Metta Catarina

Metta Catharina Exhibition at Mount Edgcumbe House

In 2011, the SHIPS Project helped the team at Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park set up a site within the house to display and interpret the archive and artefacts of Die Frau Metta Catharina von Flensburg, often known as the Metta Catharina.

Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park secured £41,000 of Heritage Lottery money from the Your Heritage Fund.  The grant was used to conserve and display artefacts from the wreck of the Danish brigantine Die Frau Metta Catherina von Flensburg which founded off of Mount Edgcumbe in 1786.  The Catharina was carrying a cargo of “Russian Leather” (Reindeer skins) from St Petersburg to Genoa when she sank in the Barn Pool.  The wreck lay in the mud at the bottom of the Barn Pool off Mount Edgcumbe until she was found by divers in 1973, who then excavated and recorded the wreck over a period of 32 years.  The leather found on the wreck proved to be perfectly preserved and was raised and sold, with permission from the Prince of Wales, to finance the archaeological research that ensued. The total project cost was £60,500, with funding coming from the Friends of Mount Edgcumbe, the Metta Catherina Trust and Mount Edgcumbe.

The aims of the project were to:

- Conserve and make accessible the collection of artifacts, archive and photographs relating to the Metta Catharina.
- Interpret in a variety of ways the story of the Metta Catharina and its cargo and how the collection was discovered and salvaged.
- Provide a variety of opportunities for people to engage with the subject and/or get involved with the project.

In a press release when the project was announced, Ian Skelton, Chairman of the Metta Catherina Trust and one of the divers who found the wreck said “It is wonderful news that after 32 years of diving and research the story of the Metta Catherina can be told.  Mount Edgcumbe is a fitting location for the artefacts to be displayed”. Gordon Crocker, Chairman of the Friends of Mount Edgcumbe said “The Friends of Mount Edgcumbe Country Park are delighted to donate funds to help with this worthwhile project and add to the attractions at Mount Edgcumbe.

This was a wide-ranging endeavour. The Lottery Fund money was used to undertake essential building repairs to fix a leaking roof above the intended display area, to assess and conserve finds recovered from the site, to undertake research into the objects, to create new displays and develop interactive displays, to buy environmntal monitoring equipment for the display rooms, to provide staff with basic archaeology training, to record oral histories about the site, to update the booklet about the wreck and create a database of archive material.

On June 18th 2013, the Metta Catharina Exhibition was officially launched by TV presenter Monty Halls (photo 1). The event was attended by representatives of the two authorities, trustees from the Metta Catharina Trust, Friends of Mount Edgcumbe Park and volunteers and contractors who had been involved in the launch.

You can read about the loss of the Metta Catharina here.

The Metta Catharina Trust produced a 43 minute DVD called The Loss of the Metta Catharina in 1786, narrated by Ian Skelton, and a book by Ian Skelton in 2013 called Shipwreck: the Loss of the Metta Catharina in 1786, ISBN 978-0-9575692-0-1. More technical information about the site can be found in the 2010 paper Die Frau Metta Catharina von Flensburg: a Danish brigantine wrecked in 1786 in Plymouth Sound, England, published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 39:2, pp235-257.

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