A submerged mansion discovered in the depths off the Norfolk Coast will offer visitors an experience like no other when it opens in 2018.
Visitors to this new National Trust property will be able to explore the 19th century gothic-style Seaward House on diving tours with volunteer scuba guides.
The mansion was first discovered after a chaise longue was found washed up on the beach at Blakeney Point on the coast of Norfolk last October. Spotted by local volunteers, it was followed by a Chippendale table, some china figurines and an ornate chamber pot over the following weeks.
Originally the furniture was thought to have floated ashore from a passing cruise ship or been left by fly tippers, but aerial photographs revealed the outline of what appeared to be a submerged building. The Trust sent a diving team down to investigate who were astonished to discover the remains of a house on the seabed.
”It was an amazing find,” said dive leader Bob Downe. ”At first we saw the remains of an old rusty gate and then we were literally able to swim through the house. We spent about three hours down there on our first dive and kept pinching ourselves as we couldn’t believe our eyes.”
Land Registry records revealed that the house, which would have once stood on the shoreline before succumbing to coastal erosion, belonged to Samuel Seaward. Scouring local archives uncovered more about Seaward, a merchant who made his fortune selling peacock feathers to ladies of the aristocracy.
“We think underwater expeditions to Seaward House will be an amazing opportunity to learn about conservation challenges and coastal erosion,” explained regional visitor experience consultant Avril Fuller. “It’s really pushing the boundaries of what people think about what we do.
“With the help of our restoration experts, local historians and evidence from further diving expeditions, the story of Seaward House – which locals have nicknamed ‘Seaweed House’ – is being pieced together. We’re hoping to open it to the public as an underwater place to visit in 2018.
“Tackling the logistical challenge of giving visitors scuba diving lessons before kitting them out and taking them on tours around the submerged mansion will be key to the success of Seaward House. We hope Norfolk locals with diving experience will be inspired to get involved and we’ll be recruiting a team of volunteer scuba divers over the next few months.
“Seaward House is a one-of-a-kind place and we’ll be looking for people with the potential to communicate its unique story, both on land and below the water.”