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West Bay

Location: Outer Pollock Reef, West Bay, Dorset
Age / period: post medieval (1627-1750)
List entry number: 1000083
Reason for designation: archaeological significance
Depth: 12m

Discovery and investigation

The West Bay wreck, located west of the Outer Pollock Reef, West Bay, Dorset, was discovered in 2004 by recreational divers and reported to the Dorset Coast Forum. English Heritage then became involved.

The archaeological contractor determined that the site is made up of a low mound of heavily concreted iron bars containing a heavily concreted iron gun as well as a possible 17th century muzzle-loading bronze gun of European or Eastern origin.

The remains lie in approximately 12m of water and the surrounding seabed comprises generally fine sand although the iron bar mound lies on an area of large cobbles. Analysis of hard slate and quartzite (ballast?) samples recovered from this area suggests a derivation from south-west England or Northern France.

The presence of the large quantity of iron bars does suggest that they formed part of a cargo and it is thought that the site may be the remains of a merchant vessel. The dating of the site is reliant on the bronze gun which is considered to be no later than 1750, but perhaps as early as 1627.

Reports received through local authorities indicated that the integrity of the site was threatened by planned salvage attempts to recover the bronze gun. One attempt was apparently cut short by the contractor's presence on site. This prompted English Heritage to recommend emergency designation to the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites. This duly came into effect on the 20 July 2005.

Further work

Bournemouth University has stated its interest (with support from English Heritage) in undertaking a three-year research project on the site, of both field and archive assessment. The intention is to re-examine the designation status of the site once this research is completed.

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