The Stirling Castle

Eat my Hat

Sailors kept their chewing tobacco in their hats, the linings of which became soaked in sweat and tobacco juice. If they ran out of tobacco they would take out the linings of their hats and chew them. [http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/navalsayingsdh accessed: 11.07.2016]

So this famous phrase has a nautical origin! Sailors and their hats are today’s theme:

One of the perks of being an archaeological conservator is that you get close to artefacts. Really close! Even closer! So close in fact, that you can hold, smell and properly look at artefacts: back, front, sides, and all around. And we conservators like to look closely. We like to see what an artefact is made from, how it is made, what condition it is in, and what that can tell us about the people that made or used it.

I recently had the privilege to work on the collection from the Stirling Castle protected wreck owned by the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society on a project funded by Historic England’s commissions fund and headed by the Maritime Archaeology Trust. The main aim of this project was to catalogue and consolidate the archive, to enhance access to this fantastic wreck assemblage dating to the early 18th century.

Some of my favourite artefacts were beautiful knife handles, an ivory comb and copper alloy cauldrons. But two items stood out: leather hats. Items of clothing rarely survive in the archaeological context. But due to special preservation conditions for organic materials, such as leather, wool or linen, wreck sites play an important role in redressing the imbalance by allowing us an insight into clothing and dress, which are under-represented in collections when compared to non-organic materials, such as ceramics, for example.

Side view of crown and brim of brown leather hat, against a wide background.
Leather hat, Stirling Castle wreck assemblage, on loan from the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society to the Shipwreck Museum, Hastings. Image © Historic England

The hats stood out from the rest of the Stirling Castle collection for a number of reasons:

  • Beaver felt and wool seem to be the prevailing materials for hats of this period both in surviving examples and in art;
  • The style and method of construction also appear unusual for the period;
  • They are very well preserved: they are better-preserved than other leather artefacts from the same collection, such as the shoes or book covers;
  • There are no parallel finds known to us at the time of writing

Because these hats are so unusual, we are trying to learn as much about them as possible. They are a strong contrast to the leather shoes which are regularly found in shipwreck contexts and are well-understood, e.g. Mary Rose (1545); London (1665), HMS Invincible (1758).

Component parts of black leather shoes, such as uppers, heels and small parts, laid out together against a white background, with a ruler at bottom left for scale.
Leather shoes from the Stirling Castle wreck assemblage. Image © Historic England.

And this is where you come in: We have embarked on a project to study and investigate these two hats from various angles. We have chosen a multidisciplinary approach combining scientific investigations with art historical research as well as citizen science.

We’ve identified some surviving hats and contemporary images of hats, but we need your help to find more. We are putting the word out there asking members of the public as well as museums and collections to look at paintings and drawings of hats, or even hats themselves, dating to around the end of the 17th to early 18th centuries. Our aim is to collate a database of other hats and depictions of hats, to be able to compare our two hats from the Stirling Castle with other examples.

Here is the other hat from the assemblage:

 

View of brown leather hat against a white background, showing that the crown of the hat is laced together with a decorative thong.
Leather hat from the Stirling Castle wreck assemblage, Ramsgate Maritime Museum, showing thong lacing at the back. Image © Historic England

To examine the hats more closely, have a look at the 3D animations of the Hastings hat and the Ramsgate hat: click and drag to rotate in any direction, and see inside the hats, use mousewheel to zoom. (Best viewed in Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari 10.9 and above, IE 11)

As you can see, the hats are constructed in several pieces, with one piece for the top of the crown, the main body of the crown overlaps at the front and is laced at the back with a thong, and finally a wide brim.

We are mainly focussing on maritime scenes in paintings and drawings, due to the obvious maritime connection of the hats to the wreck of the Stirling Castle, but are interested in other depictions or real-life examples of similar looking head gear from other contexts too, perhaps hats worn by working-class people such as labourers and agricultural workers. These can be of any date to help with the comparison, but late 17th to early 18th century works would be especially helpful.

Please tell us as much as you can about the images or surviving examples of hats: where they’re from, their date and context, and a brief description of the style of hat, and its construction, and send us a link or photograph if possible.

As an example of what we’re looking for, have a look at this engaging 18th century image and the caption we have written for it.

