecking can be seen in the fragmentary hull structure that remains. The surviving fragment does not include the keel, but the structure immediately to the side of this and it would have pinned to the seabed by the weight of the cannons in the hold. In order for the Hanover to have remained stable, the cannons must have been equally distributed across the lower hull of the ship, but that is not indicated by the wreck site in which only the first futtock and associated timbers are still present. This could be a manifestation of the violence of the wreck and the impact of striking the seabed, sufficient to move these guns and hence roll the ship in her final moments. In addition the edges of the structure are literally ‘snapped’ off, something that would have required considerable force to achieve.


Cornwall Multi-Entry Multi-Directional Visitors Guide © Simon Newbound

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