The Boat Beneath the Car Park

Wirral Archaeology Community Interest Company will be carrying out a professional archaeological investigation of an alleged ancient, clinker-constructed boat buried beneath the carpark of the Railway Inn in Meols, on the northern coast of the Wirral Peninsula. 

Chair of Wirral Archaeology CIC, Dominga Devitt commented “There has been intense local interest in this buried object for many years. It has been thought that the boat dates from the Viking era but no professional investigation has ever been carried out to establish the truth, so everyone is really delighted at the prospect of what we might discover.”

The work is due to begin on 18th February 2023 at the Railway Inn. The team from Wirral Archaeology CIC will work in partnership with the pub owners, Greene King, to investigate the buried object under the supervision of professional archaeologist Charles Jones, who has spent many years researching the site of the Battle of Fulford which took place in 1066, and scientist Professor Stephen Harding of Nottingham University. 

Professor Harding is an acknowledged expert on Viking settlement and culture on the Wirral peninsula where he comes from.  He explains; Our plan is to go down systematically with an array of about 100 narrow bore holes across a wide area in front of the pub where the boat lies – buried approximately 9ft (3m) underneath the surface and capture small samples of wood and surrounding environment for full analysis.   The boat is purported to be a very old wooden clinker (overlapping planks), a design of boatbuilding that originated in Scandinavia, and is buried in waterlogged blue clay – a great preservative – and similar to the clay in which the famous Norwegian clinker boats, the Oseberg and Gokstad were deliberately buried”

“The position and depth suggest it is very old, and it may even date from the Viking Age, when Meols was a vibrant seaport and Wirral hosted a large Scandinavian community.   Any remains,  and surrounding soil will undergo a range of scientific analyses including Carbon14 dating, dendrochronology and wood assessment (state of preservation and possible origins). These tests will provide us with a context and valuable information about the age and possible origin of the boat.”

Lisa Jones, General Manager at The Railway, said: “Team Railway is very happy to be part of this historic moment for Meols and supports the work of the Wirral Archaeology group. There is a buzz of excitement around this and we look forward to finding out more about what is buried beneath the pub car park. Like everyone around here, we all want to identify just what is there and if it really does date back to Viking times.”