HMS Montagu and rope walk for salvage crew in 1906
Naval History

Pre-WWI Battleship Wreck Granted Heritage Protection

HMS Montagu and rope walk for salvage crew in 1906

HMS Montagu and the rope walk installed for a salvage crew seen in 1906 (Picture: Ilfracombe Museum via Historic England).

The wreck of battleship HMS Montagu has been granted protection.

In 1906, the Duncan-class vessel came aground on rocks around the Isle of Lundy in the Bristol Channel.

The crash was as a result of thick fog and a navigational error while the battleship was undertaking secret radio communication trials.

Built in 1901 in response to large French, Russian and German shipbuilding programme, HMS Montagu was is the only surviving Duncan-class battleship in north European or English waters.

The ship served as an example of the development between the 19th-century Ironclads and 20th-century turbine-powered British Dreadnought warships.

A year after the collision a series of steps, known at the Montagu steps, were cut into the cliff face on Lundy Islands to help salvage the wreck.

The steps are reinforced with iron plates in places, likely to be from HMS Montagu's hull.

Two divers inspect what is believed to be a gun casement on the wreck of HMS Montagu in 2018
Divers can still visit the wreck, provided they do not remove or damage anything (Picture: Wessex Archaeology via Historic England).

Now, both the steps and the wreck have been granted protection by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

They have now been scheduled, which means they are recognised as a nationally important archaeological site and are closely managed. 

Heritage minister Helen Whately called the wreck "part of our nation's fascinating naval history".

"Sites like these must be protected for future generations and together with Historic England and Help for Heroes, we have now done exactly that," she said.

Historic England's Duncan Wilson said: "Not only is the wreck of HMS Montagu important for what it can tell us about pre-First World War naval shipbuilding, but it is forever linked to the landscape of Lundy Island by the distinctive flight of rock-cut steps.

"Combined, the wreck and the steps provide a rare group of maritime monuments."

Last summer, wounded veterans carried out a series of dives on the wreck of HMS Montagu to determine what remains of the wreck.