Merseyside’s Martime History, ancient and modern

by Martin

Two recent news updates have highlighted the marine importance of Merseyside, on both sides of the river:

Viking boat at Meols
Recent work by Professor Stephen Harding and a team of archaeologists from the University of Nottingham has brought attention to a possible Viking boat buried under the car park at the Railway Inn, Meols. The remains were first spotted in 1938 by men laying the car park, but with the risk that building work would be delayed by a dig, the find was kept secret. One of the workers, however, made a few notes, and in 1991 his son produced a report and a sketch. After the report was brought to the attention of the current landlord, the Nottingham team was brought in, and conducted a Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the location.

The survey seemed to show a ‘boat-shaped anomaly’ in the underlying clay, and further survey will assess the potential for an evaluation excavation.

The find is particularly interesting from a landscape perspective, as the pub is over a kilometre from the coast, and even further from the medieval shore. Prof Harding suggests that the boat may have been washed in by a flood, or have sunk in one of the many marshes which covered the area at the time. The area is covered with old Norse field and track names, and it wasn’t unknown for the people of the time to drag their ships substantial distances inland if necessary.

Reference:

Current Archaeology, Issue 213: p4-5.

Links:

Wirral and West Lancashire 1100th Anniversary Homepage

Liverpool Echo article on DNA analysis done in Liverpool by Professor Harding

News article in the Independent covering the survey.

HMS Whimbrel

More recent marine heritage may soon be making its way back to the Mersey, if Chris Pile and members of the HMS Whimbrel Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Project get their way. The group aim to bring the Whimbrel, a modified Black Swan class sloop, to Merseyside, and place it in Canning Dock, close to the Liver Building, with other symbols of Liverpool’s maritime heritage. The Whimbrel, launched in 1943, was designed for the defense of merchant convoys in the Atlantic.

The Project Team see the ship as a “symbol of heroism and sacrifices made in six year battle to keep open Britain’s vital wartime lifeline to North America”, and need £2m to bring it home from its current location, Egypt. They then require another £2m to make the ship fit for a public museum, which they hope to complete by Summer 2008. £300 000 has so far been raised from the Duke of Westminster, Liverpool City Council, the Government Office of the North West and several smaller donations.

Links:

HMS Whimbrel (1942-49) Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Project

Read the Signs
A recently released pamphlet highlights details of streets of Liverpool which are named after individuals who played a prominent part in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The issue has become controversial in recent years, with calls to rename the roads, against the insistence that even Liverpool’s darker past should not be forgotten.

The Read the Signs booklet was written by Laurence Westgapgh, and distributed by HELP (Historic Environment Liverpool Project), who were involved in a Heritage Open Days event at Toxteth Town Hall, attracting over 200 people from the Liverpool area. There will also be an exhibition called ‘Read the Signs’ at St George’s Hall in 2008, managed by HELP.

The pamphlet is available from locations around Liverpool, including libraries and community centres.

Links:

English Heritage’s news article about the pamphlet

Read the Signs (PDF)

3 responses to “Merseyside’s Martime History, ancient and modern”

  1. Brian Williams says:

    Post-Roman, and Dark Age: I am researching Dark Age ‘Britannia Prima’. Contrary to traditional concepts my conclusions would indicate that the West Bank of the Mersey Estuary was active at that period Is there any archaeological evidence of interactions between native Goedels, Scotti,Picts (seriously)Brythons, and Angles?

  2. Martin says:

    Hi Brian – the west bank of the Mersey was certainly active right through the Middle Ages. Archaeological find evidence from Meols on the north Wirral coast has produced everyday objects such as buckles and knife ornaments, and suggests that there was trade happening at this time.
    Geoff Egan and Dave Griffiths have both done work in the area, so looking for publications by them would be a good start for research (you could start with http://www.amazon.co.uk/Meols-Archaeology-Discoveries-Observations-Collections/dp/1905905033/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256483564&sr=1-1).
    Unfortunately documentary evidence is rare, and it may this type of evidence which would give us the proof you are after. What we can say is that a number of place names on the Wirral and on the east side of the Mersey have origins in the Anglo-Saxon language, and these and other names show the interactions between Norse, Angle and Brython communities. Have a look at http://www.allertonoak.com/merseyPlaceNames/Wirral.html, checking the Language column in the main table there. Mapping these name origins might be helpful in identifying the areas settled by each. Interaction certainly took place.
    Another thing you may be interested in is the fact that when the Norwegian Vikings were expelled from Dublin in 902 they came to England, and landed on the Wirral coast. It’s known that the Vikings had contacts with northern Britain, so it may be that interactions with the Scotti and Picts were more indirect.
    The best evidence is in the place names, and the archaeological finds, although to my knowledge more direct evidence has not been found. If you do discover something, please do let me know!

  3. […] signs, you may remember that Laurence Westgaph wrote a leaflet called ‘Read the Signs’ back in 2007. The leaflet covered a number of streets in Liverpool who were named after those involved in the […]

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