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South East: Guided Tour of the Amsterdam
12th August 2018
After battling with the busy Hastings Car Parks, 17 WOA members gathered at the Shipwreck Museum which is at Rock-a-Nore, where the old fishing huts are at the end of Hastings tucked under the cliffs. The Shipwreck Museum is an independent charitable Museum of the Nautical Museums Trust Charity and has artefacts from many ships wrecked in the English Channel from the Goodwin Sands in Kent to Pevensey Bay in East Sussex.
They had laid on a slideshow and talk for us all as an introduction to the Museum, with some very interesting historical background of the Dutch and English East India Companies. We then had some time to browse the Museum with a guide on hand to explain the exhibits of which there are many, including the Amsterdam a Dutch East Indiaman of 1749, the Anne of 1690, and the Charles II warship. There are also exhibits of fossils found in the local area.
When everyone was finished we headed along to The Bull, a pub which is at Bulverhythe just outside of Hastings heading towards Eastbourne. This pub is mentioned in the Shipwreck Museum as a place that some of the survivors from the wreck of the Amsterdam were taken for food and sustenance after their ordeal. That’s not the only historic tale The Bull has to tell; the pub also helped investigators working on the wreck of ‘The Amsterdam’ which ran aground nearby in 1749 – and the cellar used to hold condemned prisoners before their hanging on Gally Hill near Bexhill. Whilst we were enjoying our late lunch, a local poet made an appearance and recited his poem about the Battle of Trafalgar, which was every entertaining, and full of blood and gore. Fortunately we had just finished eating by then!
Then at 6.30pm, which was timed to catch the Spring low tide, we all went to Bridge Way where we crossed the bridge that spans the railway which runs along the coast. Here at a viewing platform we met up with our guides Haydn and Brian from the Shipwreck Museum who took us on a guided tour of the wreck of the Dutch merchant ship Amsterdam, and the beach where there is a 4000 year old prehistoric forest and Cretaceous rocks from the age of the dinosaurs 130 million years ago. A clamber over these rocks took us to the water’s edge to explore the wreck site. As the Dutch Government still own the wreck they send from time to time archaeologists to survey the area, and we were lucky enough to have them there at the time of our visit. The local poet Nick Weeks again turned up to give us his tale of the wreck, which everyone enjoyed. All the time we were on the beach, the weather had threatened rain, but thankfully it held off until we were on our way home.
The day proved an interesting one, and we would like to thank the volunteers from the Hastings Shipwreck Museum who gave us excellent informative tours. It’s definitely somewhere we will be returning to. Thanks also to Dave Clare for the photos, which are superb especially as the light wasn’t very good.