HeritageGateway - Home

Login  |  Register
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.


HER Number:MDV50848
Name:Beached Vessel at Westward Ho! Northam

Summary

The outline of a beached vessel is visible at low tide, both from the foreshore and on aerial photographs of 1989 onwards.

Location

Grid Reference:SS 431 297
Map Sheet:SS42NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishNortham
DistrictTorridge
Ecclesiastical ParishNORTHAM

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS42NW/29
  • Pastscape: 1062408
  • Pastscape: 1062411

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • WRECK (Post Medieval to XIX - 1540 AD to 1900 AD (Between))

Full description

Historic England, 13/01/2016, Wreck at Westward Ho! Northam (Report - Survey). SDV359472.

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. The factual details are being assessed as the basis for a proposed addition to The National Heritage List for England.

In 2012, Wessex Archaeology (acting in their capacity as the Government's archaeological contractor) identified a number of vessels for further assessment as part of the strategic desk-based Pre-1840 Ships and Boats Project, of which this wreck site, known as the wreck at Westward Ho!, also known as WA No.253, was one.

History
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 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. Barnstaple or Bideford Bay was a key location for wreck sites during the 18th century at a time of expansion of Britain's westward-facing trades to Ireland, the Americas, and the Continent, situated as it is between the headlands of Baggy Point to the north and Hartland Point to the south.

Details
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, within its own scour pit that does not fully drain even at low tide. 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 site is significant in permitting an unusually legible manner of loss permitting a credible identification, particularly for a wreck of this level of survival and date. The wreck of the Sally, which 'struck aft' on 'Northam Sands' after driving from her anchors, while bound for Bristol with port from Oporto in 1769, is a plausible candidate for the wreck site in being consistent with the dendrochronological analysis, site observations, 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 eponymous book.) Although further archaeological evidence is required to confirm this identification, at the very least the Sally offers a plausible proxy for understanding the wreck site.


Chapman, C., 13/03/2016, Beached Vessel at Wesward Ho! (Ground Photograph). SDV359471.


Unknown, 1973, Westward Ho! Wreck (Ground Photograph). SDV358901.


Larn, R., 1974, Devon Shipwrecks, 192 (Monograph). SDV741.

About 1770 a large Dutch East Indiaman went ashore at Westward Ho! and was wrecked. At irregular intervals, the timbers of a ship uncover on the beach.


Keene, P, 1986, Classic landforms of the North Devon coast (Monograph). SDV340187.


Ordnance Survey, 1989, OS/89115, NMR OS/89115 233-234 04-MAY-1989 (Aerial Photograph). SDV349086.

A wrecked vessel is visible in plan.


Heal, S. V. E., 1990, Westward Ho! Foreshore Observation March/April 1990 (Un-published). SDV347255.

Wreck at approximately SS43453025. One of three wooden wrecks visible with ribs, some strakes and ceilings and stem and stern posts protruding above the clay and sand. Heaby timber predominantly joined with trenails. Photograph, Wreck 1.


Hale, C., 1993, Beached Vessel (Ground Photograph). SDV5129.

Base of beached vessel visible at low tide.


Hughes, B. D., 1995, Three Old Wooden Shipwrecks at Westward Ho! (Correspondence). SDV9880.

The largest of 3 wooden wrecks. Possibly the one recorded in mid 19 th century as being "a very old wreck". Observed over the past 30 years. No metal fastenings found, only 'trunnels', apparent dimensions 80 feet long, 24 feet wide. Frames (circa 40 visible at times) 7 by 4 inches timbers, between 9 by 14 inches centres. Outer planking 2 inches thick. Inner planking (ceiling) 1.5 inches thick.


Hughes, B. D., 1996-1997, Notes on Two Wrecks at Westward Ho!, 8 (Article in Serial). SDV5132.

