La Trinidad Valencera - An Armada Ship

Fifty years ago on 20 February 1971, members of the City of Derry Sub Aqua Club realised a dream. They discovered the wreck of the La Trinidad Valencera, a mighty Spanish Armada ship that floundered off the cost of Donegal at Kinnagoe Bay on 16 September 1588.

Unlike the Girona, who also sank that year, the majority of the 350 crew survived the initial running aground only to be massacred shortly after by English troops. Fortunately, a number made it back to Spain to tell the tale.

Material from La Trinidad Valencera is on display in the Ulster Museum and the Tower Museum in Derry.

Navigational dividers

Life on board: Navigational dividers

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Mortar and pestle

Life on board: Mortar and pestle

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Comb

Life on board: Comb

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Bucket

Food and drink: Bucket

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Olive jar

Food and drink: Olive jar

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Pine cone

Food and drink: Pine cone

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Salt cellars

Food and drink: Salt cellars

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Wooden bowl and spoon

Tableware: Wooden bowl and spoon

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Pewter plate

Tableware: Pewter plate

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Pewter bowl

Tableware: Pewter bowl

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Porcelain Ming dynasty bowl

Tableware: Porcelain Ming dynasty bowl

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Gun carriage wheels

Armed and dangerous: Gun carriage wheels

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The seige gun crest

Armed and dangerous: The seige gun crest

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The seige gun handles

Armed and dangerous: The seige gun handles

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Linstock

Armed and dangerous: Linstock

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Grenade

Armed and dangerous: Grenade

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Life on board: Navigational dividers

Image: Navigational dividers. BTV.252 - On display, Tower Museum
Navigational dividers. BTV.252 - On display, Tower Museum

These dividers were used to help calculate distance travelled and are in perfect working condition, but the maps and charts available to the Armada were woefully inadequate. This caused confusion over the ship’s exact location as it tried to navigate the Irish coastline.

 

 

Life on board: Pestle and mortar

Image: Mortar and pestle BTV 208 & 209 - On display, Tower Museum
Mortar and pestle BTV 208 & 209 - On display, Tower Museum

Disease and sea sickness were a constant enemy. Mortars and pestles could have been used to grind foodstuffs but this particular example, made of bronze, resembles those used by an ‘apothecary’ whose responsibility was to dispense medicine.

 

Life on board: Comb

Image: Comb BTV.216 - On display, Tower Museum
Comb BTV.216 - On display, Tower Museum

Two-sided wooden comb with sawn teeth. Such combs were necessary because of lice which were endemic on sixteenth-century ships. These conditions were like those described by Tomas de La Torre on sailing from Spain to Mexico in 1554: ‘… the place is full of lice that eat every living creature, and one cannot wash one’s clothes, as they shrink when cleaned in sea-water’.

 

Food and drink: Bucket

Image: Bucket BTV.227 - On display, Tower Museum
Bucket BTV.227 - On display, Tower Museum

Inventories of supplies relating to the Armada survive in Spain and it is clear that buckets were used to carry and measure supplies of water and wine. While these were apparently made mostly of wood, this metal one could have had a similar purpose. Rations per day included ’3/10 of a pint of wine and 2 gallons of water’.

 

Food and drink: Olive jar

Image: Olive Jar BTV.210 - On display, Tower Museum
Olive Jar BTV.210 - On display, Tower Museum

These pottery vessels were known as olive jars, but they also held vinegar and wine as well as olive oil. This one actually contained lentils and has a six and a quarter litre capacity. Archaeologist Colin Martin calculated that La Trinidad Valencera would have required 758 such jars to contain their share of oil and vinegar.

 

Food and drink: Pine cone

Image: Pine cone (Pinus pinea) BTV.23 - On display, Tower Museum
Pine cone (Pinus pinea) BTV.23 - On display, Tower Museum

Continuing the food theme, seeds from pine cones like this were intended to be eaten, presumably to vary the diet a little. Among other surprising food stuffs, reflecting Mediterranean tastes, were several bay leaves, one of which is also on display.

 

Food and drink: Salt cellars

Image: Salt cellars BTV.217 - On display, Ulster Museum & Tower Museum
Salt cellars BTV.217 - On display, Ulster Museum & Tower Museum

Perhaps not what we imagine a salt cellar to look like and originally thought to be gaming cups, this is a matching pair, made from wood.

 

Tableware: Wooden bowl and spoon

Image: Wooden bowl and spoon BTV.187 & 188 - On display, Tower Museum
Wooden bowl and spoon BTV.187 & 188 - On display, Tower Museum

Ordinary soldiers and sailors ate from more simple utensils like wooden bowls. Officers and noblemen however were accustomed to high quality wares including those made from pewter (a metal consisting mostly of tin). The range of pewter ware from Armada wrecks is the most important and varied of the sixteenth-century.

