British Isles wrecks, shipfinds & boatfinds
The British Isles have been inhabited at least since the 250,000 year old Swanscombe
man, found in Kent. The earliest settlers arrived by foot, before the English Channel existed.
The islands have since been populated by Celts, Romans, Saxons, Normans and other seafarers.
- St Albans logboat. Located in 1998, 5 km Southeast of St
Albans, Herts, England. What remains are charred parts of a logboat containing cremated human bone,
thus it's a boat grave. Radiocarbon dated to early 4th millennium BC. Ref: IJNA 30.2, 2001.
- The Ferriby boats.
Remains of three boats on the same place in the Humber. Discovered by Ted Wright between 1937 and
1962. Constructed of planks stitched together. According to new analysis in 2001 the oldest is dated
to c 2030 BC (formerly dated to ca 1500-1700 BC). According to the older analysis the youngest boats
are dated to c 800-1100 BC. Reconstruction drawing of Ferriby I by
Axel Nelson. Construction detail of Ferriby I, by Axel
Nelson. Ref: British Museum Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology.
- Kilnsea boat. The remains of this
Bronze Age stitched plank-boat in Yorkshire are radiocarbon dated to 1870-1670 BC. Found in 1996.
Turriff logboat, Scotland. The boat was found in 1893, during digging which cut it in half.
The two ends have since 1951 been stored in Aberdeen University's Marischal Museum. In 2002 the boat
was radiocarbon dated to 1770-1670 BC.
Chetwynd logboat. Found during dredging in the River
Meese, Shropshire, in 1981. The remaining part is made of oak, 3 m long and 50 cm wide. Investigated
by the National Maritime Museum. Radiocarbon dated to 1275 ± 140 BC. To be returned to and displayed
at the Shropshire Museum in 2002. Ref: IJNA 15.3 1986.
Photo courtesy Shropshire Museum.
Dover Bronze Age boat, ca
1300 BC. Found in 1991 on land in Dover during motorway construction in 1991-92. Constructed of oak
planks stitched together. Described in Current Archaeology 133.
- Shardlow logboat (barge), Derbyshire,
England. Logboat located in 1998, excavated in 2001, radiocarbon dated to 14th or 13th century BC.
The stern is missing but 11 metres of the boat is intact – the original length may have been 14
metres. It was loaded with a cargo of stones and may have been used as a barge, pulled with ropes
along the River Trent. Investigated by the
University of Nottingham, conserved with PEG by the York Archaeological Trust. Ref: British
- Brigg logboat. Ca 14.8 m long made of oak, found in 1886 near the Humber River. Dated to
ca 1000 BC. Destroyed during an air raid in 1942. Ref: British Museum Encyclopaedia of Underwater
and Maritime Archaeology.
- Brigg raft. Found on land in
Lincolnshire in 1888, excavated in 1888 and 1974. Dated to 9th century BC. Constructed of stitched
planks. First believed to be a raft, but possibly it's a ferry used across the Humber. Described in
IJNA 21.3 1992 and 23 1994, pp 283-288. Note in German.
Lough Lene logboat, Ireland. 8 m long, dated to 1st c BC/1st c AD, found in 1968, placed at
the National Museum. Ref: INJA 18 1989, INJA 20 1991 and INJA 21 1992.
- Blackfriars I ship. Found in
London in 1962. 17 m long, built in Celtic style, dated to 2nd century AD. This is the oldest of
several wrecks found on the same site 1962-70. Ref: P.Marsden, Ships of the Port of London –
English Heritage Arch. Report 3 (London 1994) and B. M. Encyclopaedia of Underwater and
- New Guy's Hospital ship. Roman
ship found in Southwark, London. Found in 1958 and excavated by Peter Marsden 1958/60. Dated to 2nd
century AD, ca 12 m long with a carvel hull. Ref: B. M. Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime
- County Hall ship. Roman ship
found in London between the Charing Cross and Westminster bridges in 1910. Dated to 3rd century AD,
estimated to have been ca 20 m long and decked. In 1911 the remaining 12 m long section was raised
and pulled by horse on a spectacular carriage to the London Museum. Ref: IJNA 3.1 1974.
wreck. St Peter Port, Guernsey. Investigated by Margaret Rule & Jason Monoghan, dated to
early 280s AD, or possibly older. Ref M Rule & J Monoghan: A Gallo-Roman Trading Vessel from
Guernsey (1993). Link.
Sutton Hoo ship. Found in
a ship burial grave mound in Suffolk in 1939. The wood and iron nails had totally perished. What remained was a
changed colour in the sand, an "impression". This was carefully excavated in 1939 and 1965-71,
revealing the shape of a 27 m long clinker built ship. A full-size mold has been cast of the hull
cavity. The ship is dated to about 7th century AD. It contained iron weapons such as
axe, sword, spear – as well as a burial treasury
with objects of bronze, gold, silver, wood and leather. Perhaps this was the grave of the heathen
king Raevald, who died in 625 AD. The objects are now at British Museum. Painting of one of the helmets found, by
Axel Nelson. Ref: Peter Throckmorton, The Sea Remembers
- Graveney boat.
