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Zwaanendael Museum to again offer tours of the British warship DeBraak


Note: In keeping with Gov. Carney’s declaration of a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Zwaanendael Museum is closed until further notice.

Between May 28 and Sept. 24, 2020, the Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., will again offer tours that explore the 18th-century history, artifacts and surviving hull section of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak, a British warship that was escorting and protecting a convoy of merchant ships en route to the United States when it was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798.

Banner for 2020 DeBraak tours

Tours will be offered on both Thursday mornings and on selected Saturday evenings during the 2020 season. Thursday tours will take place at 9 a.m. on the following dates: May 28; June 4, 11, 18 and 25; July 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30; Aug. 6, 13, 20 and 27; and Sept. 3, 10, 17 and 24. Saturday tours will take place at 5 p.m. on June 27, July 25 and Aug. 29.

Photo of visitors enjoying a tour of the DeBraak hull.
Visitors enjoying a tour of the DeBraak hull which can be seen in the left of the photo.

Tours begin at the Zwaanendael Museum where a lecture on the ship will be presented in conjunction with the exhibit “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World.” Participants will learn about the history, crew and sinking of the DeBraak through a guided presentation and display of actual artifacts. Attendees will then be transported, via van, to the DeBraak conservation facility for interpretation and viewing of the ship’s surviving hull section. Each tour lasts approximately two hours.

Photo of visitors listening to a lecture on DeBraak at the Zwaanendael Museum.
Visitors listening to a lecture on DeBraak at the Zwaanendael Museum. Sections of the exhibit “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” are on display in the room.

Tickets are available at the Zwaanendael Museum. Admission is $10 per person (cash or check only). For reservations, e-mail hca_zmevents@delaware.gov or call 302-645-1148. Tours are restricted to individuals age 10 and up with space limited to 12 participants per tour. Walk-ups are welcome but space is not guaranteed. Special tours, for groups of 10 to 15, may be arranged in advance by contacting the museum.

Significance of DeBraak …

During the late-18th and early-19th centuries, sloops of war such as DeBraak played an increasingly important role in Royal Navy campaigns. These relatively small vessels combined speed, agility, shallow draft and increased firepower, all of which made them formidable naval vessels. As the only Royal Navy sloop of war from this time period that has been recovered anywhere in the world, DeBraak serves as an invaluable historical resource for a time when Great Britain was the world’s preeminent naval power.

Photo of a painting of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.
Artistic rendition of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.

The surviving section of the DeBraak’s hull and its associated artifact collection have been curated by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs since they were acquired by the State of Delaware in 1992. Approximately one-third of the hull survives including the keel, keelson and lower framing elements, including a large section of the starboard (right) side.

About the Zwaanendael Museum …

Administered by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, The Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony, Swanendael, established by the Dutch along Hoorn Kill (present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal) in 1631. Designed by E. William Martin (architect of Legislative Hall and the Hall of Records in Dover), the museum is modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, and features a stepped facade gable with carved stonework and decorated shutters. The museum’s exhibits and presentations provide a showcase for Lewes-area maritime, military and social history.

Photo of the Zwaanendael Museum
Zwaanendael Museum

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