Photo Gallery: Medieval boat found buried alongside Loddon’s River Chet

Archeologists at work on the ancient boat discovered by Environment Agency workers during the flood elevation project work at Loddon. 
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY Archeologists at work on the ancient boat discovered by Environment Agency workers during the flood elevation project work at Loddon. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Thursday, August 1, 2013
9:22 AM

Diggers working on a stretch of floodbank along the River Chet found more than they bargained for when the remains of an ancient boat were uncovered in the peaty soil.

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Diggers working on a stretch of floodbank along the River Chet found more than they bargained for when the remains of an ancient boat were uncovered in the peaty soil.

An excavator driver spotted some timber remains in the ground during the excavation of a new drainage ditch, and work was suspended.

Archaeologists investigated and after examining the timber found it to be a boat between 400 and 600-years-old.

“This is an extremely rare and important find,” said Heather Wallis, an archaeologist working on the site.

“No boats of this date have previously been found in Norfolk, so this has been a unique opportunity to record and recover a vessel of this date and type.”

A team worked at the site for three weeks, uncovering the mysteries of the boat.

Jeremy Halls, environmental manager at Broadland Environmental Services, said: “It is a small six metre-long boat and it would have had a sail.

“It stands out because although it wasn’t the best quality timber, it was put together skilfully.”

Experts believe the boat’s thin planking and light frames suggest it could have carried light produce to market, such as butter, eggs, chickens and vegetables. Wooden pegs, iron nails, and copper alloy nails, as well as animal hair and tar used as waterproofing, were used in the construction of the boat. Ms Wallis said: “It is particularly significant being located within the Norfolk Broads. This area has had a strong reliance on water transport and related industries, particularly since the creation of the Broads by peat digging in the medieval period.

“We cannot be entirely sure how the boat was propelled, but it is likely to have been sailed and/or rowed or quanted down the river.”

The boat will be excavated in the next few days and removed to York or Peterborough where specialists will study the wood for more detailed research into the boat’s history.

The boat will be kept in wet storage to prevent the wood from deteriorating further, and samples of the timber sent for tree-ring dating, which could reveal when the trees used to construct the boat were felled.

Eventually, the piece of history will be preserved through a freeze drying process and placed on display in a Norfolk museum.

Paul Mitchelmore, the Environment Agency’s project manager said: “This is the latest of several interesting archaeological finds encountered during the Broadland Alleviation Project.

“We are very pleased to be helping to provide an insight into the history of the Broads at the same time as we are working for the future of the area through our flood defence works.”

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