Anglesey Schools celebrate their maritime heritage through Shipwrecks project

Thursday 29 August 2013

Three schools on Anglesey have been studying a local shipwreck, the Royal Charter, in a joint partnership project between Cadw and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW).

Royal Charter

Royal Charter

Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, works for an accessible, well-protected historic environment, and is responsible for a range of sites including 129 historic monuments. Cadw helps to protect hundreds of other important sites on land, and also under the sea. Teaming up with the RCAHMW, Cadw have embarked on a project to celebrate and understand our underwater heritage, and encourage people to look after it.

The Royal Charter set the world record in the 19th century for sailing to and from Australia in under 60 days, during the time of the Gold Rush. Following its final stop in Ireland on its way back to Liverpool the ship was caught in the Great Storm of 1859, also known as the 'Royal Charter Storm' and was wrecked off the coast of Moelfre on the north shores of Anglesey. Most people on board drowned — including all women and children. The few men who survived the tragedy were saved by Maltese sailor Joseph Rodgers, who bravely tied a rope to his waist and jumped in to the sea to create a pulley system from the ship to the rocks, helped by the residents of Moelfre.

Pupils from primary schools Ysgol Moelfre and Ysgol Llangaffo, and secondary school Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones in Amlwch, visited the churchyard of St Allgo’s to see the gravestones of the Royal Charter victims, and visited the RNLI’s Seawatch Centre in Moelfre to learn about safety at sea. During the visit to the Seawatch Centre the pupils were shown some of the artefacts from the Royal Charter shipwreck, as well as pictures and information about the disaster. The schools also visited Oriel Ynys Môn to participate in the museum's Royal Charter workshop, researching questions about the artefacts on display.

Professional divers who have dived the wreck site also visited the schools, including local diver Peter Day and authors Chris and Lesley Holden, who have researched and published a book on the shipwreck.

John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport said: 'This is an excellent project involving a number of partners which gives pupils on Anglesey a real insight into their local history. By involving young, local people in the practical elements of the project Cadw and the Royal Commission have not only completed essential research into this site, but have also brought its history to life for the pupils, so this tragic story will live on to be told to future generations.'

Erin Robinson, Cadw’s Lifelong Learning Manager added: 'The amount of work carried out by the schools has been phenomenal, and has extended beyond research on the shipwreck to creative interpretations of the story including plays, films, written texts, pictures and posters.

The pupils' recollection of the events was outstanding, and the huge tragedy of the story which affected the island in 1859 has been appreciated and kept in the forefront of their minds throughout the project.'

A great amount of the research carried out by the schools has been conducted using the People’s Collection Wales website, Wales’s online museum, where information and pictures of the beautiful, decorative artefacts and the everyday objects found on the wreck site can be seen.

An event to mark the end of the first year of the project was held at RNLI Moelfre’s Seawatch Centre to celebrate the excellent work carried out by the schools over the last year. Work by Ysgol Llangaffo is also on display in the Seawatch Centre for visitors to see over the summer months.
Polly Groom, Regional Inspector for Cadw said: 'These schools have been focusing on the Royal Charter, but this is just one of the hundreds of fascinating wreck sites in Welsh waters.

Wreck sites are an important part of Welsh heritage and Cadw strongly encourages all divers to stick to the simple rule of "look but don't touch" as any object recovered needs to be reported to the Receiver of Wreck and works may require a licence. Through projects like this one, we hope to inspire people to learn about and value our underwater heritage, and to treat it with respect.'