No. 74 The Bramble Bank

Hoegh Osaka aground on the Bramble Bank: Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Hoegh Osaka aground on the Bramble Bank: Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Inspired by the vicissitudes of the car carrier Hoegh Osaka on the Bramble Bank since January 3, and her safe arrival last night (January 22) in Southampton, I thought I’d take a look this week at wrecks on the Bramble Bank.

Our earliest recorded shipwreck in the locality is an anonymous brig which was reported in Lloyd’s List as going ‘on the Brambles’, and ‘since bulged’, that is, bilged, or ending up with a hole in the bottom of her hull, after a ‘hard gale at NW’ on 18 December 1790. (1)

It can sometimes be very difficult to know the date of the earliest shipwreck on a particular feature: quite apart from the issues of the selective survival of documentary evidence, there is also the vagueness of contemporary reports, characteristic of the 18th century and earlier. It is likewise quite possible that contemporary or earlier wrecks or grounding incidents (in which the ship was, like the Hoegh Osaka, refloated) are masked by the brevity of such reports: a place of loss might simply be specified as ‘near Southampton’, ‘near Portsmouth’, and so on.

From the 19th and 20th centuries, however, a handful of wreck incidents involving the Bramble Bank are recorded, illustrating more regular and accurate reporting, rather than the bank becoming an increasing hazard to maritime traffic.

The most recent wreck to leave archaeological remains was Bridge No.4, formerly a chain ferry across the River Medina on the Isle of Wight, in 1976. Replaced by Bridge No.5 in 1975, she was decommissioned and foundered off the Bramble Bank en route to the breakers at Southampton in early 1976. This wreck demonstrates the diversity of 20th century wreck archaeology and is in good company with the remains of the King Harry Ferry, similarly lost off St. Agnes’ Head, Cornwall, en route to the Clyde in 1936. Chain ferries still remain in operation at Cowes and Falmouth.

The Bramble Bank also has another unusual heritage: an annual cricket match on the bank at low tide, probably inspired by similar matches on the Goodwin Sands, which we will revisit next week with a follow-up to the Turner post.

(1) Lloyd’s List, 21 December 1790, No.2,257

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