The Archaeology and History of the Flower of Ugie, Wrecked 1852 in the Eastern Solent (HWTMA monograph No 1/BAR British series 551) edited by Julian Whitewright and Julie Satchell (eds), with 7 Contributors 112 pp., 59 figs. some colour, 17 tablesBAR via Archaeopress, Gordon House, 276 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7ED, 2011, £29 (sbk), ISBN 978-14073088890
Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
© 2013 The Authors. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology © 2013 The Nautical Archaeology Society
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Volume 42, Issue 1, pages 233–234, March 2013
How to Cite
Crisman, K. J. (2013), The Archaeology and History of the Flower of Ugie, Wrecked 1852 in the Eastern Solent (HWTMA monograph No 1/BAR British series 551) edited by Julian Whitewright and Julie Satchell (eds), with 7 Contributors 112 pp., 59 figs. some colour, 17 tablesBAR via Archaeopress, Gordon House, 276 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7ED, 2011, £29 (sbk), ISBN 978-14073088890. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 42: 233–234. doi: 10.1111/1095-9270.12008_19
- Issue published online: 4 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
The late Professor J. Richard Steffy, ancient ship specialist and author of Wooden Ship Building and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks, often reminded his students that even the most meagre of ship remains have something to tell us about the past. For him, the measure of good maritime archaeologists was in how much information they could extract from a collection of fragmentary hull remains. The only limits, he said, are imagination and motivation. BAR British Series 551, The Archaeology and History of the Flower of Ugie, makes an excellent case in point, for the research team on this project has accomplished much with a limited amount of ship structure and a very modest collection of artefacts.
The wreck that is the subject of this monograph was first brought to the attention of the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Marine Archaeology (HWTMA) in 2003 as that organization was commencing a major survey of submerged cultural resources on the eastern side of the historic Solent waterway on England's south coast. A fisherman working off the Horse Tail Sands had snagged his nets on an unknown bottom feature in 12 m of water, an obstruction that divers subsequently identified as pieces of a wooden vessel. When compared with the two most famous wrecks to be discovered and excavated in the Solent, the warships Mary Rose and Invincible, this new find was not very impressive. It consisted of two relatively small sections of hull separated by a scatter of debris; it was not even possible to determine which end of each section was forward and which was aft. It was readily apparent to the HWTMA group, however, that the site warranted further investigation, for earlier commercial aggregate-dredging operations had created a sink in the nearby bottom topography that was drawing down the sediments that had once covered and protected the wreck. Between 2004 and 2011 the organization spent seven dive seasons (no work took place in 2007) recording the structure and debris field, collecting artefacts as well as samples of wood and metal for analysis, and amassing data on the hydrology, geomorphology, and biology of the wreck site and surrounding sea bottom.
The results of the HWTMA efforts are covered in 98 pages of fairly dense text; although well-written, this is emphatically a scientific report and not a publication intended for readers with only a mild interest in the subject. The monograph's seven chapters cover the project background and site context; archaeological remains; a discussion of the history of the vessel believed to be the wreck; a chapter devoted to the context and interpretation of the vessel and the sea-bed remains; and a review of issues surrounding both site management and the dissemination of the project results (the latter included the preparation of teaching materials for secondary-school students that use the site as a case study in scientific research). The text is supported by numerous data tables and profusely illustrated with colour and b&w photos, site plans and artefact drawings, maps, and ship and rigging diagrams.
While all parts of the monograph contain useful descriptions and analyses, some sections particularly stand out. The analysis of the metal fastenings by Peter Northover of the University of Oxford's Department of Materials Science is one of them. Certain features of the wreck (its copper fastenings and sheathing, iron hanging and lodging knees, and a cast-iron carronade) allowed the HWTMA team to tentatively date the wreck to the late 18th or 19th centuries. Northover's identification of samples containing different ratios of copper and other metals allowed the researchers to place the wreck with some certainty in the second quarter of the 19th century, when earlier types of cupreous sheathing and fasteners were being replaced by new copper-zinc alloys patented by George Muntz in 1832 and entering widespread use by the 1840s. Evidence of both types in the hull suggested the vessel's career spanned these decades. The identification of timber samples by Nigel Nayling of the University of Wales also proved very useful in the process of identifying the wreck.
Julian Whitewright's summary of the monograph's archaeological chapter is a textbook example of making good use of disparate physical and comparative evidence as well as deductive logic to determine the approximate date and vessel type from the archaeological finds. His conclusions are then applied in the subsequent chapter to narrowing the list of known wrecks in the area to the most likely candidate; the 350-ton (old measure) bark Flower of Ugie (pronounced you-gee), a vessel built at Sunderland in 1838 and lost off the Horse Tail Sands in a storm in 1852. The construction of this vessel, described in considerable detail in a Lloyd's survey report prepared at the time it entered service, matched a number of the hull features and wood species identified on the wreck. This kind of documentary corroboration is something that most shipwreck archaeologists working on wrecks from earlier centuries can only dream of.
Whitewright's discussion of the Flower of Ugie's 14-year career, derived mostly from Lloyd's List daily shipping reports and from arrival and departure notices in various newspapers, makes clear just how representative this vessel was of its time and place. The bark made multiple voyages between Liverpool and Calcutta, with side trips to Mauritius, Penang, and at least one trip to China at the time of the 1842 Opium War; during later voyages Flower of Ugie sailed from English ports to the eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Baltic, and across the North Atlantic to New York and Quebec. On its last voyage the now-elderly bark was carrying coal from Sunderland to Cartagena in Spain when it was overtaken by the storm that ultimately caused it to break up on the Horse Tail Sands. The narrative history is followed by the excellent ‘Contextualization and Interpretation’ chapter that looks at the ship both as an element in the worldwide trade system of its day, and also as a seafaring machine made up of many parts, built at a time when scientific discoveries and engineering advances were changing the nature of ship design and construction.
The Archaeology and History of the Flower of Ugie makes a strong case for the importance of studying and preserving 19th-century wrecks, a subject near and dear to this reviewer's heart. The scale and complexity of maritime enterprises and the technology of building and operating ships both underwent massive changes in that 100-year span. Despite the richness of the documentary record, there is so much more to be discovered when we combine this with research on shipwrecks of this era.