Swash Channel Wreck surfaces in new exhibition

The Swash Channel Wreck exhibition launched at Poole Museum on 25 July and displays the results of work carried out by Bournemouth University (BU) staff and students, who raised and conserved the wreck.

The Seventeenth Century shipwreck was discovered outside Poole harbour in 2004 and is hailed as the most significant wreck found in UK waters since the Mary Rose in 1971. Smaller finds, recovered and preserved by students, are now on display in the museum along with replicas and related objects.

The exhibition, which is financially supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, tells the story of the discovery of the ship by archaeologists and the story of the ship itself, from its building to its untimely sinking. It is part of an on-going project led by BU’s maritime archaeologists – a team known as M.A.D. About the Wreck, whose aim is to widen public appreciation of underwater archaeology.

BU’s involvement in the Swash Channel Wreck project began in 2006 when maritime archaeology students were invited to monitor the site of the wreck as part of their training. Excavation of the ship began in 2010, led by BU and funded by English Heritage, and work is likely to continue for years to come as more treasures are rescued from the seabed. Surveying, excavating and conserving the wreck was aided with sponsorship from Jenkins Marine and collaborating with Poole Maritime Heritage, Borough of Poole and Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust.

The ship is thought to belong to the Dutch East India Trading company and comes from the Dutch Golden Age of shipbuilding. The vessel would have been ornately carved, carried several cannons for protection and was destined for trade in the Tropics and the Americas. The preservation and lack of weathering on the carvings suggest it was possibly on its maiden voyage to the tropics when it was sunk by a storm near Poole. It is currently the only known example of this type of ship and signifies the transition from maritime exploration to global trading.

Gordon Le Pard, Project Officer for M.A.D. About the Wreck was involved in the public interpretation of the Swash Channel Wreck. Commenting on the historical significance of the wreck, he said, “[The ship] is the very beginning of the modern idea of international trade.”

Alongside Gordon and BU’s Programme Leader for MSc Maritime Archaeology Paola Palma, exhibition curator Katie Morton helped to bring the ship’s story to life and said,

“I think there are so many stories around the ship wreck and even though it’s a very local wreck, discovered just outside Poole harbour, it’s an incredibly international story. This ship, and you have to picture it all decorated with carvings and painted, would have been absolutely incredible.”

“It’s fabulous that it’s on our doorstep. Poole is full of amazing maritime heritage which we are lucky to have at Poole Museum but this is really special.”

Maritime Archaeology comes to Guys Marsh Prison


A maritime archaeology day, designed to make archaeology more accessible, took place at Guys Marsh Prison.

Experts from Bournemouth University visited the prison to share findings from their excavation of the Swash Channel Wreck, a 17th Century ship that lies on the bed of Poole Harbour.

Prison inmates were shown slides of artefacts found and were told about the history of the wreckage. After the presentations, inmates were invited to attend group sessions to talk about maritime archaeology and give their views on the project.

The activity day took place as a part of the MAD About the Wreck project, created by Paola Palma, Lecturer in Marine Archaeology at Bournemouth University, which invites people to join the adventure of maritime archaeology through a series of Maritime Archaeology Days (MAD). The project was also created in collaboration with Poole Museum.

Paola said, “It has always been a passion of mine to make sure that whatever my colleagues and I find underwater becomes enjoyable to all. I would like archaeology to be inclusive of all, with no limits to gender, age, skills, geographical location etc. I love to create a partnership with those who are learning and those who wish to learn or just listen to something new. The participation of prisons, care homes and groups of minorities in this is fundamental, challenging and mutually rewarding.”

One prisoner, Richard, said, “I found it very informative and I was looking forward to [the day] because I am very interested in the topic. I’d love to encourage other people to come along and enjoy what we have enjoyed today.”

Another of the prisoners, Chris, wrote a piece of Baroque–style music and played it to the audience as a tribute to the music of the time. Chris said of the day, “Today was fantastic, it was heart–warming to see people passionate about a subject talk about it.”

The prisoners taking part in the day were part of the RECOOP group at Guys Marsh. RECOOP are a charity that look after resettlement and care of older prisoners and works with prisoners for rehabilitation.

Bournemouth University is collaborating with Borough of Poole’s Museum Service for the project, using Poole’s Swash Channel Wreck as the source of inspiration.

There are a number of Maritime Archaeology Days planned and you can find more information on the MAD About the Wreck Facebook page.