Exposed shipwreck is older than previously thought

MAST staff and volunteers surveying the wreck on Bamburgh beach.
MAST staff and volunteers surveying the wreck on Bamburgh beach.

Recent survey work on a partially-exposed shipwreck on the north Northumberland coast has proved it to be older than originally thought.

The dendrochronology survey yielded a terminus post quem date of 1768 – meaning that the timber in question was felled in or after 1768. It also established that the timber originates from the East of England making the wreck British.

The survey work was undertaken by the Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust (MAST) with local archaeologists and volunteers and with the help of a grant from the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership’s Sustainable Development Fund.

The wreck appears to contain the exposed remains of the port side of a wooden sailing vessel lying on its starboard side with its stern inshore.

The date of 1768 means the ship potentially sailed along the east coast while Dr Sharp, one of the trustees of the Crewe Trust, was in residence at the castle.

Dr Sharp was so concerned for sailors in the treacherous waters around Bamburgh that in 1781 he set up what is recognised as the first coastguard system in the world.

The first coastguard at Bamburgh did not only warn ships of the coastline, but also provided refuge at the castle for shipwrecked sailors, stored their cargo and buried the dead. This remarkable wreck on the beach at Bamburgh is not only extremely rare in terms of the extent of the survival, but also because it could provide a direct link to the work of the Dr Sharp.

Further research of historical maritime documents might eventually reveal the identity of the ship.

A full report and more information is available online at