Three shipwrecks in Devon have been given listed protection by Historic England, requiring those who wish to investigate the boat and vessels to gain special permission.
Labelled as ‘really significant’, these shipwrecks sit in the sand of popular beaches and river banks – surrounded by people on a daily basis. Head of listings, Joe Flatman said the status “won’t stop people from walking over them and building sandcastles next to them, but will stop them hacking off some wood for a barbecue”. Any deliberate damage to the wrecks will now be classed as illegal.
All three of the wrecks are rare examples of wooden sailing vessels found in English waters. Two of them are from the 18th Century, and whilst somewhere in the region of 11,000 other vessels from this time period are known to have been wrecked in England’s waters, very few have been discovered.
Two of the wrecks are off Westward Ho! and one is on the west side of the Axe River. Two of them are easily accessed by a walk down the the beach, whilst the other lies in a mud bank.
One of two wrecks at Westward Ho!, this wreck is the larger of the two. At 75ft long and 23ft wide, this ship is nationally important as the ship’s orientation and construction are still clearly visible. The remains of the Sally are believed to have run aground on the sands in 1769 with a cargo of port wine onboard as it travelled from Portugal to Bristol.
A Severn Trow
The smaller of the two wrecks at Westward Ho!, this small merchant ship worked locally in the Bristol Channel coastline some 200 years ago. The angle at which it is lying suggests that it was driven ashore during a storm.
The Axe Boat
Located on the side of, yep you guessed it, the Axe River, lies this medieval fishing boat. It wasn’t discovered until 2001, although wood samples have shown that it was built between 1400 and 1640. It would have been used for coastal trade or fishing; at the time nearby Axmouth was ranked as a major port and by the mid-14th Century it accounted for 15% of the country’s shipping trade.
These interesting wrecks aren’t Titanic, but they’re definitely worth a visit. Just make sure you don’t break them!