The larger of 2 wooden ship hulls. Length 82 feet, width 25 feet. Lying roughly north-south parallel to and 300 yards seaward of present base of pebble ridge. Bows seem to be at north end and are almost semicircular, stern is more oval. Frames are of oak varying in cross section from timbers 9 inches square at bow and stern to more widely spaced 12 inches by 8 inches frames amidships. Many frames are doubled and joined by 1.25 inches diameter oak trunnels. The 2 inches planking is joined to the frames by trunnels, as is the 1.25 inches inner ceiling. Hull slightly tilted to sea with circa 4-5 feet of hull still under sand and large pebbles. The tilt has left the port side bilge strakes protected and in position. The starboard ones are missing. These strakes are made up of 2 10 inches by 5 inches timbers laid edge to edge. Amidships is a section of doubled planking above the strakes, made up of an inner plank of 3.5 inches timber and 1.5 inches outer plank with what could be a layer of felt in between. The only metal found on the hill was an iron pin in the upper edge of one of the bilge strakes on the port quarter.
The wreck lies on a bearing of 340 degrees magnetic North from corner of wall at top of slipway. Northam church tower has a bearing of 120 degrees from the wreck. As a wooden vessel would be driven ashore to the limit of high water and would settle into a scour pit, we can assume that this ship went aground at the base of the existing pebbleridge. Keene estimates the average landward movement of the pebbleridge as one yard per year over the past 125 years. Inspection of maps and Admiralty charts dated 1809 to 1995 also gives an average of one yard per year. The position of the wreck would therefore suggest a date at the end of the 17 th century. This would be consistent with the shape and trunnel construction.


Nayling, N., 2001, Westward Ho (Correspondence). SDV5133.

Wreck noted at NGR SS 4313 2977.


Nayling, N., 2002, Email re Westward Ho! (Correspondence). SDV6212.


Horner, W., 2002, Westward Ho! (Personal Comment). SDV6213.

site visit 28th March 2002. Wreck visible.


Next Perspectives, 2007, Next Perspectives PGA Tile Ref:, Next Perspectives PGA Tile Ref: SS4329 04-MAY-2007 (Aerial Photograph). SDV349344.

The wreck remains visible.


Collings, A. G. + Manning, P. T. + Valentin, J., 2007, The North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Phase 1. Archaeological Survey. Summary Report, No. 128 (Report - Assessment). SDV339712.


Unknown, 2011, Beehive. Connecting Your Community (Website). SDV347252.

Exposed again in February 2005 when it measured only 77 feet (23.5 metres) long as the stern post has fallen forwards and sideways. The outer planking is of oak and ceiling or inner planking is 2 inches (50 millimetres) thick and also oak. It has been suggested it could be the Salisbury of London lost on the night of 2nd-3rd March 1759 on Northam Burrows or the Sally of Bristol wrecked on Northam Sands on 17th September 1769. No other wrecks of sufficient size are recorded until mid 19th century, when the Pace was wrecked 28th Dec 1868, but was later salvaged.
This year (2006) it has remained covered by the sands.


Historic Environment Record, 2011, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV347258.

Pastscape gives a date of 1750 for Salisbury's wreck.


Hegarty, C. + Knight, S., 2011 - 2012, North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty National Mapping Programme Project (Interpretation). SDV349018.

A wreck is visible in plan on the beach north of Westward Ho!, at circa SS431297, on aerial photographs of 1989 onwards. The wreck is orientated roughly north- northeast by south-soutwest and measures circa 22 metres long and seven metres wide.


Grant, M. J. + Sturt, F. + Dix, J., 2015, Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Phase One Desk-Based Assessment for South-West England: North Coast of Devon (excluding Exmoor) and North Coast of Cornwall: Project Design, Fig 6 (Un-published). SDV358399.

The largest of at least two wrecks observed on the beach in the inter-tidal zone at Westward Ho! which has been uncovered and reburied repeatedly over recent decades. Comparison of aerial
photograph time slices (2007, 2009 and 2013) demonstrates how dynamic the beach is at this site. By comparison, a distinct mound is present in this location within the 2007, 2008 and 2014 LiDAR data indicating that although the wreck is routinely covered (and often cannot be seen through aerial photographs) it retains an elevated topography on the beach.


Historic England, 2016, Wreck at Westward Ho (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV359751.

In 2012 Wessex Archaeology (acting in their capacity as the Government's archaeological contractor) identified a number of vessels for further assessment as part of the strategic Pre-1840 Ships and Boats Project, of which this wreck site (known as the wreck at Westward Ho!, Devon, also known as WA No.253, and with a likely identification as the Sally of 1769), was one.

The site lies in the inter-tidal zone at Westward Ho! in Devon and has been regularly exposed since at least the 1960s, most recently during the storms of early 2014 which similarly exposed other foreshore sites elsewhere. It was still visible in June 2015.

