England's Shipping

Wessex Archaeology, 2007

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Wessex Archaeology (2007) England's Shipping [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1000276

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England's Shipping was a pioneering project that researched ways of mapping evidence of historic shipping in UK waters in order to improve the incorporation of such evidence into the assessment of archaeological potential of the seabed.

Current assessments of maritime archaeological potential for the purposes of Environmental Impact Assessments ahead of marine aggregate extraction are limited principally to the location of recorded wreck sites from the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO), and recorded losses from the National Monuments Record (NMR). However, a large component of the assessment of archaeological potential of any area of seabed is related to understanding traditional trade routes and densities of shipping movements which may have given rise to an equal or even greater number of unrecorded shipwrecks over time.

For England's Shipping, information has been collated about traditional trade routes and patterns of shipping movements; modern and historic approaches to ports and harbours; incidents of contemporaneous large scale shipping losses such as sea battles; navigational hazards; and historic shipping losses where physical remains have been identified on the seabed.

To address the bias towards the post 18th century information within the NMR, the project focussed on the medieval period. Details of shipping movements before the 15th century are scarce. The available information comprises incomplete customs records and port books, and occasional references in other contemporary sources to shipwrecks and high-profile voyages. However, during the 15th and 16th centuries the quality and quantity of data improves. Where port books and customs accounts survive it is possible to reconstruct much of the merchant shipping movements into and out of a port. The amount and quality of information concerning the movement of military shipping also improves along with the increased number of surviving log books.

The final product of England's Shipping is a proto-type of a digital atlas to be made available to researchers and other users by the National Monuments Record. The atlas complements existing information about individual known wrecks, by allowing these shipwrecks to be assessed against a multitude of collated information about shipping patterns which can be searched and visually represented in multiple ways.