Painting in neutral shades depicting two men, one wearing a hat and white shirt, clutching a wine bottle, the other behind his outstretched arm, looking at him. This man has a patched sleeve and holds a wine glass.
unknown artist, European School, 18th century; The Wine Seller; Southend Museums Service; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-wine-seller-2514. (Creative Commons license). The wine seller wears a brown hat with a low, wide, rounded crown, and a shaped wide brim. The texture suggests it may be a felt hat, as was usual for hats of this period.

The citizen science part of the project opens today, 1st August 2016, and will run until 31st August 2016. It will be shared on the @HE_Maritime Twitter account with the hashtag #LeatherHats. Please feel free to share widely, using the same #LeatherHats hashtag. If you have any clues, ideas or images of hats you would like to share with us, please contact us by commenting on this blog, on Twitter @HE_Maritime, or by e-mail at StirlingCastleHats@HistoricEngland.org.uk

Thank you!

Angela Middleton, Archaeological Conservator, Historic England, and Serena Cant, Marine Information Officer, Historic England.

 

 

 

U-8

The oldest First World War German U-boat and the earliest German submarine to be sunk in English territorial waters – the U-8 – has been given protection by the Secretary of State for Culture as a Protected Historic Wreck site, on the advice of Historic England.

Pioneering underwater survey techniques were used in 2015 to survey the site and assist the case for its protection.

Exploring New Technologies for Underwater Research

Historic England recently commissioned an innovative survey of a First World War submarine wreck in order provide data to support its protection and to test the application of new equipment for archaeological research.

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) have been used offshore for some time and the development of smaller systems has opened up a range of inshore opportunities for archaeological investigation. With recent advances in technology, these small AUV systems boast a suite of remote sensors that can include impressive underwater survey tools: side-scan sonar, multibeam echosounder, sub-bottom profiler, magnetometer and an underwater camera.

In order to test such a system for use in underwater archaeology, we commissioned Wessex Archaeology to carry out an AUV survey of the German U-Boat U-8 located some 10 nautical miles off Dover. Our First World War wreck diary provides more details of the loss of the U-8.

For the investigation, we deployed an Ocean Server Iver3 AUV which carried Edgetech 2205 sonar transducers and towed a Marine Magnetics Explorer magnetometer (Fig. 1). The AUV was about 2m in length and weighed approximately 40kg; light enough to be deployed by two people. The stated endurance of 8 hours was enough to ensure sufficient coverage of the U-8 target area. However, it was not known how the system would cope with a moderate sea state and tidal streams of up to 2.6 knots, so it was therefore decided to deploy the system to coincide with slack water during neap tides to give the best operational window possible.

Man dressed in black to the right of the image looks over the railing of a boat at an underwater vehicle on the surface of the water to his left.
Fig. 1. The AUV used to survey the U-8. © Wessex Archaeology

Before the AUV could be used to acquire data over the U-8, its buoyancy needed to be adjusted for the salinity and density of the seawater and the underwater survey lines were planned on a laptop with software calculating where the AUV needed to dive down and where it was to come back up. Survey positioning was provided by a GPS receiver within the AUV when at the surface and below the surface positioning was provided by a RDI Doppler velocity log, depth sensor and corrected compass. The AUV can only be communicated with via Wi-Fi when it is at the surface.

Deployment of the AUV at the wreck site was relatively straightforward, even in the slight to moderate sea state encountered, and it was programmed to fly around 10m off the seabed. Unlike a conventional towed system though, the geophysicist was unable to see live images of data as the sensor passed over the seabed: there is no way of knowing that the data is of sufficient quality or that the survey lines have been positioned correctly to ensonify (image) the target site, until the AUV is recovered to the vessel. This can make for a nervous time whilst the geophysicist is waiting to see the data!

The sea state did have an effect on the performance of the AUV whilst in the water in two ways. Firstly, the waves tended to swamp the ‘conning tower’ containing the GPS tracking system, which meant that the AUV sometimes had difficulty acquiring a GPS signal, causing it to refuse to start surveying. Secondly, when slack water was lost, the AUV struggled to get into its start of line position as it laboured against the tide, unable to dive. However, its endurance seemed good despite this, with the AUV deployed for about 6 hours with no requirement for a battery change.

Following recovery of the AUV and data download we could see that the side-scan sonar imagery showed a clearly defined submarine with detail of the conning tower visible. Sharp detail was observed in the acoustic shadow that shows the presence of three distinct upstanding narrow features, two on the conning tower (possibly periscopes) and one just behind (interpreted as the radio mast) (Fig. 2).The magnetometer data was also of good quality with a large magnetic anomaly observed over the location of the wreck, as would be expected.

