The Acorn

The Acorn Part III: 2018

For our Christmas special, it’s my pleasure to welcome back Jordan Havell, now a regular guest blogger. I’m also delighted to let you know he received a ‘Highly Commended’ at the CBA awards, in the Young Archaeologist of the Year category.

He gives us an update on the Acorn, a barque in the ice trade, a suitably seasonal subject, which he first discussed in a blog for Christmas 2014, and recalls a dynamic year on the Lincolnshire coast.

Photograph of shipwreck timber seen from above, amid ridges and furrows in the sand with the tide flowing in and out.
Remains of the Acorn emerging from the sand, while marine life has been washed in, seen on 7 November 2018 © Jordan Havell

Jordan writes:

It is now 4 years since I wrote my first blog on the Acorn shipwreck.

Since then my family and I have watched as the wreck appears, disappears and reappears as a result of the tides causing the sand to shift. Photographs were taken each time the wreck was uncovered by the sea to be added to the national database.

Over the last year while doing this, we have noticed other archaeological finds, including a rather large piece of wreck washed up near Trusthorpe in May, and we were involved in recording and digitizing information on the wreck, including photogrammetry work. My mum and I found it after a local lady told us about it and we reported it to Historic England, Lincolnshire’s Finds Officer, Adam Daubney, and CITiZAN’s Andy Sherman for which I wrote a blog. A piece was taken for carbon dating. It is thought to be late 19th century/possibly early 20th. Merchants’ marks were recorded on this piece.

Other things found while doing various visits to the beach include: other ships’ timbers, possible aircraft fuselage pieces, copper sheathing from the hull of timber boats, large pieces of iron concretion, possibly from other local shipwrecks, worked flints, fossils, and Roman pottery. Parrel trucks and deadeyes from ships and even a possible sponge head from a cannon sponge were also among the objects found.

We have also seen much larger chunks of peat from the Lincolnshire Peat Shelf. These pieces have been much bigger than we have seen before. One day recently some of these large chunks were seen scattered right along the tideline for quite some distance.

Two fragments of dark brown peat, one large on left, smaller fragment to centre right, on sand
Fragments of peat washed up on 28 September 2018 © Jordan Havell

During March we saw the ‘Beast From the East’ affect our coastline. We saw hundreds upon thousands of stranded marine creatures, which was a shame to see. During this time we also saw many pieces of prehistoric forest timbers that we recorded and continue to do so.

Another day recently we saw salt lines across the beach – again, the first time we have seen something like this.

Shingle beach criss-crossed with white salt lines
Salt lines, Sutton-on-Sea beach, 2018. © Jordan Havell

I have attached some photos reflecting some of the above and of course some up-to-date pictures of the Acorn as she has recently given up more to see.

It’s amazing to see just how the tides have affected it over: over just a few days over the 21st to the 29th October 2018, the changes we could see were caused by shifting changes in the sand levels.

Acorn Oct 21 2018 1
The Acorn surrounded by water on 21 October 2018. © Jordan Havell

We took pictures on the 29th but couldn’t get as close due to the rising water levels around the wreck.

The Acorn 29th Oct 2018
The Acorn, 29 October 2018. © Jordan Havell

We will continue to monitor this wreck over the next few years in the hope that more starts to appear and I can then make another blog on it all to keep you up to date on it.

We’d like to thank Jordan for his detailed observations on the burial and exposure of this site over the last few years. It has turned into a fascinating case study on the processes and environmental context of wreck exposure in the inter-tidal zone on the east coast. It’s clear that the beach erosion revealing the Acorn and artefacts such as the Roman pottery (other Roman pottery was found locally in the 1950s) mirrors similar disturbances offshore, resulting in a variety of material being washed up.

We wish Jordan – and all our readers – a very happy festive season and all the best for 2019.

 

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A Tale of Two Billyboys

The Swan and the York Merchant

It is my pleasure once more to welcome Jordan Havell for a third blog on his local heritage.

