Purton 'Ship Graveyard' on the River Severn

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Friday, May 5, 2000

The Purton hulks form the largest ships graveyard in the UK, beginning when several hulks were used in the early 20th century to shore up the bank between the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and the River Severn, there are currently approximately 80 vessels located along the riverbank at Purton.

Many of these hulks are unique examples in our maritime record and they are being destroyed by both human and natural forces before our eyes. Whilst several of the hulks at Purton have been ‘adopted’ by individual members of the NAS, it is the passion of Paul Barnett (who has adopted all 80 of the vessels) that has resulted in many of these vessels being identified and their histories uncovered.

The NAS first visited Purton in 2002, in collaboration with Bristol University to try and record the physical remains of some of the hulks. Since then NAS has returned to Purton many times, adding to our knowledge of the many different types of vessels that have been abandoned here, providing survey opportunities for many NAS Part II reports as well as the chance to build experience and put skills into practice on real sites.
In 2008 the NAS returned to Purton thanks to the Diving into History Project. The project was partnered by Wessex Archaeology, who carried out some geophysics on the site as well as providing outreach activities with their ‘coastal & Marine’ outreach officer.  The project was supported through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The results of the 2008 fieldwork, including surveys, photographs and drawings can be seen in the Purton Hulk Recording 2008 Project Report, available to download below:
2008 Project Report

Working with Paul Barnett and the Friends of Purton, NAS several members returned to Purton for a further two weekends of survey work in 2009 which included excavation on the Harriet the only surviving example of a Kennet barge built at Honeystreet in 1905 and beached in 1964 with Cotswald Archaeology.

More information on the Purton Hulks can be found at the Friends of Purton website http://www.friendsofpurton.org.uk/