The site consists of a wrecked but coherent timber hull structure visible in full outline. Observations of the site suggest that there is additional well-preserved timber structure surviving to a depth of at least 1.2m below the level regularly exposed.

This wreck is believed to be that of a cargo vessel. From its location some 300m west of the pebble ridge at Westward Ho!, formerly believed to be retreating landward at the rate of circa 1m a year, it was initially dated to between the late 17th to early 18th centuries. A dendrochronological assessment of the wreck site in 2005 suggested that the vessel was built between 1752 and 1800, with a consequent loss date of up to 1830.

The site known as the wreck at Westward Ho!, Northam, Devon, comprises the coherent timber hull structure forming the complete outline of a vessel, located in the inter-tidal zone at the terminus of a creek. The wreck lies parallel to the beach, north and seaward of the pebble ridge that is a distinctive feature of this stretch of coastline, with its bow pointing to seaward (north) and its stern facing to landward (south). Site observations in 2015 suggest that it sank on an even keel west of a quay or jetty feature (whose supporting timbers were also revealed by sand erosion at the same time), suggesting that it sank at anchor. Measurements in 2005 indicated that the vessel was some 23.5m long x 7m wide, having formerly been longer at 25m prior to collapse at the stern.

Dendrochronological assessment indicates that the vessel is of English origin and was built between 1752 and 1800, with a date of loss likely to be any time within that period, or possibly later, up to circa 1830 on the basis of the known life-span of vessels of this type and size.

Following an assessment of shipping casualty records held within the National Record of the Historic
Environment (NRHE), the most credible candidate for the identification of this wreck is the Sally, lost in 1769, which 'struck aft' on Northam Sands while inbound to Bristol with wine and shumack (dried leaves used in tanning) from Oporto, Portugal. The reported loss at Northam is not inconsistent with the location at Westward Ho! since the town was not so named until after the publication of Charles Kingsley's novel of that name in 1855.

The wreck has been regularly exposed at intervals since at least the 1960s, possibly as early as the 1850s when a 'very old wreck' was reported in the vicinity, and most recently following storm conditions in early 2014 when it remained exposed up to and including summer 2015.

The period c.1750 to c.1830, covering the likely timescale for the build, use and loss of the vessel, saw the apogee of the wooden sailing vessel at a time when Britain's colonial, military and commercial ambitions resulted in the growth of its naval and mercantile fleets, the evolution of specialist vessel types such as the schooner (a sailing ship with two or more masts), and the adoption of innovations such as copper sheathing and fastenings, first introduced on naval vessels in the late 18th century. This period of exceptional growth is reflected in the numbers of recorded wrecks for this 80-year period, at 28% of all wrecks within England's Territorial Sea in the National Record for the Historic Environment (NRHE). This commercial growth resulted in a diversity of smaller vessel types serving a variety of trades and routes which are not always captured in the archaeological record. Such vessels lagged behind the technological innovations of larger sea-going vessels, with traditional methods of construction such as using treenails (timber hull fastenings) continuing in use for lesser vessels of many types after the adoption of copper fastenings for larger vessels in the C18.

The wreck at Westward Ho! belongs to a period of intensive commercial and naval development of both vessels and routes. The potential identification as the Sally is consistent with site observations for date, location, and manner of loss. If it is the Sally the wreck represents an international trade then at its apogee viz. the introduction of the fortification process to create the port wine that is known today, a process that was perfected (after long development) in the mid- C18 to mid C19. It is consistent with the majority of documented wrecks involved in the port trade coinciding with this same period.

Although records of documented losses for the period c.1750 to c.1830 are not rare, comprising some 10,800 known incidents logged in the NRHE (and therefore almost one-third of the shipwrecks known to have occurred within England's Territorial Sea) by comparison surviving physical remains for this period are significantly under-represented in the record. Only 40 wreck sites from this period have been located, of which seven designated sites are directly datable to this period. Another designated site, the Seaton Carew wreck (near Hartlepool, County Durham), with an 18th century date, has the potential to fall within this period; a further site (the Daresbury, located at Sutton Lock, Cheshire) originates from the same period but was abandoned as a hulk much later, after c. 1864 when it was converted to a floating crane. Both designated and undesignated wreck sites within this period are dominated by naval and other fighting vessels (privateers) and significant ocean-going armed merchant vessels such as East India Company ships. In addition, seven vessels surviving in preservation from the period: three are naval vessels (HMS Victory, built 1765, Portsmouth; HMS Trincomalee, 1816, Hartlepool and HMS Unicorn, 1824, Dundee). The remaining four comprise a diversity of vessel types not seen in the archaeological record: the Peggy yacht, built 1789, Isle of Man; the Zetland lifeboat, 1802, Redcar; an Oxford racing eight, 1829, Henley-on-Thames; and the William and Emily, an Essex smack of 1830, Brightlingsea, Essex.

