Tudor shipwreck to be excavated on Kent beach

Contents of 400-year-old vessel could offer ‘marvellous’ insight into maritime history

Tankerton wreck
(Image credit: Timescapes)

A 400-year-old shipwreck hailed as a “marvellous” historical find is to be excavated and preserved on the Kent beach where it was discovered.

Archaeologists will work at Tankerton Beach, near Whitstable, this week to uncover the remains of the ship, whose exposed timber measures around 12 metres long.

The vessel, whose identity is not yet known, will then be examined by experts who believe that its contents may offer precious insight into life and trade in Tudor England.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

“The hull's construction suggests it is a late 16th or early 17th century single-masted merchant ship of around 100 to 200 tonnes”, the BBC reports.

Examination of an oak plank concluded that the wood came from “woodland in southern Britain and was felled in 1531”, Sky News reports, while other samples “were tentatively dated to the 16th century”.

As for its cargo, experts believe that the boat could have been transporting a substance called copperas, also known as green vitriol, a compound used to make ink and dye. The Whitstable area was home to several copperas works during the 16th century, the i newspaper reports.

The skeleton of the vessel was spotted in the mudflats last year by local history buffs with a far more recent time period in their sights.

“Our group of volunteers was looking for exploded World War II pillboxes along the Kent coast,” said Mark Harrison, director of amateur archaeology society Timescapes.

"Adjacent to a lump of exploded concrete, we were amazed to see the timbers of a ship appearing out of the sand.”

After consultation with Historic England, the public body which advises the government on the preservation of heritage sites, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has designated the wreck, along with another in Camber Sands, East Sussex, for protection.

Michael Ellis, heritage minister at the department, said that the shipwreck was “a marvellous discovery that will give us another opportunity to uncover more about what life at sea was like hundreds of years ago”.

“It is important that we protect it to learn more about our impressive maritime industry and ensure that it is preserved for future generations,” he said.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.