Side-scan sonar image showing vessel on its side, with its central structure clearly visible, picked out in white against an undulating textured yellowish brown background representing the seabed.
Fig. 2.  Image of the U-8 in side-scan sonar data. Crown copyright, image by Wessex Archaeology

Some challenges were identified with the bathymetry data, particularly where some of the smaller features observed in the side-scan sonar imagery were not visible owing to the relatively low resolution of the bathymetry (Fig. 3). In addition, the on-board camera did not pick up any footage of the U-8 despite the visibility being around 8m.

Multi-coloured textured image of seabed set against a plain black background. The seabed is primarily greens and blues, with a raised section in reddish hues representing the wreck above the seabed.
Fig. 3. Image of the U-8 in multibeam bathymetry data. Crown copyright, image by Wessex Archaeology

During this, our first, archaeological trial of an AUV, the system performed reasonably well, giving sharp imagery that has aided our interpretation of the U-8’s condition. We’ve learnt some important lessons for future operations, particularly in understanding the effects of tidal currents on the AUV during data collection. Use of the AUV proved a cost-effective method of survey in a busy shipping channel with the same methodology being applicable to other sites that are similarly difficult to reach, such as those in proximity to shore, those in deep water, or otherwise restricted in some way. The system is also particularly well suited to more benign waters such as ports, or natural and manmade harbours, and if the circumstances allow the system to be launched from shore, then the cost savings could be considerable when compared to established survey methods.

Toby Gane and Dr Stephanie Arnott, with Mark Dunkley

Toby Gane is a Senior Project Manager and Stephanie Arnott is a Senior Marine Geophysicist at Wessex Archaeology.

Mark Dunkley is Historic England’s marine designation adviser.

No.86 Waterloo 200

What links Walmer Castle and Amsterdam, by way of Waterloo?

This week, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, my guest blogger Abigail Coppins looks at how a lucky find while researching the appearance of Wellington’s bedroom at Walmer Castle led to the discovery of some correspondence between Wellington and potential salvors of the wreck of the Amsterdam at Hastings, lost 80-odd years previously. In his capacity as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, resident at Walmer, Wellington fielded a copious correspondence with these salvors throughout the 1830s, a historic connection adding to the interest of what is today the Designated wreck site of a Dutch East Indiaman.

Colour photograph of Wellington's bedroom, restored to the colour scheme in his day.
The Duke of Wellington’s bedroom at Walmer Castle 20/05/15
Picture by Jim Holden. English Heritage

The Duke of Wellington and the Wreck of the Amsterdam

Abigail Coppins

I was actually looking for the Duke of Wellington’s bedroom, particularly anything that might solve the knotty problem of his carpet. But you never know what you might come across when you’re in the archives.  I drew a blank on the carpet but found some other things relevant to the Waterloo 200 project at Walmer Castle.  Then this caught my eye.  At the time I didn’t know anything about the Amsterdam but I figured that it was worth making a note of the facts just in case it was a known (or unknown) wreck.  Someone somewhere might be interested.

The Amsterdam in July 2006.
The Amsterdam in July 2006. 

It started in 1830 when 42 labourers from the Parish of Bexhill wrote to the Duke of Wellington complaining that they had been prevented from digging out the ‘…Dutch ship Amsterdam which was wrecked on the Coast of Sussex…in the year of 1740’  [sic – the wreck took place in 1749]. The labourers were unemployed and had taken it upon themselves to open up the wreck in search of ‘remuneration for their labours’.  All had been going well.  They had managed to retrieve some timber and glass, but unfortunately the Customs Officer from Hastings turned up and called a halt to the proceedings.

Having spent £28 on some equipment, including a couple of chain pumps, the labourers decided to petition the Duke of Wellington for his assistance in the matter.  The Duke, as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, oversaw the administration of wrecks and salvage rights in the area.  Wellington ordered enquiries to be made and the labourers were given permission to carry on their work – with certain stipulations.  Wellington’s clerk in Dover Castle, Thomas Pain, pointed out that another local wreck had been stripped of ‘Block Tin’ and ‘purloined by the finder’ and he was keen to stop this happening again.  The Bexhill labourers were told that they could keep the value of any goods found up to a value of £100.  After that the usual rules of salvage would be applied.

Then things went quiet.

Sepia print of a seated Wellington writing at a desk, with a man standing behind him.
APSLEY HOUSE Print of “Wellington Writing His Despatches” by D Wilkie © Historic England Photo Library. Note Wellington’s special reading lamp, one of the features Abigail was hoping to learn more about in her researches when she found the material on the Amsterdam.

