King's Lynn Foreshore Survey


In preparation for the fieldwork planned for Saturday, Friday evening consisted of a number of lectures followed by a nice meal. The topics covered were:-

  • 19:30-19:50 Welcome and Introduction: Marine Archaeology in Lynn, some prospects
    Dr. Clive Jonathon Bond, Chairperson, West Norfolk & King's Lynn Archaeological Society
    and Visiting Research Fellow, Department of Archaeology, The University of Winchester
  • 19:50- 20:10 The Maritime History of King's Lynn
    Dr. Paul Richards, Chairperson, Marriott's Warehouse Trust
  • 20:10-20:30 The Nautical Archaeology Society in East Anglia
    Dr. Simon Draper, NAS East Anglia
  • 20:30-20:50 The new CITiZAN project
    Dr. Courtney Nimura, CITiZAN Community Archaeologist (MOLA)
Event Photos (Click to view):
We are also included (briefly) in the CITiZAN Newsletter HERE (See page 6).



The Saturday was scheduled to be a practical day and at 10 a group of about 20 of us assembled at the Green Quay. The group comprised the lecturers from the day before, members of the society and members of the public interested in the Lynn foreshore.

Hulk in Nar Loop selected for survey Hulk in Nar Loop selected for survey

We started off (as you do) with Health and Safety instructions and the dangers of Weil's Disease from the water in the estuary. Also the dangers of moving around in marsh or muddy areas, the motos seemed to be 'stick together' and 'Don't walk backwards'! We then had some instruction on the tasks for the morning. We were to explore a spur off the River Nar that drains into the Ouze where there were a number of abandoned hulks and to record them. The Marine Archaeology Society & CITiZAN had just developed some new forms (with instructions on use) and wanted to test them on inexperienced in this area of archaeology. We were certainly new to this subject so we made the ideal Guinea pigs. We were assured that the area was (fairly) dry and that all we would need were boots, so off we set. The group was split into small teams and after scrambling down a bank we set out across a reed, tidal area towards the large hulk.

Hull Interior Photograph

On arriving at the hulk we took a first look at the form we had to complete and noted that we needed to make a number of measurements on the hulk. Ahem, we didn't have any measures - which turned out to be what was planned, as the organisers wanted to see just how accurate our estimating skills were. Measuring from bow to stern could be paced out but it was more difficult to estimate the maximum width (beam) and the total height as it was firmly embedded in the mud.

The form quickly became more complicated (Construction: Clinker, Carvel, Dugout, Double Diagonal...) and we had to refer to the instruction sheets in order to complete it. After this we took some photographs from various angles and then were able to check our estimates by using measuring tapes.

Bow On Image of the Hulk

The hulk was moored up against a concrete quay in a thickly reeded marshy area. While the shell of the hulk was largely intact the interior had mostly disintegrated. Whilst it was possible to see that there had been a deck this had rotted away and so it was impossible to determine if there had been on-deck structures on access-ways (hatches etc.). There was evidence of a rudder, which appeared to have been on the bottom of the boat rather than the back, there was no visible evidence of an engine (or propeller) or of the mast supports that one would expect from a sailing vessel. We also noted that the hulk had a high prow and deduced (guessed) that this meant it could have been ocean going, maybe a towed barge?

After checking our forms we returned to Marriott's (Green Quay) and enjoyed a light lunch & tea/coffee upstairs in the lecture hall.


The afternoon session was a survey of the foreshore of the King's Lynn estuary starting behind the car park to the rear of the Corn Exchange. Surprisingly the archaeology records (NHER) didn't show locations of interest on any of the foreshore and we had to check if it really was archaeologically sterile or just not been surveyed. We started with a classroom session with Dr Nimura, who is engaged in actively surveying the River Thames foreshore, briefing us on what to expect. Then it was up through Lynn (in Wellington boots) and down onto the foreshore.

Keel embedded in mud?

