This cast bronze ship’s bell belonged to HMS Association, a 90-gun second-rate ship of the line launched in 1697 and wrecked off the Isles of Scilly in 1707. This disaster saw the loss of 1,400 lives.
The Association, under Captain Edmund Loades, served as the flagship of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). In October 1707, Shovell and his fleet of 21 ships were returning to Portsmouth after securing British naval control in the western Mediterranean at the costly Siege of Toulon. By 22 October, the fleet was off course due to poor weather and difficulty ascertaining their exact longitude. At 8pm, the Association, Eagle, Romney, and Firebrand struck the Scillies’ Western Rocks, sinking within minutes. This disaster led to the 1714 Longitude Act, which offered monetary rewards for increasing the accuracy of determining longitude at sea.
The shipwrecks were not discovered until 1967, when a dive team from the minesweeper HMS Puttenham found the Association on Gilstone Ledge. Attracting national interest, many artefacts were subsequently looted. Thought lost, the Associaton’s bell appeared recently in a private collection.
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