Protection of Wrecks Act 1973

1139 Surface supply diver

Between 2003 and 2013 Wessex Archaeology monitored more than 54 wrecks around the coasts of Britain and Northern Ireland. The sites are designated by the 1973 Protection of Wrecks Act. In 2013 this work was extended for a further two years as part of the Heritage at Risk contract in support of Historic England's role in relation to marine designation and includes work on both designated and currently undesignated marine assets.

The designated wrecks protected under the Act range from cargoes of Middle Bronze Age metalwork (c 1,500BC- 1,100BC), including axes, to the Resurgam, an early submarine built in AD1879. Under the Act, no one is allowed to dive onto or disturb the wrecks unless they have a licence. Many of the wrecks are being investigated by groups of amateur or professional divers who have a licence under the Act to visit and survey the site. Wessex Archaeology’ work includes monitoring, complementing and assisting the work of these local groups. Wessex Archaeology helps these groups maintain their high standard of work, liaises between local groups and heritage bodies, and gives out information on the wrecks.
The monitoring work is managed overall by Historic England on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland, Cadw, the Environment and Heritage Service Northern Ireland and Historic England itself.
For more information about the contract and about Wessex Archaeology’s involvement please click the links to the right. 


1141 HMS/m Holland
Between 2003 and 2013 the English Heritage (now Historic England) Maritime Team managed the contract for the Provision of Archaeological Services in Relation to the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) on behalf of English Heritage (now Historic England), Historic Scotland (now Historic Environment Scotland), Cadw and the Environment and Heritage Service Northern Ireland. This was split into two contracts, one for England and the other for the devolved authorities in 2013.
In April 2013, Wessex Archaeology was awarded a two year contract for work in English waters. The objectives of the contract include:
Fieldwork included diving and surveying, including geophysical survey on a number of designated and/or undesignated sites each year. Fieldwork on wrecks may be up to 14 days, though in general averaged about seven days. Assessment typically involved a few days diving/surveying for each site.

Wessex Archaeology and the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 Contract

1142 Swash Channel Wreck
In spring 2003, Wessex Archaeology was awarded the contract for the Provision of Archaeological Services in Relation to the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973). The contract started May 2003 and ran until March 2013.
Wessex Archaeology carried out a number of weeks’ of fieldwork each year for this contract, consisting of work on designated sites plus assessments of sites that may have warranted designation.
Wessex Archaeology used both surface supply and scuba dive teams deployed from our Salisbury and Edinburgh office locations. Each team typically comprised four commercially-qualified diving archaeologists drawn from Wessex Archaeology’s staff, supported locally by other commercially-qualified diving archaeologists where appropriate. Divers are equipped with digital video and digital stills cameras, and an integrated diver tracking and recording system.
Wessex Archaeology has the expertise to undertake a broad range of other forms of investigation, including geophysical and ROV (remote operated vehicle) survey, if required.
A board of consultants, drawn from experienced marine archaeologists based throughout the UK provide advice on approaches, methods and interpretations.


Wrecks from around the UK

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