Found on land in 1970. Bottom parts of a clinker-built cargo ship dated to 10th century AD, made of
oak. Ref: B. M. Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology.
Guernesy Medieval wrecks, St Peter
Port. Clinker built, located in the 1980s, now investigated by the CMA.
- Grace Dieu. Royal flagship built
in 1418, decommissioned in 1436, struck by lightning and sank in 1439, then gradually buried in mud
and sand. The remains can be seen at low tide. Excavated in 1874 and 1899 when some timbers were
removed, partly using explosives. Again investigated 1933 and 1980-85. The ship type is probably a
carrack, apparently clinkered in three layers. Interpretation drawing by
Axel Nelson. Ref INJA 22.1 1993.
- Newport ship, Wales.
in 2002 on the bank of the River Usk during construction work. It is the lower parts of a 25 m long
clinker-built ocean-going ship. Oak timbers have been dendro-dated to 1466 AD. The site is
investigated by Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust, who have
found Spanish pottery and Portuguese coins.
The ship is to be saved, after an intense campaign. Charles Barker, the director of the Mary Rose
Trust, said that to allow the boat to be broken up "would be a disaster". A national campaign "Save
Our Ship" started to raise the money necessary. And the Council
for British Archaeology supported the case as well.
Joe Flatman, University of Southampton, reports: The ship is in very good condition, with
essentially the majority of the lower hull timbers (frames, planks, ceilings, stringers, etc., etc.)
present in gorgeous sticky mud, including the mast-step.
- Woolwich ship. The remains were
found in 1912 on the south bank of the River Thames and may be the wreck of Henry VII's ship
Sovereign, which was built in 1488 and may have sunk in the area after 1521.
Cattewater wreck, Plymouth. Dated to around 1530. Probably a
merchant ship, possibly Spanish, armed with at least one wrought iron gun. Discovered during dredging
in 1973, investigated in 1977 and 1978. Ref IJNA 7.3 1978.
- Mary Rose. Henry VIII's battleship built in 1509-11,
sunk in battle 1545, when only 35 of 700 survived the sudden sinking. The wreck was discovered off
Spithead, near Isle of Wight, in 1836 and dived by the early helmet divers, the Deane brothers. They
made beautiful drawings of some recovered objects, but the wreck was forgotten again. Rediscovered in
1967, and salvaged in 1982. Conservation of the hull started in 1994.
Warship". Late 16th century wreck found off Alnerney in the English Channel in 1978. Timbers
have been dendro dated to 1575. The ship may have been 15 m long, and perhaps not a "warship" as has
- Spanish armada. In 1588 Spain lost several warships around the
British Isles, as a result of battle and bad weather. Off the Irish coast 26 ships are believed to be
wrecked. Some of them have been located and excavated, e.g.:
Girona, La Trinidad Valencera, El Gran
Grifón and Santa Maria de la Rosa. Described in IJNA Feb 1996.
Recent Antarctic ice core analysis indicates that El Niño caused
extreme weather in 1588, which may have contributed to the Spanish wrecks.
- Golden Hind. Sailed around the
world in 1577 commanded by Sir Francis Drake. After the journeys, the famous ship
remained on display in London for many years. Believed to have gradually sunk down in
the Thames bottom sediment near Deptford, sometime in the 17th century. Has not yet
been located. Ref: Ian Wilson, Undiscovered (1988)
- Campen. Dutch VOC
ship sunk in 1627 off the Isle of Wight. Located by divers in 1979.
- The Blessing. Baggage ferry that sank off
the Scottish coast in 1633. The probable remains were recently located and are being investigated.
- "The Swan" / Duart Point shipwreck,
Island of Mull, Scotland. One of the warships from Cromwell's 1653 fleet. Located in 1979, investigated since 1993.
Ref IJNA 24.1 1995 and Angus Konstam, Atlas versunkener Schiffe (Weltbild, Augsburg
Dutch East Indiaman going from Texel to Batavia, sunk in the Outer Skerries, Shetland Islands, 1664.
The scattered remaining fragments were found in 1971 and investigated by Keith Muckelroy. Among the
finds were intact Beardman jugs containing mercury. Ref: B. M. Encyclopaedia of Underwater and
Maritime Archaeology. and Angus Konstam, Atlas versunkener Schiffe (Weltbild, Augsburg
- Wrangels Palais.
Danish warship, wrecked in 1687 in the Outer Skerries of the Shetland Islands. This ship had been a
Swedish warship, captured by the Danes in battle in 1677. The wrecksite was recently discovered. Ref
B. M. Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology, page 441.
- Admiral Shovell's fleet.
