List Entry Summary
This site is designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 as it is or may prove to be the site of a vessel lying wrecked on or in the sea bed and, on account of the historical, archaeological or artistic importance of the vessel, or of any objects contained or formerly contained in it which may be lying on the sea bed in or near the wreck, it ought to be protected from unauthorised interference. Protected wreck sites are designated by Statutory Instrument. The following information has been extracted from the relevant Statutory Instrument.
Name: Langdon Bay
List Entry Number: 1000059
Langdon Bay, off Dover, Kent
Competent Authority: Not applicable to this List entry.
The site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
National Grid Reference: TR 34144 41761
Date first designated: 25-May-1978
Date of most recent amendment: 31-Mar-2017
Legacy System Information
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System: AMIE - Wrecks
This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.
List entry Description
Information provided under the Statutory Instrument heading below forms part of the official record of a protected wreck site. Information provided under other headings does not form part of the official record of the designation. It has been compiled by Historic England to aid understanding of the protected wreck site.
Summary of Site
The recovery of Middle Bronze Age artefacts from Langdon Bay, Kent, has pointed to the possibility that the wreck of a cargo vessel of the same date lies within the Bay, although no remains of the vessel have been recovered. The location of this material is tangible evidence of cross-Channel connections that, either from shipwreck or a ritual deposit soon after arrival provides a rare chance to view trade in action, rather than trade as inferred from redistributed material. However, no Bronze Age artefacts have been observed or recorded on site since 1990.
Reason for Designation
The Langdon Bay Protected Wreck site is Listed for the following principal reason:
Archaeological: The Langdon Bay site is of international significance and arguably the oldest known shipwreck site in northern Europe. The importance of the site lies in the breadth of its Bronze Age metalwork assemblage which is unparalleled in both maritime and terrestrial archaeology
In 1974, members of the Dover Sub-Aqua Club found bronze objects just outside Dover Harbour. These were identified as types of tools, weapons and ornaments, made in France during the Middle Bronze Age and rarely found in Britain. The typology of the metalwork indicates a date of c.1100BC. More than 350 objects have been recovered from the site and are in the care of the British Museum, though no Bronze Age artefacts have been observed or recorded on site since 1990.
Designation Order: 1979, No. 56
Made: 19th January 1979
Laid before Parliament: 26th January 1979
Coming into force: 16th February 1979
Protected area: 150 metres within 51 07.60 N 001 20.80 E
No part of the restricted area lies above the high-water mark of ordinary spring tides.
Documentary History: Middle Bronze Age finds from Langdon Bay, near Dover. On the 14th August 1974 members of the Dover Sub-Aqua Club began diving on the eastern side of Langdon Bay east of Dover where they had frequently dived over several years. On this occasion they came across a total of 86 objects of Bronze Age date. The finds mostly came from a narrow gully in the chalk about 79 ft long, 2 to 10 ft wide and 1 ft deep. The site was marked by a buoy and was plotted on a chart. A further eight objects were recovered in July 1975.
Archaeological History: The first artefacts were found by members of Dover Sub-Aqua Club in August 1974 and to date a total of 360 finds have been recovered from the site, all of bronze and comprising tools, weapons, ornaments and miscellaneous pieces. A high proportion of these finds are of continental forms with potentially widespread origins between Brittany and the Lower Rhine region. The bronzes have suffered varied degrees of abrasion as a result of their periodic exposure on the seabed during three millennia, but a good proportion is still identifiable to specific types. There is also clear evidence that many pieces were already bent and broken up in antiquity. Because of this damage and their likely continental origins, it has been hypothesised that the assemblage forms a cargo of scrap metal being imported into the Britain for recasting. In that context it is significant that the Bronze Age Dover boat was found only 2.5 miles away.
In 1977, a Professor at Newcastle University examined the damaged edges of some of the implements and was able to show that the collection consisted of lead-free high-tin bronzes. The weapons were normally cast in moulds of clay, stone or bronze from a bronze solution of about 12 per cent tin and heated to about 900 degrees centigrade.
The site lies on a chalk wave-cut platform in 6 to 10 metres of water, 500 metres seaward of the white cliffs of Dover. A blanket of mobile sediment formed during and after the Channel Tunnel excavations, which has now dispersed, although fine sediment lies in shallow gullies across the site. There are strong currents and poor visibility.
Investigations by Cotswold Archaeology in 2016, commissioned by Historic England, The Dover group were to recover a number of other artefacts in 1975 and 1976 when the material was acquired by the British Museum which recognised it as a key assemblage in understanding Bronze Age exchange and production networks. The site was subsequently designated in May 1978 (with re-designation following in January 1979 which expanded the size of the site’s restricted area). The involvement of Keith Muckelroy, a pioneer in underwater archaeology, from May 1978 until his death in September 1980 switched the focus from the recovery of surface artefacts to intrusive excavation and environmental study. This work continued under the late Martin Dean, former Director of the Archaeological Diving Unit, until 1989 and the last bronze artefacts were recovered the following year. No Bronze Age artefacts have been observed or recorded on site since that time.
Three visits undertaken by the Archaeological Diving Unit between 1995 and 1999 similarly failed to observe Bronze Age material on the seabed with licensed assess to the site ending shortly thereafter. There is currently no licensee for the site. In 2013, archaeological investigations on the Langdon Bay wreck were published by the Council for British Archaeology (Research Report 173).
Investigations by Cotswold Archaeology in 2016, commissioned by Historic England, comprised desk-based research and diver survey. Diver observations revealed that the site lies on a wave-cut chalk platform in 6 to 10 metres of water, some 500m south of the Dover cliffs. A thin layer of mobile sediment overlies the exposed and generally flat chalk bedrock which can accumulate in shallow gullies across the site. These gullies were searched with a hand-held metal detector, though no bronzes were recorded or observed. Cotswold Archaeology concluded that ‘although it is possible that [bronzes] may be present in parts of the designated area that were not investigated, the potential for these is considered low.’
Books and journals
McDonald, K, Dive Kent: a diver guide, (1994), 77
Needham, S, Parham, D, Frieman, C J, Claimed by the Sea: Salcombe, Langdon Bay, and other maritime finds of the Bronze Age, (2013), 23-50
Muckelroy, K, 'Two Bronze Age cargoes in British waters' in Antiquity, , Vol. 54 (211), (1980), 100-109
Samson, A. V. M., 'Offshore Finds from the Bronze Age in North-Western Europe: The Shipwreck Scenario Revisited' in Oxford Journal of Archaeology, , Vol. 25 (4), (2002), 371-388
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End of official listing