THREE historic cannons plundered from the wreck of 17th century warship and sold in the US have been returned to Southend.

The cannons, which belonged to the The London which sank off Southend Pier in 1665, have just been repatriated to the town by international art-shippers, Gander and White, for display in a planned museum.

The cannons were originally used on Dutch warships before being placed on The London. The ship was then involved in The Restoration, transporting the son of Charles II, the future King James II, from his exile in the Netherlands.

On its way down the Thames to join the rest of the English fleet due to take part in the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667), the ship blew apart, most likely due to an accident.

The ship and its contents, including the three cannons, sank to the bottom of the Thames Estuary, along with 300 lives lost.

The cannons were found and sold but have now been brought back to the UK.

In 2015 a diver was jailed for two years after committing fraud totalling more than £46,000 by failing to say historic cannons were found off Southend. Essex and Kent Police, Historic England, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency were all involved in a two-year investigation into Vincent Woolsgrove.

In 2007, the 49-year-old legitimately reported two cannons he found on the wreck of the warship HMS London but falsely claimed that three other Dutch cannons were found in international waters off the Kent coast. They had in fact come from the same ship.

Because the agency could not determine the original ship the cannons came from, Woolsgrove was allowed to keep them. He sold them to an American buyer for £46,000 in an auction in 2010, However, following an investigation by Essex Police Woolsgrove from Kent was prosecuted for making a fraudulent declaration. At the time, it was believed the cannons were lost forever.

A council spokesman said: “We are storing the cannons in a secure location in a controlled environment until such a time as permanent exhibition space has been created.

“We are also looking into the possibility of having the cannons displayed on a temporary basis at existing premises, though the duration of any such exhibits would be dependent on ensuring that the condition of the cannons does not deteriorate.

“We are extremely excited to be back in possession of the cannons, which are not only beautiful, but also have an amazing story to tell. The cannons were fabricated in the Netherlands in the 1600s and it is thought they were reclaimed from a Dutch battleship before being installed onto the London.

“Our long-term ambition is for the cannons to be a key exhibit within the Thames Estuary Experience alongside other key themes including the significant finds.”