In 1774, Captain James Hathorn was sailing a cargo ship from Bristol, England to Philadelphia. PA. It was carrying goods the colonists would need, including household items and building supplies. The ship ran into a nor’easter and ran aground. It was reported that the crew survived. However, on May 11, 1774 the Pennsylvania Gazette reported that the Severn was “ashore in our bay full of water and is thought will be lost.”
It was not until the Fall of 2004 while the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers were doing some beach replenishment, a dredge sucked up many old artifacts and scattered it along the Lewes beach. Several beachcombers started finding these artifacts.
The State contracted The Southeastern Archaeological Research Inc., to explore the site and see if they could determine anything about the shipwreck and where these items originated. Some of the item found were….
*Mineral water (bottled by the “Selters” who is still in business today) shipped in trademarked stoneware bottles.
*Case Bottles from Great Britain and Europe. Square case bottles that fit into a partitioned box which held a variety of liquors and strong spirits.
*Round Bottle Glass, from Great Britain and Europe. It was used to hold a variety of liquids. Many were shipped empty to be reused.
*Some of the bottle shards that were traced to Groot Constantia, the oldest surviving winery in South Africa. The shards, bearing the embossed words, “Constantia Wyn,” Bottles embossed with this emblem were used in the period 1760 to 1840 and came from a farm currently known as Groot Constantia.
In 2005, in commemoration of the 320th anniversary of the founding of the estate, Groot Constantia introduced Grand Constance, a commemorative dessert wine similar in style to the wine that made the estate famous in the 18th century, and similar to the wine that was found in the Roosevelt Inlet’s Shipwreck’s cargo.
The winery is further exploring its association with Delaware. According to Naudé, the company has changed its packaging of Grand Constance, fashioning a bottle shape used in the late 18th century, and embossing with a replica of the “Constantia Wyn” emblem that was found in the Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck. The wine, which is individually packed in a wooden box, includes an information sheet that covers its Delaware story. The repackaged wine will also be sold in the United States today.
*Other items found were personal items such as buttons, tobacco pipes, several pewter shoe buckle frames were found at site, not only did they secure the wearer’s shoes but they also were a fashion statement.
*Household, kitchen, and dining wares, such as German Blue-Grey Stoneware, Tin Glazed Earthenware, Red Earthenware, and German Brown Stoneware.
*Building Supplies such as window glass, slate roof tile, ceramic tile, bricks and nails.
*Also decorative metal objects inset with pressed glass stones most likely a pin or broach. were found.
Approximately 56,000 artifacts from Lewes Beach have been donated to the Delaware Department of State. A large selection of artifacts recovered from the Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck site are on display at the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes, Delaware.
According to The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA) the shipwrecks origin remains uncertain, as the critical architectural components of the wreck are missing. The vessel, is thought to be the remains of the British commercial ship possibly the Severn, which would be the oldest-known shipwreck discovered in Delaware waters. The wreck site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 16, 2006.
From a sea glass collector’s perspective the glass that washes up on the Lewes Beach that I have found is not like most sea glass. It is very thin and has an olive green color with a thin iridescent covering that flakes off when dry. It is said to be caused by the minerals in the ocean water. It’s a kind of erosion or deposit, most likely a deposit. To preserve this unique quality, I spray a clear top coat protective finish over the glass, which will darken it about one shade.
That was not the only Severn that found trouble in Delaware Waters. On April 8, 1918 the tug, Eastern left New York for Norfolk Virginia with three barges, including the Merrimac, built in 1906 weighing 640 tons and the Severn a much smaller barge. A day after leaving New York the tug encountered stormy seas near the Delaware Cape and headed for safety of the Delaware Breakwater. By night fall the storm was getting worse. The Eastern, the Merrimac, and the Severn all tried to weather the storm but by morning the decision was made to “let go stern” meaning that the barges would be cut free and drop anchor to hold their own. However, the anchor was not set in time and the Merrimac and the Severn drifted ashore towards Rehoboth Beach. The Merrimac beached and was badly damaged. The tug was able to free the Severn and they continued their journey.
Bridget Warner, Site Supervisor, Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes, Delaware
Shipwrecks of the Delaware Coast, Tales of Pirates Squalls & Treasure by Pam George
Saving Delaware History, Historical and Cultural Affairs Doc number 20-06-10-03-04
Saving Delaware History, Historical and Cultural Affairs Doc number 20-06-08-03-01