Merseyside’s Martime History, ancient and modern
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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.
Current Archaeology, Issue 213: p4-5.
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.
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.
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.
English Heritage’s news article about the pamphlet
Read the Signs (PDF)