In 1938 the remains of a clinker-built boat were unearthed by workmen digging the foundations of the new Railway pub in Meols. It was described as “an ancient ship built in the Nordic clinker (overlapping planks) style buried twelve feet down and covered in a layer of blue clay”. As they were on a tight schedule to get the new pub open, the workmen were told to keep quiet and cover it up. Nosy archaeologists were not encouraged!
The workmen obeyed the instructions and re-buried the object but not before one of them, Mr John McRae, made a drawing of the ‘boat’ and its approximate position. Fortunately, that rough drawing survived and has been made available to Wirral Archaeology.
Over 8o years have passed since the workmen’s discovery and the mystery remains. Local resident Tim Baldock and Professor Stephen Harding, Wirral’s own Viking expert, suggested that investigating this object would make an interesting project for the group. Greene King, who own the Railway Inn and carpark, agreed.
With the consent of Greene King, a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) survey was undertaken, which confirmed that there is indeed a boat-shaped object lying beneath the patio area in front of the pub. A Heritage Lottery Fund bid was put together to excavate the site.
Despite encouraging noises from the HLF our application was turned down flat – it did not meet the ‘community involvement’ criterion.
The Boat project team, headed by Dominga Devitt and assisted by Professor Stephen Harding, Chas Jones (lead archaeologist on the Battle of Fulford dig), Peter Forshaw, Alex Ogston and Nick Alsop, are determined to drive the project forward. We devised a new strategy based on taking soil samples from around the object with the aid of a specialist boring instrument called a Dutch Auger, and hopefully a sample of the wood of the boat can also be obtained. Careful analysis of the samples will provide clues to the object’s age and other vital information. It is hoped this work can take place in early 2023.
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