Cannon found on board of HMS Victory 1744 shipwreck 300919 CREDIT PA.jpg
Pre-WWI Period

HMS Victory: Defence Ministers Win High Court Battle Over 18th-Century Wreck

It was decided that artefacts should stay on the 18th-century wreck and be preserved in situ.

Cannon found on board of HMS Victory 1744 shipwreck 300919 CREDIT PA.jpg

The wreck of HMS Victory contained at least 41 bronze cannons (Picture: PA).

Defence ministers have won a High Court battle over what should happen to artefacts on the wreck of a British warship which sank more than 250 years ago.

HMS Victory was launched in 1737, but it was lost in a storm off the Channel Islands in 1744, while under the command of Admiral Sir John Balchin.

The wreck was found in the English Channel near Torbay, Devon, in 2008.

Defence ministers have decided that artefacts should stay on the wreck and be preserved in situ.

Cannon 3 from HMS Victory 1744 Wreck 300919 CREDIT Maritime Heritage Foundation & Odyssey Marine Exploration.jpg
(Picture: Maritime Heritage Foundation & Odyssey Marine Exploration).

The Maritime Heritage Foundation, a charity chaired by a descendant of Admiral Sir John Balchin, Lord Lingfield, wanted to remove artefacts for preservation.

Lord Lingfield challenged that Ministry of Defence decision, but a judge has dismissed the challenge after analysing evidence at a High Court hearing.

Mrs Justice Lieven said in a written ruling that the ministry's decision was lawful and not irrational.

She said HMS Victory was a Navy flagship and the wreck contained at least 41 bronze cannons, ship-borne artefacts, iron ballast, wooden fixtures and fittings, parts of two anchors and a rudder.

Cannon 4 from HMS Victory 1744 Wreck 300919 CREDIT Maritime Heritage Foundation & Odyssey Marine Exploration.jpg
(Picture: Maritime Heritage Foundation & Odyssey Marine Exploration).

The judge said there had been claims the ship may have been carrying gold bullion.

But she said there was no "direct evidence" to support such claims.

Mrs Justice Lieven said the Ministry of Defence had concluded that the wreck was at "minimal risk" and could be "appropriately monitored".

She added officials had "fully engaged" with the foundation throughout the decision-making process.

Five years ago then-Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon had said the foundation could recover some "at-risk" artefacts but had subsequently changed his mind.