The Archaeology of the Royal Navy

On 28 April 2018 Bournemouth University held their third maritime archaeology conference, with the theme: the archaeology of the Royal Navy. Alistair Byford-Bates and Danielle Wilkinson of the Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine team from Salisbury attended. With Danielle recently joining the team as a Project Manager, it was a chance for her to meet maritime archaeologists from Bournemouth University, with whom Wessex Archaeology worked on the Swash Channel wreck. The conference provided a fantastic opportunity to find out more about some of the latest ideas and developments in the archaeology of the Royal Navy. 

Talks covered a wide variety of issues, including the currently limited archaeological knowledge we have of the medieval English navies, the history of the Mary Rose, the Sound of Mull wrecks, on which our own Graham Scott worked on the Cromwellian Warship, the Swan, wrecked off Duart Castle, and even appeared on the cover of the monograph. We look forward to the report next year on the Dartmouth site. Dave Parham, Associate Professor at Bournemouth University, gave an update on the Alderney Elizabethan shipwreck and Brian Lavery presented on ‘The French Influence on British Shipbuilding − a Reappraisal’. Dan Pascoe looked at ‘Working the Guns of the Royal Navy 1665−1758’. It was fascinating to hear a Danish perspective from Tine Karlsen on the recovery of over 4000 items from the wrecks of the 2nd Rate HMS St George and the 3rd Rate HMS Defence lost on Christmas Day 1811 on the Danish coast and now housed in a purpose-built museum. The final talk of the day was by Jeremy Michell of the National Maritime Museum on ‘Erebus and Terror: Excavating the Archives and the Arctic’. His talk showed the importance of using both archaeological research and the documentary records to understand the modifications carried out to the two former bomb ships. An amusing aside was the withdrawal of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ from the ship’s library before they left London.

Overall, it was a successful and well received event, with the opportunity to network and discuss a wide range of topics with leading archaeologists, divers, other organisations and authors.

By Alistair Byford-Bates