In 1707 an English Navy unit mis-navigated, wrecked off Scilly Islands and 2000 men died. This
disaster sped up the development of navigation technology. A £20,000 reward was offered. This led to
the invention of the chronometer, but that's a different
story. Ref: Kenneth Hudson, The Book of Shipwrecks (Macmillan 1979).
- Hollandia. Dutch VOC
ship sunk in 1743 off Scilly Islands. There were no survivors and the scattered remains were
discovered in 1971 and investigated 1971-77. Ref: IJNA 11.4 1982.
- HMS Invincible.
74 gun warship, built for France as l'Invincible
in 1744. Taken by England in 1747. Sunk near Portsmouth in 1758, discovered in 1979. Investigated
1983-1990. Among the finds is the ship's hour glass. Ref: IJNA 14.3 1985, 27.2 1998, and
Angus Konstam, Atlas versunkener Schiffe (Weltbild, Augsburg 1999).
- Amsterdam. Dutch VOC
ship. Beached in 1749 west of Hastings. Discovered in one piece in 1969 on 6 m depth, embedded in mud
and sand. The outline can be seen at low tide. First looted but later investigated by Peter Marsden
and Jon Adams. Ref IJNA 19.1 1990.
George. British ship-of-the-line, built in 1756, and one of the largest ships of her time. In
1782 she was anchored off Portsmouth for overhaul. In order to repair a small leak below the water
line, the ship was heeled over by moving all 108 guns to the other side. Shortly after, the ship
capsized and sank on 20 m depth. Between 800 and 1400 crew members and civilians died. Several
salvage operations were made some 50 years later by early helmet divers. Finally the wreck was
removed with explosives. Ref: Kenneth Hudson, The Book of Shipwrecks (Macmillan 1979). The
illustration is a contemporary drawing. One more illustration.
- HMS Colossus. English warship sunk in 1798 off Cornwall loaded with about 1000 pieces of
antique pottery from Italy. The wreck was discovered on 9 m depth in 1974 and some of those objects,
partly in fragments, could finally be recovered and brought to a museum. Might this be a case of
meta-archaeology? Ref: Peter Throckmorton, The Sea Remembers (1987).
- Tayleur. Composite ship wrecked in 1854 off Lambay Island
in north Co. Dublin.
- Resurgam. British submarine sunk in 1880.
Article in Swedish.
- RMS Lusitania. 235 m long
passenger ship, built in 1905-1907 and owned by the Cunard Line. Thanks to turbine engines, the top
speed was 26 knots. Torpedoed off Ireland in 1915 on c 90 m depth by German submarine U-20 and sank
in only 18 minutes. Ca 1200 people died. The passengers were civilian, but evidence indicates that
the ship transported arms and ammunition. Investigated by ROV Jason in 1993.
Photo. Described in National Geographic, April 1994.
- The Aud. This historic steamer smuggled guns in 1916 from Germany to Ireland for the
independence fighters. When the ship finally was caught up by the British Navy, the captain scuttled
it off Cork harbour. The broken down remains lie on about 35 m depth and are open for recreational
Hampshire, British naval cruiser. In 1916 she was sent on a mission to help Russia. Onboard were
Lord Kitchener and 50 military experts leaving Scapa Flow, west of Orkney, headed for Murmansk, to
help Russia. Germany found out about this and had every reason to sink the ship. Shortly after
departure she was sunk by an explosion. Only 12 survived out of 665. Among the victims was Kitchener,
the prominent Boer War veteran. Was she sunk by a German mine, laid by sub U-75, or was it sabotage?
The wreck is on 60 m depth 1½ miles off Marwick Head. Diving is not permitted, but it would be
interesting to hear from divers' observations whether the explosion came from outside or inside. Ref:
Shipwrecks by David Ritchie.
- Scuttled Fleet at Scapa Flow. In 1919 several German
warships scuttled themselves. Most were later salvaged but some remain, popular among scuba divers.
The wrecks are protected by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
- HMS Royal Oak. British battleship sunk in 1939
at Scapa Flow by U47. The wreck lies in ca 30 m depth. Ref: Angus Konstam, Atlas versunkener
Schiffe (Weltbild, Augsburg 1999)
/ HMS Implacable. Originally a French 74 gun
warship with three gundecks built in 1800. Conquered by Britain at Trafalgar in 1805 and renamed
Implacable. In 1949 she was still afloat, complete with decorated rear gallery. Neither Britain nor
France wanted the ship. She was old, but not considered old enough for historical interest. So she
was sunk in the English channel. Had this been today, she might have been restored, like HMS Victory
or HMS Trincomalee (38 guns, built in 1817). Ref: Jean-Yves Blot, Underwater Archaeology:
Exploring the World Beneath the Sea.
Has anybody information on the present state of this wreck? Parts of the hull may still be intact
after 50 years on the seabottom. The site could be located and investigated. The last surviving
74-gunner may be worth more attention.
Dover boat photo © Canterbury Archaeological Trust. Mary
Rose image © Magdelene College. Thanks to Axel Nelson for excellent drawings. Page rev