The Archaeology

2087

Sites found included historic wrecks, and evidence for crashed aircraft and defensive structures dating to the First and Second World Wars. The potential was well known – earlier investigations by the Port of London Authority had identified a 16th century armed merchant vessel with cannons bearing the crest of merchant and entrepreneur Thomas Gresham who served Henry VIII, Edward IV and Elizabeth I. The ‘Princes Channel Wreck’, as it is known, is investigated here
 
Work for DP World London Gateway included the investigation of a currently unidentified late 19th century wreck dubbed ‘The Brick Barge’ – a vessel involved in the local trade of building materials along the estuary. It also involved the investigation of the Dovenby, built in 1891, which travelled as far as Sydney and San Francisco on her first major voyage in 1892, but which sank in the estuary while under tow, after colliding in heavy fog with the Dutch Steam ship Sindoro
 
There are also important archaeological remains in the estuary dating from the Second World War. For example, evidence was recovered of the submarine boom that was built from Shoeburyness in Essex to Sheerness in Kent. The estuary also holds the remains of vessels sunk during the conflict, including the SS Letchworth, sunk by a German aircraft whilst transporting coal, and the MV Ryal which was mined in 1941. 
 
The remains of aircraft have also been found during work. In August 2011, 45 pieces of aircraft wreckage were recovered, and further work at the site revealed an intriguing story of secretive Luftwaffe units, a rare prototype reconnaissance aircraft flown by veteran test pilots, and the decorated Norwegian fighter ace that sent it to a watery grave. This story has been published by DP World London Gateway and is now available online.