In May 1833 a Thomas Wood from St Leonards-on-Sea wrote to Wellington asking to be allowed to recover the wreck of the Amsterdam.  In June the same year he wrote again, this time about another wreck in the area.  Then he sent a letter asking what proportion of salvage he would be entitled to.  By August, Wood was trying to arrange a meeting with Wellington.

Then it all went quiet again.

In August of the following year, 1834, Thomas Pain wrote to Wood asking if the salvage project had been abandoned.  Wood wrote back asking about Thomas Telford’s work at Dover instead.  Was Wood perhaps interested in that as well?

By August of 1835, a James Bungay of St Leonards was also interested in the Amsterdam wreck and by the following February wanted details of any lien Wellington might have over it.  He also wanted a meeting.  Bungay then wrote that he was going to petition the Treasury to allow him ‘…possession of all or any part of the Amsterdam or cargo.’  Unsurprisingly the Treasury refused Bungay’s request to raise the cargo ‘free of duty’.  Undeterred, Bungay then suggested that a customs officer should be on site to record what got taken off the wreck.  Pain replied that Wellington had no objection to this proposal.

The various salvage plans seem to have rumbled on.  In 1837 Thomas Pain suggested that Bungay should be allowed to sell parts of the Amsterdam’s hull in order to recover his costs.  Then all the documents went missing and it all got a bit messy. What happened next is unclear. I kept meaning to go back and find out, but other research projects got in the way: more remains in the archives for us to discover, despite the gaps in the documents.

Oil painting of Wellington in his red uniform against a plain, dark background.
APSLEY HOUSE “Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington” c.1815 by Sir Thomas LAWRENCE (1769-1830). WM 1567-1948 © Historic England Photo Library

With very grateful thanks to Abigail for sharing her research thus far and establishing an important historic connection between Wellington and the Designated site of a wreck which happened before he was even born.

No.41: The Barbary Corsair

Alarums and excursions:

In 1760-1 these news items appeared in the English press with a conflation of Turks and Algerians that was probably quite typical of the time.

‘London, October 2. An express has been received from Mount’s Bay, that between the 26th and 27th ult. an Algerine Chebeck, of 20 guns, and full of men, was driven ashore by a strong southerly wind, and entirely lost; 170 of the crew got on shore, which terribly affrighted the country people. It is 25 years since an Algerine cruizer was in any of our ports in England…’  (Newcastle Courant, 11.10.1760, No.4385, p1)

‘London, January 3. His Majesty’s frigate Bland is arrived at Falmouth, to convoy the Turks, which were stranded at Mount’s Bay, to Algiers.’ (Newcastle Courant, 10.01.1761, No.4398, p1)

Why were the local people so ‘terribly affrighted’? They clearly suspected the ship of being a Barbary Corsair, or Sallee Rover, from Salé in Morocco, privateers of the Mediterranean who sometimes ranged further north in feats of daring seamanship, since their lateen-rigged triangular sails were less suited to the rougher waters of the Atlantic. They were occasionally active in British waters in the 17th and 18th centuries, and ventured as far north as Iceland in 1627, when the Revd. Olafur Egilsson was captured – which was why people were so afraid. (A recent English translation of his travels and travails has been made available.)

A household name, albeit fictional, who also spent time as a ‘guest’ of the Sallee Rovers, was Robinson Crusoe!

As was the case where privateers of any nationality were concerned, it was not uncommon for ships to be ‘taken and retaken’, captured by an opposing force, then recaptured by their own, or to suffer serial capture, as the two following ships with some connection to Corsairs demonstrate.

The Fountain was captured from the Algerians in 1664 and taken into the service of the Royal Navy. She was intended to be used as a fireship but was prematurely set ablaze by a shot from the Dutch side at the Battle of Solebay in 1672.

Similarly, the Dutch fluyt Schiedam, one of our Designated wrecks, was wrecked in Jangye-Ryn Cove, Cornwall, after serial capture. Laden with a cargo of timber from Spain, she was captured in the Mediterranean in 1683 by Barbary Corsairs. She was then captured by the English under Sir Clowdisley Shovell (shipwreck seems to have hung around his career: he just missed being wrecked in 1703 in the Great Storm, before being finally lost with his fleet in the Association disaster off the Isles of Scilly in 1707), and despatched for Tangier to act as a transport for England, on which voyage she was finally lost.