The closest parallels among designated sites are three sites of a local coasting type: the Mersey flat (a type of doubled-ended barge) Daresbury of contemporary build, though not a wrecking loss (1417593); an unknown wreck site of earlier date near Bamburgh, Northumberland (1418570), probably a collier (both Scheduled); and the potentially contemporary Seaton Carew wreck, County Durham (1000077), a collier brig (a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts). All are representative examples of vessels that were once common but have not otherwise survived. The Westward Ho! wreck is likely to fall into this category as well-preserved and datable, albeit rare, remains of a vessel serving the Bristol Channel, with strong potential to be a rare surviving example of an ocean-going vessel engaged in a key 18th century trade not otherwise identifiable elsewhere in the archaeological record.

The discovery of hull remains indicates that this vessel retains archaeological potential. Designation would recognise the rarity of vessel remains of this period in general. Futhermore it would recognise its potential to preserve evidence of a specific trade route that historically had national and international importance, was then at its zenith, and retains a legacy of links between Bristol and Oporto.

The wreck site has been uncovered periodically since at least the 1960s, and has been well-documented
archaeologically and photographically since that time (including a dendrochronological report, which placed the wreck within a build period of c.1752 to c.1800) and a site visit by Historic England staff in 2015. There is additionally extensive secondary discussion concerning the identity of the wreck site.

It has been suggested that this wreck is identifiable, with reports that a 'very old wreck' was seen in the
vicinity in the 1850s. If correct, this suggests that the wreck is likely to date to the earlier part of the period of build. With the exception of some gaps in the documentary evidence (which may indicate nothing more than a lack of vessel casualties in those years) wrecks for this specific area are well documented for the relevant period, up to around 1830.

Among these surviving documented loss reports, the most plausible candidate so far identified is the wreck of the Sally in 1769, with detailed loss reports which tally most closely with site observations regarding the wreck's orientation. If the remains are not those of the Sally, documentation for this vessel nevertheless serves as an appropriate proxy for understanding the loss event as pertaining to the wreck site.

The wreck site at Westward Ho! is believed to be the probable remains of a vessel engaged in the port trade from Oporto. By the very nature of their route, wrecks of Bristol-bound vessels in the wine and associated trades are characteristic of the Bristol Channel coastline.

More specifically, this wreck site has physical group value with a smaller and contemporary or
near-contemporary timber wreck also fastened with treenails which lies further east at Northam Burrows in the inter-tidal zone. This group value may be enhanced by the area’s significant heritage of multiple strandings in a single weather event, typical of the period c.1750 to c. 1830, of which the Sally itself was one.

Additional archaeological and documentary evidence is required to confirm the identification of the wreck as the Sally and to demonstrate what connection, if any, this site has with the Northam site. Together the two sites, even if unrelated in date and function, form a rare example of the result of one or more catastrophic wreck events rather than a context of deliberate abandonment (hulking).

SURVIVAL/CONDITION
The wreck at Westward Ho! comprises the remains of a vessel which survives as a coherent ship outline
visible in the sand, with further timbers buried below the sand level. The manner of loss can be understood through surviving archaeological remains to a degree unusual in the case of such stranded wrecks. Such survival has enabled probable identification with a particular documented wreck, the Sally.

There is significant potential for coherent vessel structure to survive below the present sand level. The site is regularly exposed, most recently in 2014-15, and erosion of sand has led to subsequent erosion of timbers, particularly marked around the treenail holes characteristic of the site. Nevertheless the site appears to be in a reasonably good state of preservation, although each exposure, particularly the most prolonged recent exposure, places the exposed timbers at risk of biological decay.

