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Wreck at Westward Ho!

A Scheduled Monument in Northam, Devon

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Latitude: 51.0459 / 51°2'45"N

Longitude: -4.2392 / 4°14'21"W

OS Eastings: 243130

OS Northings: 129780

OS Grid: SS431297

Mapcode National: GBR KH.GFWG

Mapcode Global: FRA 260C.29C

Entry Name: Wreck at Westward Ho!

Scheduled Date: 10 August 2016

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1432418

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Northam

Built-Up Area: Northam

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Northam St Margaret

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The wreck of a pre-1840 wooden sailing vessel thought to have been built in the mid- to late 18th century and wrecked at Westward Ho!, probably within the same period, and likely to be that of the Sally, lost 1769.

Source: Historic England


The wreck is located in the inter-tidal zone at Westward Ho! and has been uncovered on a regular basis since at least the 1960s and possibly as far back as the 1850s. When uncovered it can be seen to lie on an even keel, stern to the landward and bows to the seaward.

In 2005 the wreck was measured at 23.5m long by 7m wide, although it had formerly been longer at 25m prior to the collapse of the stern. The vessel comprises the complete outline of a hull structure with eroded frames that protrude above the sand level. It is some 40 frames long, fastened entirely with timber fastenings (treenails) that are consistent with a date of build in the second half of the 18th century as suggested in the dendrochronological analysis. A vessel of this date of build could plausibly have been lost in the vicinity up to around 1830.

The wreck of the Sally, which 'struck aft' on 'Northam Sands' after driving from her anchors while bound for Bristol with port and shumack (dried leaves used in tanning) from Oporto in 1769, is a plausible candidate for the wreck site. This hypothesis is consistent with the dendrochronological analysis, site observations and local geomorphology, and accounts of a 'very old wreck' being seen in the area in the 1850s - the place name of Westward Ho! is anachronistic, not being in use until 1855 following the publication of Charles Kingsley's book of this name.

Extent of Scheduling: the scheduled area has been defined from the centre point of the wreck at SS 43130 29780 with a radius of 35m to ensure that the visible structure and any buried remains are adequately protected.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The wreck of this mid-to-late 18th century sailing vessel is recommended for scheduling for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: late 18th century shipwreck sites are rare and under-represented in comparison with the significant documentary record for vessel losses of this period, with the remains of vessels capable of providing a credible identification from the archaeological evidence being rarer still;

* Survival: despite the effects of erosion the wreck retains key characteristic features, such as its method of construction and orientation, that render it capable of a strong potential identification, most likely that of the Sally of 1769;

* Potential: it has considerable potential for providing an insight into mid- to late 18th century vessel construction and a characteristic trade during this period, specifically the Port trade with Portugal that was particularly prevalent in the Bristol Channel in this period;

* Documentation: the vessel's importance is enhanced by documentary evidence recording its sightings from the 1850s to a dendrochronological survey previously undertaken, and by surviving direct documentary evidence for its likely identification;

* Historic: mercantile vessels were a highly significant part of England's contemporary commercial ambitions, coinciding with the zenith of an internationally significant trade in port wine in the later 18th and early 19th centuries.

Source: Historic England


Devon and Dartmoor Historic Environment Record (HER) MDV50848, accessed 28 January 2016 from
National Record of the Historic Environment record for the Sally, lost in 1769, UID 1062411, accessed 04.01.2016 from
National Record of the Historic Environment record for this site, UID 1590972, accessed 04.01.2016 from
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 21 September 1769, No.466, p3
Bristol Journal, 23 September 1769, No.2,788, p3
Felix Farley's Bristol Journal, 3 February 1770, [no issue number], p3
Hughes, B. 2007. "Attempting to name the large wreck on Westward Ho! beach", North Devon Heritage 19, pp10-12
Lloyd's List, 22 September 1769, No.3,513

Source: Historic England

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