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Wreck off Northam Burrows

A Scheduled Monument in Northam, Devon

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Latitude: 51.0475 / 51°2'51"N

Longitude: -4.2373 / 4°14'14"W

OS Eastings: 243271

OS Northings: 129956

OS Grid: SS432299

Mapcode National: GBR KH.G8DM

Mapcode Global: FRA 260B.WKX

Entry Name: Wreck off Northam Burrows

Scheduled Date: 11 August 2016

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1432949

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 wooden sailing vessel, likely to be a Severn trow (a locally distinctive coastal sailing vessel of south-west England), lost off Northam Burrows between the mid 18th to early 19th centuries.

Source: Historic England


The wreck is located in the inter-tidal zone off Northam Burrows and has been uncovered on a regular basis for at least the last few decades.

Between 1996 and 2016 the visible remains have been measured at between 15.25 and 17m long, and 4m to 5.5m wide, which may relate to different extents of exposure. When visible, the almost complete side of a hull structure may be seen with eroded frames protruding above the sand level, with a stem- or stern-post and occasionally part of the other side also visible. It is entirely fastened with timber fastenings (treenails) that are consistent with a date of build in the second half of the 18th century as observed on other known wrecks. Such a vessel could plausibly have been lost at any time up to around 1830. This interpretation is supported by the local geology, since the vessel is unlikely to have breached the pebble ridge, which has retreated landward since that time.

The manner of loss is legible in the extant remains, suggesting that the vessel drove in to the beach on its beam ends or collapsed onto its side after stranding.

The site is significant in being a rare example of an 18th century coasting vessel, probably a Severn trow (a type of cargo boat found in the past on the rivers Severn and Wye, in use between the mid 18th and late 19th centuries, and distinctive for their flat hull and dis-mountable mast to allow the vessels to travel under inland bridges), as suggested by its build, dimensions, and location of loss, of a type rarely legible in the surviving archaeological record, but which has strong links with the contemporary development of coasting trades fuelled by the Industrial Revolution.

Extent of Scheduling: The scheduled area has been defined around the known remains of the vessel with a radius of 15m from its centre point to ensure that its full extent, including buried structure, is adequately protected.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 06/10/2016

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The wreck of this mid 18th to early 19th century sailing vessel is recommended for scheduling for the following principal reasons:

*Rarity: late 18th century shipwreck sites are rare and under-represented by comparison with the documentary record, in particular those of smaller vessels of the coasting type like this wreck;

*Survival: despite the effects of erosion, the vessel type (a Severn trow) and manner of loss (wrecking) are legible in the surviving remains. The vessel is better preserved in this context than much later examples of the same type in riverine locations;

*Potential: the site has considerable potential for providing an insight into mid to late 18th century vessel construction and for illuminating the development of West Country coasting vessels, especially the locally distinctive Severn trow type that was common on the Rivers Severn and Wye;

*Group value: the vessel has group value with the nearby wreck at Westward Ho!, with which it is likely to be a close contemporary, and potentially lost at the same time;

*Historic: mercantile vessels of local type were a highly significant part of England's domestic merchant fleet during the Industrial Revolution, existing (although not surviving) in large numbers engaged in small-scale trade around the coastline, especially in relation to industries such as the coal, stone and other extractive minerals trades.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hughes, B, 'Notes on Two Wrecks at Westward Ho!' in North Devon Museum Trust Newsletter, , Vol. 8, (1996-7), 17
Devon and Dartmoor Historic Environment Record (HER) MDV50899, accessed 28 January 2016 from

Source: Historic England

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