Solving a Mystery Shipwreck
A mysterious shipwreck that lay in the Solent for 160 years has been identified by archaeologists from the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology (HWTMA), and its fascinating history revealed for the first time.
The wreck, which lies on the Horse Tail Sands in the eastern Solent, was first discovered by fishermen in 2003, but it was another eight years before archaeologists were able to put a name to the vessel.
The wreck is that of the Flower of Ugie, a 19th century wooden sailing barque that sank in the Solent on the 27th December 1852 following a great storm in the English Channel.
The history of the vessel, the investigation since its discovery and the process that led to its identification, is detailed in a new publication - the first of the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology’s eagerly awaited monograph series about their work.
The Flower of Ugie was a three-masted sailing barque built in Sunderland in 1838. During its career it made regular voyages around Africa and onto India and the Far East. Later it was employed in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and across the Atlantic, carrying cargo to and from the United States and Canada. In this capacity, the Flower of Ugie provides a glimpse into the maritime trade links of the 19th century, including the origins of the globalised seaborne connections that are familiar to us today.
Diver on the wreck
On the night of the 26th December 1852, while carrying coal from Sunderland to Cartagena, Spain, the Flower of Ugie ran into a storm off Portland. The ferocious weather that battered the whole of the south coast that night nearly capsized the ship, and the crew were forced to cut down two masts to right it. In the early hours of the 27th, the Flower of Ugie sought shelter in the Solent, but it grounded on the Horse Tail Sands and the crew were forced to abandon ship before the vessel broke apart later that day.
The vessel was not seen again until 2003, when a local fisherman snagged his nets on the wreck. The HWTMA surveyed the site between 2004 and 2008 but initially they were unable to conclusively identify the vessel, which now lay in two parts, twelve metres below the surface of the water. The site was also within a licensed dredging area operated by United Marine Dredging (UMD), who established an exclusion zone around the site to prevent any damage. UMD also shared their geophysical data and other knowledge of the sands during the production of the monograph, demonstrating how successful collaborations between the heritage and industry sectors can be.
In 2009 funding from the Marine Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund (MALSF), distributed by English Heritage, allowed for another two years of research. Careful analysis of the hull structure, fastenings and sheathing placed the vessel’s construction in the mid-19th century, which allowed research to concentrate on five specific vessels known to have been wrecked in the eastern Solent at that time. Key features such as copper bolts, which have a chemical composition unlikely to have been used after 1850, and the use of yellow-metal (an industrial brass patented in 1832), to sheath the hull eventually led researchers to the Flower of Ugie.
For more information, visit www.hwtma.org.uk/flower-of-ugie.
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