Aerial image of the early-18th century wreck of the Old Brig emerging from mud and sand of the Thames Estuary at Seasalter, north Kent.
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Archaeologists are excavating the early-18th century wreck of the Old Brig at Seasalter, north Kent © Tom Banbury/ Timescapes Kent
Archaeologists are excavating the early-18th century wreck of the Old Brig at Seasalter, north Kent © Tom Banbury/ Timescapes Kent

'Old Brig' Wreck Excavation at Seasalter, Kent

Archaeologists are excavating the well-preserved wreck of an early-18th century ship known as ‘Old Brig’ which lies in the Thames Estuary at Seasalter in north Kent.

The excavation by Wessex Archaeology in partnership with volunteer archaeologists from Timescapes Kent runs from Thursday 4 - Tuesday 9 April 2019 and is funded by Historic England.

Image showing the early 18th century wreck of the 'Old Brig' at Seasalter, north Kent with volunteer archaeologists from Timescapes Kent.
Volunteer archaeologists from Timescapes Kent at the 'Old Brig' wreck site © Timescapes Kent

The wreck of this two-masted square-rigged ship is virtually complete and has been exceptionally well-preserved under the mud and silt. However, shifting sands and tides on the beach at Seasalter have now exposed a large part of the wreck where it stands up to half a metre high at low tide.

What the archaeologists hope to learn

Archaeologists hope to find out what caused it to run aground and to determine whether it was a former warship or a merchant ship that was then used by oyster fishers and smugglers. It is also hoped a dendochronologist will be able to accurately date the ship by analysis of the growth rings contained in samples of the ship’s timbers.

The early-18th century wreck of the 'Old Brig' at Seasalter, north Kent.
By taking samples of the timbers, it's hoped a dendrochronologist will be able to accurately date the 'Old Brig' © Timescapes Kent

In the 18th century the marshes of north Kent were a base for the illegal trade in products such as brandy, silk and tea. The smugglers also assisted in the repatriation of French prisoners of War who had escaped from the prison hulks moored on the River Medway.

The results of this excavation will determine whether Historic England believes it is significant enough to be recommended for protection by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The ‘Old Brig’ is located on private land within a commercial fishery, so there is no public access during the excavation.

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