SWASH CHANNEL WRECK
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: SWASH CHANNEL WRECK
List Entry Number: 1000082
Approaches to Poole Harbour, Poole Bay, off Dorset
The site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
National Grid Reference: SZ 05378 84965
Date first designated: 10-Dec-2004
Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.
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 remains of a seventeenth-century Dutch or German armed cargo vessel, which appears to have foundered in the Swash Channel after 1630. Laden with pottery, possibly from the Rhine, she was a wooden sailing vessel.
Reason for Designation
Discovered during the investigation of an anomaly identified from geophysical survey work in advance of channel project, the wreck site has been initially interpreted as probably representing the remains of an armed merchantman, dated c 100 years after the nearby Studland Bay designated wreck.
Structural remains on the seabed suggest that a sizeable proportion of a large or very large vessel, survives coherently in substantial sections and that the quality of survival of some of the structural timber is very high.
A fragment of Rhenish stoneware with decoration typical of 1630 has been recovered from the wreck. This date is consistent with the visible form and character of the surviving structure of the vessel - an early seventeenth century ship.
Designation Order No 3243, 2004
Made: 9th December 2004
Laid before Parliament: 9th December 2004
Coming into force: 10th December 2004
Protected area: Within the rectangle whose corners lie at the points described by the following:
NW 50 39.8971N 001 55.5905W NE 50 39.9201N 001 55.5137W SE 50 39.8225N 001 55.4414W SW 50 39.7994N 001 55.5182W
No part of the restricted area lies above the high-water mark of ordinary spring tides.
Documentary History: The site was discovered 2004 as a result of geophysical investigations by Wessex Archaeology (WA) on behalf of the Poole Harbour Commissioners and Poole Borough Council. A subsequent diving assessment by WA in November 2004 identified the site as probably that of an armed 17th century wooden vessel and therefore potentially of national significance.
Archaeological History: Following archaeological assessment in 2004, this wreck is thought to represent the remains of an early seventeenth century armed vessel. Since the site first came to attention it has proven to be unstable and subject to dramatic shifts in exposure levels. In 2006 sediment monitoring stakes were positioned on site and by 2008 these stakes have revealed up to 300mm loss in sediment across the site, resulting in new exposure. This exposure and the rapid degradation of archaeological material have resulted in the site becoming at risk.
The site represents the remains of an unidentified wooden sailing vessel lying to the eastern edge of the Swash Channel. Two large sections of the hull survive, including the rare survival of top timbers. The dimensions of the vessel have not yet been ascertained but it is thought it was at least 25 metres long, or even larger. The site may not be that of the loss itself, but of a debris site which is located at some distance from the actual wreck site. Dating evident recovered includes Rhenish stoneware dated to around 1600 - 1620 and dendrochronological work undertaken by Lampeter University has provided a felling date for a single timber of post 1585. The evidence to date suggest a that the wreck is of a relatively, for the period, high status ship.
No cargo has been found and only a few cast iron muzzle-loading guns located, making the function and identification of the vessel and the circumstances of her loss difficult. The limited pottery evidence may indicate a date of loss in the mid-seventeenth century, but the material may be intrusive.
The vessel appears to have been clad in wooden sheathing, a practice introduced in English ships in the sixteenth century; because of the investment involved, this may indicate that the vessel was a long-distance trader, possibly in tropical waters.
Idnetified circular ports are thought to be more likely to be of southern European origin but northern-built vessels did have them [including the Vasa in Stockholm]. The sole dendrochronological sample indicates that at least one of the vessel's timbers originated in Holland or Germany, although this is not necessarily conclusive.
Some exposed timbers are heavily eroded and colonised by marine growth, whilst others appear to be pristine and show evidence of details of construction, tooling, and maker's marks. This may be evidence that the majority of the remains have only recently been subjected to exposure. The timbers and much of the site itself appear to be undergoing fairly rapid exposure and degradation.
An area of ceramic building material, cemented in place, is thought to represent the remains of a gallery hearth, indicating that much of the overall assemblage remains in situ or with relatively little disturbance. A millstone is present, as is cordage, in a very good state of preservation, indicating an archaeologically secure context within the main structure of the vessel, with little later intrusion.
The site is currently unstable owing to the limited depth of burial and may be vulnerable to hydrodynamic changes. Given the current level of vulnerability it would appear that the vessel has been more deeply buried until relatively recently. The cause for this instability cannot be fully ascertained but may possibly be ascribed to the dredging of the Swash Channel, among other factors.
Work by Bournemouth University has indicated that the site is uncovering from an eroding seabed and is then biologically degraded by aggressive marine wood borers. Investigations have included the identification of warm water species that can be interpreted as an indication of global warming.
Books and journals
Wessex Archaeology, , 'Wessex Archaeology' in Poole Harbour Channel Deepening and Beneficial Use Scheme: Swash Channel Designated Wreck: Mitigation Works, (May 2006)
Swash Channel, Poole Harbour Approach, Dorset: Designated Site Assessment: Archaeological Report,
The above chart is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale chart, please see the attached PDF - 1000082 .pdf
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End of official listing