Lying between Portsmouth and Hayling Island, Langstone Harbour is an undeveloped area which hosts a variety of important archaeological features, wildlife and plant species. It contains four islands and large expanses of mud flats, shingle banks and sand banks which are exposed at low water.
Artefacts from many periods have been discovered eroding from the shores of the islands and from within the mud flats. Some items date back to the late Mesolithic period and other finds include Neolithic arrow heads, Bronze Age cremation urns, Roman pottery, a Saxon logboat and wattle-work and the remains of Medieval saltworks.
The MAT has been involved in the investigation of the Harbour since the early 1990s, having investigated underwater sites, features and deposits as part of the Langstone Harbour Project. Most of the recent Trust activity has concentrated on the north of the Harbour off North Binness Island and Long Island; the site from where the Saxon logboat was excavated. The harbour is an excellent environment for involving volunteers and the wealth of archaeology provides all with an insight into the history of the harbour.
To find out more about Langstone Harbour, click here.
1990’s Langstone Harbour Project
Between 1993 and 1998 a programme of fieldwork and research was undertaken to investigate the intertidal and submerged archaeology of the Harbour. The project was multi disciplinary and collaborative involving a number of partners to draw on their specialist expertise. The MAT lead the underwater aspects of the project undertaking tasks such as underwater searches, survey, sampling and excavation.
Sites investigated within the harbour included:
Wrecks the Withern, the Irishman and the Excelsior
The Withern was a bucket dredger which sank in 1926, wreckage is now scattered over an area of 35m by 8m, with upstanding remains of 4.5m above the seabed. The Irishman was a paddle tug which detonated a magnetic mine on May 8th 1941 and sank. The Excelsior is a well preserved barge which still has its hull structure and main deck intact.
Mulberry Harbour remains
The large concrete structure of the Mulberry Harbour remains are highly visible near the mouth of the Harbour. This historically significant structure is a ‘Type Phoenix Unit’ and was part of a caisson built to form part of the outer breakwater for the Harbour at Arromanches in Normandy in support of the D-Day landings.
Scatters of artefacts
Sites subject to diving investigation included a number of reported groups of artefacts or areas of high potential. Searches near the Hayling Island Ferry Pontoon where Prison Hulks used to be moored failed to find any significant remains. Groups of stones in both Sinah Creek and Little Rock Leak are possibly local stone, or may represent remains of ballast or a ships cargo.
Excavation of a geophysical anomaly
The discovery of a ‘ship shaped’ anomaly during seismic survey led to an excavation to confirm the nature of the site. Following excavation of a 2.5 x 2.5m trench the encountered remains were found to be a compacted layer of flint nodules which would once have formed the bed of a palaeochannel which is now buried below the modern harbour floor.
On the edge of Sinah Lake, in the south east corner of the harbour, a circuit of upright timbers were discovered. Lying upto three metres below the surface of the lake, the site consisted of 28 stakes in a circle with a six metre diameter.
The site was excavated in 1995 by the MAT and the University of Southampton. The posts were both roundwood and split timbers and wattlework was uncovered from in between. The site is believed to be a fishing structure although their is uncertainty about its date of origin.
Other project partners in the Langstone Harbour Project were: Portsmouth University, Southampton University, Southampton University, and Wessex Archaeology.
In September 2003 the logboat which had been discovered by local enthusiasts John Cross and Arthur Mack, was excavated and raised. This was made possible thanks to a donation from John and Jane Bingeman of money that Jane had been left by her godmother Betty Silverwood Lamb. Prior to the excavation, only one end of the logboat had been glimpsed and recorded. A radiocarbon date of AD500 (plus or minus 100 years) was obtained.
It was apparent that the boat was in several pieces due to fractures in the timber caused by time and tide. The excavation also revealed that the buried end of the boat was not intact, potentially due to tidal erosion.
Following conservation of the timber, the logboat is now stable enough to exhibit permanently. From 26th July 2011, it has been on display as part of a exhibition at Portsmouth City Museum.
‘No place like Pompey’ looks at some of the things that make “Pompey” special. These include the fact that most of Portsmouth lies on an island, the city’s links with the dockyard and the Royal Navy, and the fortifications that made Portsmouth one of the most heavily defended areas in the country.
The logboat is displayed alongside archaeology from Langstone Harbour and the surrounding area. Objects include Saxon jewellery and weaponry, prehistoric flint tools and a Bronze Age torc (neck ornament).
The Langstone Logboat and the surrounding area is being investigated as a part of the Arch-Manche project.