Here he focuses on two Humber billyboys which were lost on routine voyages which ended disastrously on the Lincolnshire coast. Jordan has been honing his research skills in going back to original newspapers on the British Newspaper Archive and trying to trace the history of the ships involved through the Guildhall Library, two of the most important sources of information for any shipwreck historian.

He has helped identify one vessel – the York Merchant – and discovered another – the Swan – and seems to have caught the research bug!  So I would like to thank Jordan very much for passing this information on to us. Potentially one or the other of these two vessels, or perhaps another one that we haven’t yet discovered more about, might tell us where fragments of wreckage recently washed up near Jordan could have come from.

Over to Jordan:

My blog this time relates to the Swan billyboy that was lost at Huttoft on 17th Oct 1869.

I had asked about another vessel – a billyboy that had been listed in Historic England records as a wreck 05.11.1858 carrying shingle. I have now, with the help of The Guildhall, London, been able to name that wreck as the York Merchant of Yarmouth. She was lost along with 3 crew and 3 passengers. The story is told in varying newspapers: the Stamford Mercury, 12 Nov 1858; Leeds Times, 13 Nov 1858; Morning Advertiser 16 Nov 1858, as well as the Dundee Courier Weds 17 Nov 1858 and The Bucks Herald Sat 20 Nov 1858.

There were similarities between the two vessels (the York Merchant and the Swan). Both the vessels had been classified as billyboys. Both had set sail for Gainsborough, Lincolnshire – one carrying wheat, and the other carrying shingle. Both had been hit by severe weather and had both been carrying the family of the masters aboard – sadly in the case of the York Merchant it is known there were fatalities.

I was finding pieces of stranded wood on my local beach over recent weeks. I got in touch with Serena Cant at Historic England as we had been in contact before. She, along with Andy Sherman of Museum of London Archaeology, looked at my photos etc. Andy said the some of the pieces may have come from a billyboy ship.

This, in turn, relit my interest in shipwreck history. We started visiting the library locally and the RNLI records to see if any of these vessels had been wrecked in this area. We found the Swan – a record from a book called Mablethorpe and North Lincolnshire Lifeboats. The vessel had been en route from Boston to Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, when she was caught in a violent gale. She was made of wood and was carrying a cargo of wheat believed to be about 200 quarters, of which only 14 was saved. We found reports in various newspapers in The British Newspaper Archive including the Lincolnshire Chronicle and Manchester Courier, as well as the Hull and Eastern Counties Herald that confirmed the story.

The Master is named as Mr John Would. The owners are named as Nicholson and Burkitt of Retford. The crew is listed as 2, and 3 passengers were aboard at the time. They were saved by the National Lifeboat called the Birmingham. A quote taken from the Mablethorpe and North East Lincolnshire Lifeboats reads: “The only other effective service by the Birmingham Number 1 came on Oct 17th 1869, when she rescued the master, his wife and 2 children plus a man and a boy from the billyboy Swan of Hull.”

The saved master and crew were taken to the Jolly Bacchus – which we now know as the Bacchus Hotel – owned at the time by Mr Simons, from one of the newspaper stories of the time. One of the newspaper quotes read ‘the boat (referring to the lifeboat) was happily the means of saving the shipwrecked persons’. An interesting point was that the cost of this lifeboat when built was £190, the funds having been raised in Birmingham, hence its name.

The Lloyd’s Agent was named as Mr Bradshaw.

I have been in contact with the Guildhall Library in London. They have tried to help me find a record for the Swan. The nearest they could find was Swan of Hull, official number 26882, 37 tons, owned by Henry Robinson, 21 Waverley Street, Hull. There were 3 other vessels called Swan, but all appear to be from Goole, so am I assuming that this one above may be the one.

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Jordan’s post brings out some interesting history. As his last paragraph shows, it can be very difficult to trace small ships in the registers: we can eliminate some, but we can’t always be sure that what is left is the ship we are after. Even experienced researchers like me – and I have been doing this for over 20 years – can come up against a brick wall, but that’s part of what makes it so fascinating.

