The Earl of Abergavenny

The story of the Earl of Abergavenny is as dramatic and tragic as any recorded.

A British East Indiaman, on a trading voyage from Portsmouth to Bengal and China, it was wrecked on the evening of February 5th 1805. A combination of human error, the peculiarities of the local coastline and stormy weather forced the ship onto the notorious Shambles sandbank, located 2 1/2 miles southeast of Portland Bill. After eventually floating free of the bank, she headed for shelter in Weymouth Bay but sank within sight of land with the loss of 263 lives.

You can read more about the ship here and see for yourself how it has inspired Portland Museum volunteers to produce a digital shipwreck collection for a worldwide audience. Discover more about the story of the ship, its enigmatic captain, mysterious pilot, and the tragic chain of events that led to its sinking.


The project


In November 2021, Portland Museum was awarded £59,014 of National Lottery funding to launch a digital volunteering initiative and help break down barriers to heritage. The funding is part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative, which aims to raise digital skills and confidence across the whole UK heritage sector.

Since then, the museum has been busy using its award to train volunteers in exciting new types of digital skills by using the shipwreck of the Earl of Abergavenny as a vehicle for its project.

Thanks to our team of digital volunteers, artefacts that have lain buried under the seabed for over 200 years have now resurfaced and made their way into the digital world. Our volunteers have made a shipwreck collection of national importance available to a global audience.



Look in detail

Take a tour of some of the fascinating finds recovered from the Earl of Abergavenny. Thanks to Portland Museum volunteers, these objects are available to view in fabulous 3D!

There will be more artefacts appearing as volunteers continue to produce 3D models of the shipwreck collection.

View the objects in 3D
The ‘Earl of Abergavenny’ East Indiaman, off Southsea by Thomas Luny Courtesy of the British Library

Watch the film

Since work began on the Diving Into the Digital Archives of the Earl of Abergavenny project, we’ve been recording the progress our volunteers have made recording the shipwreck collection.

Watch the film we’ve produced with Pageant Productions to find out what’s motivated the volunteers, what they’ve learnt, and where they’ll take their new digital skills. 

More about this fascinating story

Could what we’ve learnt benefit your organisation?

Our partners in this project are the Nautical Archaeology Society and MSDS Marine. These esteemed organisations have trained our volunteers and produced a comprehensive training manual in digital recording techniques for use across the heritage sector.

This free resource is available to view or download.

There’s even a printer friendly (B&W) version here.

Front cover of volunteer digital skills training manual

In November 2021, Portland Museum won a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to launch a digital volunteering initiative and break down barriers to heritage. Working with partners, MSDS Marine and MSDS Heritage and the Nautical Archaeology Society, the museum is training volunteers in digital recording techniques to share 3D images and information on the finds from the Earl of Abergavenny shipwreck with the wider community.

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