The Hulks of Forton Lake, Gosport: the Forton Lake archaeological project 2006–9 (BAR British series 536, NAS Mono no 3) by Mark Beattie-Edwards and Julie Satchell, with 8 Contributors 106 pages; 60 colour plates, 85 b&w figs, 16 tablesBAR via Archaeopress, Gordon House, 276 Banbury Road., Oxford OX2 7ED, or NAS, Fort Cumberland, Eastney, Portsmouth PO4 9LD, 2011, £30/£27 for members via NAS (sbk), ISBN 978-1407308135
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 234–235, March 2013
How to Cite
Milne, G. (2013), The Hulks of Forton Lake, Gosport: the Forton Lake archaeological project 2006–9 (BAR British series 536, NAS Mono no 3) by Mark Beattie-Edwards and Julie Satchell, with 8 Contributors 106 pages; 60 colour plates, 85 b&w figs, 16 tablesBAR via Archaeopress, Gordon House, 276 Banbury Road., Oxford OX2 7ED, or NAS, Fort Cumberland, Eastney, Portsmouth PO4 9LD, 2011, £30/£27 for members via NAS (sbk), ISBN 978-1407308135. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 42: 234–235. doi: 10.1111/1095-9270.12008_20
- Issue published online: 4 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
In the UK, hulk assemblages can usually be classified into three main types, differing in terms of date of deposition and in types of craft represented. There is the ‘Bank Reinforcement Assemblage’ with vessels selected for a particular purpose, and therefore with a focus on robust, medium-to-large craft. While the core of the bank reinforcement or breach infill is likely to have been brought together at one time (but perhaps using vessels of differing dates), there may also be additional repairs to the flood defence incorporating later craft. A second type would be the ‘Catastrophe Cemetery’, representing the deposition or abandonment of all vessels at (more-or-less) one date, and a third type the ‘Attrition Cemetery’, in which the deposition of the craft might be spread over decades or even centuries. Since it is the least selective of such hulk assemblages, attrition cemeteries can lay claim to being more representative of the wider range of vessel types in a particular region. Consequently their research not only provides valuable information on particular aspects of vessel construction, but gives a window on a broader series of social, economic or political issues, of relevance to local, regional and national histories.
The survey of the large assemblage of more than 30 vessels from Forton Lake, Gosport in Hampshire is an excellent example of this type of research. The work was directed by the main authors, Mark Beattie-Edwards and Julie Satchell, as a joint NAS/Hampshire Wight Maritime Trust project; one that involved a large and enthusiastic team, as the published acknowledgments demonstrate. From 2006–9, a remarkable range of small, medium and larger vessels were recorded, representing ferries, lifeboats and fishing boats, as well as landing craft dating from the 1939–1945 War, all abandoned over a protracted period in a south-coast creek. The project therefore provided a most illuminating maritime history of this region. It is to the credit of the team that, in addition to this most useful report, an attractive booklet on Forton's Forgotten Fleet has also been published.
The more detailed monograph considered here presents the results of this community-archaeology project in a logical format. Introductory sections look at the history and archaeology of the tidal inlet, and the background to the project, including the various sponsors (such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, Crown State and Gosport Borough Council) that supported the survey and its associated activities. The next sections catalogue some 30 craft, considered in five sub-groups. The first presents the evidence for two metal and three wooden barges: the latter, possibly the oldest vessels represented in the assemblage. This is followed by one of the most specialized working craft considered here, the Medina River Chain Ferry, and then the old Gosport ferry, Vadne. This section concludes with two ship's lifeboats, probably the first time such a vessel type has been subject to archaeological survey. Three wooden-hulled, motor-powered fishing vessels form the next section.
The largest section reports on a range of military and naval vessels, a rather poignant memorial to the WWII, the more so in relation to the70th anniversary of that world-changing event. There was the Motor Minesweeper Class 1, no 293, an RAF bomb scow (used to ferry bombs and torpedoes to marine aircraft); two naval pinnaces or harbour launches, a possible gunboat, an RAF ferry and the remains of three wooden-hulled landing craft which would have carried armour plating when on active service, although this was often stripped off when such craft were converted into houseboats.
The study also surveyed associated slipways and a groyne, as well as considering the history of the local F. J. Watts boatyard, responsible for some of this most evocative collection. This monograph and its associated project are important for several reasons: a) it demonstrates admirably the value of looking in detail at hulk assemblages (before it is too late) and clearly shows how such studies illuminate a wider local history; b) the project is a first-rate example of what a coherent community-based archaeological programme should be, involving training, targeted fieldwork, outreach work, research and publication. The monograph includes a useful compendium of sources (published and otherwise), together with worksheets for school children and guidelines on working with the hulk-recording proforma, to help other groups wishing to set up their own projects; c) the monograph was published very promptly in 2011, just two years after the fieldwork was completed, a major achievement in itself.
Taken together, the Forton Lake project should galvanize groups to take a deeper interest in such hulk assemblages (and in intertidal archaeology in general). There is a real need for more of this type of work, all too often sitting outside the developer-led archaeological world. There is no need for ‘amateur’ groups to feel they are excluded from genuine fieldwork opportunities as community archaeology on the foreshore has a positive role to play. The Forton Lake project as described in this monograph provides an ideal model of how community archaeology can make a real contribution to archaeological research.