We can also see that similar ships shared a similar fate on the same stretch of coastline just a few years apart, so this is the type of wreck that could be said to be fairly characteristic of the east coast – you won’t find Humber billyboys on the west coast or Mersey flats on the east coast, because they were generally short-range coasting vessels (though some ships do turn up wrecked in odd places, having been sold out of their local area). The fact that one of the billyboys is called the York Merchant demonstrates that it was intended to serve Yorkshire and to be capable of travelling upriver as well as sailing coastwise.

Another similarity is that on board both vessels the master’s wife and family travelled with him, which shines a light on the role of women on board ships in Victorian Britain. We don’t often read much about this – it’s an under-represented area of history – so well done to Jordan for finding out more.

We also see the importance of community – the local community rallied round and put the shipwreck victims up at the nearby inn. Finally, it is interesting to see that people from the wider community, from inland Birmingham in fact, cared enough to raise money for a lifeboat at Sutton, following the terrible storms of a few years previously.

Here’s some interesting pictures of billyboys – one of 1875 from the Yorkshire Waterways Museum, Goole, showing wheat being unloaded from a billyboy whose voyage was more successful than the Swan, also laden with wheat. Here is another from Goole Museum, painted before 1910, of the Masterman

Just like Jordan, I’ve been following all sorts of clues. If Jordan hadn’t written this article, I wouldn’t have been looking for billyboy images to illustrate it with. When I found the Masterman, I realised that she, too, was a wreck which we hadn’t yet recorded. Like the Swan, she was wrecked with her master’s wife and children, who died, like those on board the York Merchant. So thank you again Jordan – because of you I too have found a new wreck for the records!

 

 

The Acorn

It is my pleasure to introduce my guest blogger for today’s piece, Jordan Havell, who wrote an article  on the Acorn back in December 2014. He takes up the story again with recent observations on changes in his local beach environment and the impact it has had on the Acorn.

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Since writing my last blog in December 2014 my interest in shipwreck archaeology has continued. Just recently I have found lots and lots of stranded wood being brought in on the tide from small pieces to much larger pieces. They may be pieces from a ‘billyboy’ called the Swan but that’s another story for later.

Fan shaped fragment of brown wood with holes in it, on a background of lighter-coloured brown sand with shells and pebbles
Example of one of the small fragments of wood and other debris recently washed up on the Lincolnshire coast following winter storms and high spring tides, photographed 19 February 2017 © Jordan Havell

Now here is where it gets more exciting . . . the Acorn . . .

The Acorn wreck was covered by literally tons of sand by the subsequent beach replenishment work over the last 3 years [since I last wrote]. Just recently however with high spring tides and Storms Doris and Ewan, the wreck has started to reappear.

I went to visit the beach like I normally do, but on the 16th of February 2017 I was very surprised to see that the sands had shifted heavily and the wreck was beginning to show again. Over the following days I visited this area nearly every day and each day more seemed to show.

Photograph of horizontal ship's timber against a backdrop of lighter-coloured sand.
Timber from the Acorn revealed 1 March 2017. © Jordan Havell
Detail photograph of brown fragment of ship's timber in the foreground, with lighter-coloured sand in the background.
Detail of a timber from the Acorn, photographed 1 March 2017. © Jordan Havell

I am looking forward to the illustrated talk and workshop in April with Andy Sherman from the Museum of London Archaeology CITiZAN Project in my village. I am really keen to hear about this work and how we can be even more involved.

I hope this gives you a snapshot of what is going on my locality. Thanks for reading!

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Thank you very much to Jordan for writing this piece and illustrating it with his own photographs – citizen science in action! As he hints, we will be hearing more from him, since his research has uncovered the interesting story of the Swan billyboy, which was also lost locally.

No.72: The Acorn

To end the year, today’s post showcases several of the main themes of 2014 in maritime archaeology: first, early 2014 was exceptionally stormy, with numerous reports of wrecks having been exposed in different locations around the UK as storms scoured sand off beaches. Many members of the public gave English Heritage fantastic reports of shipwreck material they had seen.

