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Seaton Carew

Location: Hartlepool, Teesside
Age / period: post medieval (presumed 18th century)
List entry number: 1000077
Reason for designation: archaeological significance
Depth: intertidal

Wreck history and loss

Despite a frustrating lack of evidence about the vessel, it is thought she comprises of the remains of an English collier brig from the 18th century, thought to have been beached at Seaton Carew during a storm. She is a wooden sailing vessel built primarily of oak.

The vessel may have been wrecked after failing to make Hartlepool or the Tees during a storm, or may have been deliberately beached to save life in similar conditions. A number of 'missing' frames on the vessel's port side near the stern, may have been the result of collision damage. Alternatively, breaching the hull on the beach would have made it easier to salvage any coal on board.

Seaton Carew Vessel Remains
Massive sand loss from the site in December 2003 © Tees Archaeology

Discovery and investigation

The site was first located in 1996 on the beach at Seaton Carew by a local resident after a storm had stripped sand from the beach to reveal the lower portion of a hull, apparently upright and close to low water.

Following archaeological investigation, the surviving hull was noted to include 91 starboard and 71 port frames. Although the frames stood to 1.5m above the sand, they had been uniformly truncated- possibly at a former beach level. The planks, frames and ceiling were in good condition and the keelson has steps for two masts indicative that she was a brig, and probably the remains of an eighteenth century English collier brig.

The surviving remains, surveyed in 1996, measured 25.1m long x 7.07m broad at the widest point. She is carvel-built and fastened with treenails, with later debris also located at the site. Timbers sampled largely proved to be of oak, although a sprung plank at the bow was elm and a larch ceiling plank were also noted. The hull appears to have had wooden, as opposed to copper, sheathing.

A search of the Tees Archaeology Maritime Historic Environment Record (HER) revealed 51 vessels known to have been lost in the vicinity of Seaton Carew, 29 of which were noted as having been stranded or lost in October 1824 following a particularly violent storm.

Although common, collier brigs have not been well preserved, making the site a rare and well preserved example of an important part of 18th century seafaring.

Further work

Although the site has been regularly monitored by Tees Archaeology, it has generally remained completely covered by sand. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the wreck is relatively well protected.

Tees Archaeology has reported that local residents with direct knowledge of the beach at Seaton Carew had not been aware of this substantial wreck's existence which suggests that exposure is a very unusual occurrence.

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