Scheduling would assist in the protection and management of the site as exposure is likely to continue on a regular basis.

At present the nature of the evidence at this site is not fully understood, although it has a strong claim to be identifiable with the 1769 loss of the Sally. The contemporary documentation associated with this vessel is consistent with both dendrochronological assessment and site observations and the manner of loss can be understood through surviving remains (by comparison the wercks at Bamburgh, Northam Burrows and Minehead have only one side visible).

The site observations demonstrate that the archaeological remains have a strong potential for coherent and well-preserved timber structure. This structure is likely to yield evidence (through further archaeological investigation) that sheds light on a vessel engaged in a nationally important trade not otherwise preserved in the archaeological record.

The archaeological potential of the site is therefore high, in terms both of the vessel structure and of its
associated trade.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION
The wreck of this mid-to-late 18th century sailing vessel is recommended for scheduling 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 like this 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.


Smith, G., 2017, Heritage Gateway feedback about Monument ID: MDV50848 (Correspondence). SDV360010.

The wreck was visible in 1983.


Horner, B., 28/03/2002, Unknown (Ground Photograph). SDV340186.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV339712Report - Assessment: Collings, A. G. + Manning, P. T. + Valentin, J.. 2007. The North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Phase 1. Archaeological Survey. Summary Report. Exeter Archaeology Report. 06.22 (rev.1). A4 Stapled + Digital. No. 128.
SDV340186Ground Photograph: Horner, B.. 28/03/2002. Unknown. Slide.
SDV340187Monograph: Keene, P. 1986. Classic landforms of the North Devon coast. Paperback Volume.
SDV347252Website: Unknown. 2011. Beehive. Connecting Your Community. http://beehive.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk. Website.
SDV347255Un-published: Heal, S. V. E.. 1990. Westward Ho! Foreshore Observation March/April 1990. A4 Single Sheet.
SDV347258Personal Comment: Historic Environment Record. 2011.
SDV349018Interpretation: Hegarty, C. + Knight, S.. 2011 - 2012. North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty National Mapping Programme Project. AC Archaeology Report. ACD383/2/1. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV349086Aerial Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1989. OS/89115. Ordnance Survey Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). NMR OS/89115 233-234 04-MAY-1989.
SDV349344Aerial Photograph: Next Perspectives. 2007. Next Perspectives PGA Tile Ref:. Pan Government Agreement Aerial Photographs. Digital. Next Perspectives PGA Tile Ref: SS4329 04-MAY-2007.
SDV358399Un-published: Grant, M. J. + Sturt, F. + Dix, J.. 2015. Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Phase One Desk-Based Assessment for South-West England: North Coast of Devon (excluding Exmoor) and North Coast of Cornwall: Project Design. University of Southampton. Digital. Fig 6.
SDV358901Ground Photograph: Unknown. 1973. Westward Ho! Wreck. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV359471Ground Photograph: Chapman, C.. 13/03/2016. Beached Vessel at Wesward Ho!. None. Digital.
SDV359472Report - Survey: Historic England. 13/01/2016. Wreck at Westward Ho! Northam. Digital.
SDV359751List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2016. Wreck at Westward Ho. Addition to Schedule. Digital.
SDV360010Correspondence: Smith, G.. 2017. Heritage Gateway feedback about Monument ID: MDV50848. Email. Digital.
SDV5129Ground Photograph: Hale, C.. 1993. Beached Vessel. Unknown.
SDV5132Article in Serial: Hughes, B. D.. 1996-1997. Notes on Two Wrecks at Westward Ho!. North Devon Museum Trust Newsletter. 17. Photocopy + Digital. 8.
SDV5133Correspondence: Nayling, N.. 2001. Westward Ho. Email. A4 Single Sheet.
SDV6212Correspondence: Nayling, N.. 2002. Email re Westward Ho!. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV6213Personal Comment: Horner, W.. 2002. Westward Ho!. A4 Single Sheet.
SDV741Monograph: Larn, R.. 1974. Devon Shipwrecks. Devon Shipwrecks. Hardback Volume. 192.
SDV9880Correspondence: Hughes, B. D.. 1995. Three Old Wooden Shipwrecks at Westward Ho!. Letter. A4 Stapled + Digital.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6132 - North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty NMP Project

Date Last Edited:Jan 19 2017 3:47PM