Archaeological divers to investigate 1838 shipwreck

Diver investigating a wreck ahead of investigations of The Forfarshire off the Northumberland coast

From Berwick Advertiser

A nineteenth century shipwreck could become protected as part of a special anniversary project by English Heritage.

Archaeological divers are to investigate the wreck of the Forfarshire, the paddle steamer that sank off the Northumberland coast in 1838 and whose survivors were famously rescued by Grace Darling and her father.

On the 40th anniversary of the Protection of Wrecks Act (July 18), English Heritage announced a special project to investigate 88 unrecorded pre-1840 shipwreck sites around England - including the Forfarshire - with a view to giving the most important ones protected status.

The 88 sites were revealed last year in a desk survey that looked at the archaeological evidence of watercraft from the earliest times to about 1840 using new English Heritage guidance on early shipwreck sites.

Sites that will be investigated more closely include the Forfarshire, as well as a possible Tudor wreck on Walney Island near Morecambe Bay and an early barge called a ‘Mersey flat’ located in the north-west.

Wreck sites that pre-date 1840 comprise just four percent of the 37,000 known and dated sites as the majority of such sites are post-1914.

The investigation will address watercraft from the earliest times through to steam tugs and paddle steamers working in estuaries and docks which began to be common by the 1840s.

Divers will submit a full report on all the sites investigated to date to English Heritage who will determine which wreck, if any, is nationally important.

Those that meet the criteria will be recommended in a shortlist to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in the autumn.

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