One such report was from Sutton-on-Sea, Lincolnshire. It gives me great pleasure today to introduce as my guest blogger this week Jordan Havell, who is 13. After seeing some timbers on the shore this year, he has been researching the story behind one of the wrecks in his local area, the Acorn, which was a barque laden with ice when she struck in Lynn Roads in 1898.

Jordan tells the story of her origins: 

I got very interested in this shipwreck, amongst others, while doing a local history project. I am 13 years old and home educated.

The Acorn was built in 1855 in Dundee, County of Forfar, Scotland. The register date is recorded as 05/03/1855, with the master’s name shown as Peter Anderson, in the hands of Andrew Low for the Tay Ship Building Company, dated 28/02/1855. The employment of the Surveying Officer, Joseph Northmore, is recorded as a tide surveyor. These details come from the Dundee Archives, for whose help I was very grateful.

The ship had one and a half poop decks, 3 masts and her length is recorded as 119 feet. She was a barque which had one gallery and a full female figurehead. The framework and planking were made of wood.

The subscribing owners were named as Peter Anderson – Master Mariner – 16 shares. The manufacturers are recorded as Matthew Low and John Morrison, both having 12 shares. It is noted there were 2 other owners.

Image courtesy of Dundee City Archives.
Original register entry for the Acorn, 1855. Image courtesy of Dundee City Archives.

The Acorn appears in various articles in Dundee newspapers from 1856 to 1873. By 1871 her master is listed as George Wilson. On the records from this time there are numerous notes, including a query shown in 1873 regarding conversions to cubic metres weight. In 1873 the ship is registered under the port of Grimsby. The Acorn was believed to have been carrying ice between Norway and Grimsby for use by the Grimsby Ice Company in the fishing industry.

It appears she ended her days on the beach at Sutton-on-Sea in 1901 and is recorded under the English Heritage wreck report 928347 and account of wreck site 1484623. I am very grateful to Serena Cant and her colleagues who gave me help with this project.

I am hoping to find out about more shipwrecks along this coast over time.

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Many thanks to Jordan for his essay, which I am delighted to include today. I think an ice barque is an appropriate seasonal theme on which to end the year! For more on Norwegian ice barques, have a look at a past entry here.

The sharp-eyed among you, like Jordan, will have spotted that she struck a sandbank in the Wash in 1898, but ended up further north on the Lincolnshire coast in 1901. I did some research myself and found that the vessel was recovered in 1898, when she was sold for £105. (1) This was very typical. For the Acorn‘s owners, in far-away Sandefjord, it would have been much more economical to cut their losses by selling the vessel, rather than try to get her repaired at their own cost.

This, I suspect, is how she eventually ended up at Sutton-on-Sea in what has proven to be a ship graveyard, another theme which has emerged strongly in maritime archaeology over the last few years. These tend to be groups of vessels beyond economical repair, drawn up for breaking and then perhaps abandoned. The Acorn was one of six vessels which were recorded by partial excavation along this stretch of beach in 1997. (2)

I think there is plenty more for us to find out – what happened to the Acorn between 1898 and 1901, and what is the story of the other ships which may still remain under the sand at Sutton-on-Sea and elsewhere in the locality? Over to you, Jordan! I hope you will continue to be as fascinated by shipwreck archaeology as we are.

Wreck of post-medieval or early modern fishing vessel, Mablethorpe, 2007, first recorded 1997. Image courtesy of John Buglass.
Wreck of unidentified post-medieval or early modern fishing vessel, Mablethorpe, 2007, first recorded 1997. Image courtesy of John Buglass.

(1) Hull Daily Mail, 13 April 1898, No.3,902, p4

(2) Buglass, J 1997: The remains of six sailing ships and other archaeological features in the inter-tidal zone between Sutton-on-Sea and Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire; Buglass, J and Brigham, T 2008: Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire: Donna Nook to Gibraltar Point, Humber Archaeology Report No.236