Although (ideally) a foreshore survey should be carried out, with the volunteers in a long, equally-spaced line across the foreshore, this doesn't work in practice and there are a number of areas (eg deep mud, water inlets) to avoid and very quickly the line gets straggly. On the good side the boot-prints in the mud do show what areas have been visited and which avoided (ie missed) so you can make sure that you visually check all the area. There are also areas that are clearly more of interest as any artefacts tend to project out of the mud, which unfortunately make them all the same colour as the surrounding mud.

During the initial part of the survey (as far as the West Lynn Ferry jetty) the artefacts were mainly modern, with an interest possible boat keel (see photo). After the jetty the finds became more interesting & numerous and the going very much tougher. We were sinking over a foot into the mud and it became very much more difficult to make headway. On the positive side we unearthed a cache of animal bones, some clay pipes, pottery and metal items in the next section of foreshore. It was a pity but the foreshore here was both muddy and narrow so we didn't have as much time as we would have liked to continue our survey. While we knew roughly what we had found, the items were so muddy that we really couldn't evaluate them until the following day.

For each feature or artefact found we recorded rough information about the item (eg type of object, dimensions/weight) and, using hand-held GPS, its location. Portable items for later examination were bagged and the details noted on each bag.


Cleaning finds from Foreshore Survey.

Sunday morning was spent washing the accumulated mud off the bagged items and then leaving them to dry. We were lucky enough to have an expert on hand who went through the items in each bag and gave an instant evaluation of the item and an estimate of its probable age. As was expected the majority of items were modern but there were also some 17th Century items and a few dating from the mediaeval period. While it would have been nice to have found earlier items it was very unlikely as the riverbank had moved westwards (by revetments and infilling) by about 100m since medieval times.

On Sunday afternoon it was planned to visit other sites of interest (including a ship's cannon) but I had to leave and was not involved with these.


In summary a very interesting and informative weekend which leaves me wanting to complete surveying the King's Lynn shoreline. The type of archaeology is often muddy but it tends not to involve lots of digging and heavy shifting of the overburden, which is good in my book. Also it tends to be only a few hours (about 4 at the most) per day before the tide stops you doing any more. I guess that you learn record features, bag artefacts and to draw quickly. I expect that on some occasions the tides require an early start but having to respond to such natural phenomena seems - well - just natural somehow.

Many thanks to the various groups who organised it and to the Marriott's Trust where we were based.

Links CITiZAN Project Nautical Archaeology Society

EDP Article

Tour of Historic Hardwick Cemetery (Sunday 11th June 2017)

Dr Paul Richards will be conducting a tour called 'Mariners, Merchants and Industrialists' at Hardwick Cemetery starting at the gates at 2pm (Charge £4).

More Information

St Martha's Test Pits (Sunday 25th June 2017: 11am)

Archaeology demonstration at St Martha's Roman Catholic Primary School Summer Fete. The location is off Roseberry Avenue, Field Lane, Gaywood.

Binham History Group(Friday 23rd June to Sunday 25 June 2017: 9am start)

Investigation of an area identified by GeoPhysics and fieldwalking. Test pitsbeing dug over three days, all welcome.

Historic Pubs of Lynn (Friday 23rd June 2017)

Dr Paul Richards will be conducting a tour called 'Historic Pubs in Lynn' starting at True's Yard 6pm (Charge £5).

More Information

Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know? (28th July 2017)

A public illustrated lecture to be held at St. Margaret's Minister, 4:30pm, by Dr. Laura Kalas Williams, Research Associate and Tutor, Department of English, the University Exeter.

Margery Kempe's boisterous mysticism and medicine: uncovered!. Tickets available from True's Yard Fisherfolk Museum £5


More Information

Society Conference (25th November 2017)

Will be held at Marriott's Warehouse Trust, South Quay, King's Lynn, 10:00-17:00, Saturday 25th November. The subject is 'Women in the Archaeology and History of West Norfolk: Female Voices Across Time'. Places are free but limited and may be booked from True's Yard Fisherfolk Museum