Wreck at Westward Ho!


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Wreck centred on SS 43130 29780 at Westward Ho!, Devon.


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Wreck centred on SS 43130 29780 at Westward Ho!, Devon.
Torridge (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


The wreck of a pre-1840 wooden sailing vessel thought to have been built in the mid- to late 18th century and wrecked at Westward Ho!, probably within the same period, and likely to be that of the Sally, lost 1769.

Reasons for Designation

The wreck of this mid-to-late 18th century sailing vessel has been scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: late 18th century shipwreck sites are rare and under-represented in comparison with the significant documentary record for vessel losses of this period, with the remains of vessels capable of providing a credible identification from the archaeological evidence being rarer still;

* Survival: despite the effects of erosion the wreck retains key characteristic features, such as its method of construction and orientation, that render it capable of a strong potential identification, most likely that of the Sally of 1769;

* Potential: it has considerable potential for providing an insight into mid- to late 18th century vessel construction and a characteristic trade during this period, specifically the Port trade with Portugal that was particularly prevalent in the Bristol Channel in this period;

* Documentation: the vessel's importance is enhanced by documentary evidence recording its sightings from the 1850s to a dendrochronological survey previously undertaken, and by surviving direct documentary evidence for its likely identification;

* Historic: mercantile vessels were a highly significant part of England's contemporary commercial ambitions, coinciding with the zenith of an internationally significant trade in port wine in the later 18th and early 19th centuries.


The wreck of a wooden sailing vessel at Westward Ho! has been revealed on a regular basis due to sand erosion since at least the 1960s and may be identifiable with a 'very old wreck' said to have been seen in the vicinity in the 1850s.

A dendrochronological assessment undertaken in 2005 suggested that the vessel was built of English timber during the period c.1752 to c.1800. The vessel was again exposed in 2014-15 and site observations suggest that the vessel's manner of loss is legible in the archaeological evidence. It sank on an even keel, bows to the seaward, west of a quay or jetty feature also exposed by sand erosion, suggesting that it sank at anchor.

The Bristol Channel saw a rise in traffic through Britain's westward-facing expansion of international trade and domestic circulation of goods and raw materials by sea, fuelled by the Industrial Revolution. Barnstaple and its neighbouring ports benefited from these volumes of shipping with a commensurate rise in traffic exposed to the natural hazards of the neighbouring headlands. Barnstaple (or Bideford) Bay thus became a key location for contemporary vessel losses, with significant numbers of vessels known to have been driven ashore nearby.

Shipping casualty records held with the National Record of the Historic Environment offer opportunities for the likely identification of the wreck at Westward Ho! as being that of the Sally, lost 1769.


The wreck is located in the inter-tidal zone at Westward Ho! and has been uncovered on a regular basis since at least the 1960s and possibly as far back as the 1850s. When uncovered it can be seen to lie on an even keel, stern to the landward and bows to the seaward.

In 2005 the wreck was measured at 23.5m long by 7m wide, although it had formerly been longer at 25m prior to the collapse of the stern. The vessel comprises the complete outline of a hull structure with eroded frames that protrude above the sand level. It is some 40 frames long, fastened entirely with timber fastenings (treenails) that are consistent with a date of build in the second half of the 18th century as suggested in the dendrochronological analysis. A vessel of this date of build could plausibly have been lost in the vicinity up to around 1830.

The wreck of the Sally, which 'struck aft' on 'Northam Sands' after driving from her anchors while bound for Bristol with port and shumack (dried leaves used in tanning) from Oporto in 1769, is a plausible candidate for the wreck site. This hypothesis is consistent with the dendrochronological analysis, site observations and local geomorphology, and accounts of a 'very old wreck' being seen in the area in the 1850s - the place name of Westward Ho! is anachronistic, not being in use until 1855 following the publication of Charles Kingsley's book of this name.

Extent of Scheduling: the scheduled area has been defined from the centre point of the wreck at SS 43130 29780 with a radius of 35m to ensure that the visible structure and any buried remains are adequately protected.


Devon and Dartmoor Historic Environment Record (HER) MDV50848, accessed 28 January 2016 from http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV50848&resourceID=104
National Record of the Historic Environment record for the Sally, lost in 1769, UID 1062411, accessed 04.01.2016 from http://pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1062411
National Record of the Historic Environment record for this site, UID 1590972, accessed 04.01.2016 from http://pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1590972
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 21 September 1769, No.466, p3
Bristol Journal, 23 September 1769, No.2,788, p3
Felix Farley's Bristol Journal, 3 February 1770, [no issue number], p3
Hughes, B. 2007. "Attempting to name the large wreck on Westward Ho! beach", North Devon Heritage 19, pp10-12
Lloyd's List, 22 September 1769, No.3,513


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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