 

Tableware: Pewter plate

Image: Pewter plate BTV.248
Pewter plate BTV.248

This pewter plate was made in England but subsequently acquired and stamped with the owner’s initials which are likely to read ‘JZ’ rather than ‘IZ’. JZ probably stood for Juan Zapota whose son Sebastian was on board.

 

Tableware: Pewter bowl

Image: Pewter bowl BTV.185 - On display, Tower Museum
Pewter bowl BTV.185 - On display, Tower Museum

It has been suggested that the design of this bowl may reflect its use to help feed those who were ill. It is one of a selection of pewter items recovered which include this goblet and jug seen below.

Image: Pewter goblet BTV.184 - On display, Tower Museum and Pewter jug with curved spout and swan-neck handle BTV.256
Pewter goblet BTV.184 - On display, Tower Museum and Pewter jug with curved spout and swan-neck handle BTV.256

 

Tableware: Porcelain Ming dynasty bowl

Image: Porcelain Ming dynasty bowl. BTV.189 - On display, Tower Museum
Porcelain Ming dynasty bowl. BTV.189 - On display, Tower Museum

Made in China! It is incredible to think about the journey this small bowl took before arriving on board La Trinidad Valencera. It is a rare and delicate Ming dynasty bowl (1368-1644), with maker’s signature on base, which must have belonged to a wealthy officer or nobleman. How it survived a shipwreck and 400 years under the sea, is nothing short of a miracle.

 

Armed and dangerous: Gun carriage wheels

Image: Joanne Lowe, Ulster Museum conservation department working on one of the original large carriage wheels. Replicas of the wheels and carriage were made to display the guns in both museums.
Joanne Lowe, Ulster Museum conservation department working on one of the original large carriage wheels. Replicas of the wheels and carriage were made to display the guns in both museums.

A feature of both the Girona and La Trinidad Valencera wrecks was the role played by the conservation department of the Ulster Museum in the treatment and preservation of objects. In both cases little of the ships structure survived, but more wooden material was preserved on La Trinidad Valencera, including large gun carriage wheels.

 

Armed and dangerous: The siege gun crest

Image: Each gun has the central shield and crest of King Philip II of Spain (PHILIPPUS REX). Above the crown is stamped the weight of this gun at 5316 lbs.
Each gun has the central shield and crest of King Philip II of Spain (PHILIPPUS REX). Above the crown is stamped the weight of this gun at 5316 lbs.

Of all the potent fire power that the Armada intended to unleash upon London are the great siege guns mounted on wheeled carriages. Two almost identical examples are on display in the Tower and Ulster Museums, recovered from La Trinidad Valencera. The following six images show one being installed in the Tower Museum

 

Armed and dangerous: The seige gun handles

Image: The attention to detail and the quality of these guns includes carrying handles in the shape of dolphins.
The attention to detail and the quality of these guns includes carrying handles in the shape of dolphins.
Image: Both guns bear the following inscriptions: IOANES . MARCIUS . A . LARA . FIERI . CURAVIT / OPUS . REMIGY . DE . HALUT / ANNO 1556. This translates as ‘Juan Manrique de Lara caused this to be made, the work of Remigy de Halut, 1556.
Both guns bear the following inscriptions: IOANES . MARCIUS . A . LARA . FIERI . CURAVIT / OPUS . REMIGY . DE . HALUT / ANNO 1556. This translates as ‘Juan Manrique de Lara caused this to be made, the work of Remigy de Halut, 1556.

Juan de Lara was a leading soldier and diplomat while Remigy de Halut’s gun foundry was in Belgium, not far from Brussels. The same foundry had supplied Henry VIII with similar large guns. Unfortunately Henry later proved better at ordering than paying so in 1526 the foundry stopped supplying him.

 

Armed and dangerous: Linstock

Image: Linstock BTV.262 - On display, Tower Museum
Linstock BTV.262 - On display, Tower Museum

This wooden linstock in the form of a clenched fist with a hole was used by a gunner to secure a lighted match to fire a gun or cannon. It allowed the gunner to stand at a safe distance to avoid any flash from the charge igniting the powder, or the recoil that may send the carriage reeling backwards towards them.

 

Armed and dangerous: Grenade

Image: Grenade – BTV.183 - On display, Tower Museum
Grenade – BTV.183 - On display, Tower Museum

This glazed pot was filled with inflammable liquid. It was fitted with a slow burning fuse and was thrown onto enemy ships.