No.72: The Acorn

To end the year, today’s post showcases several of the main themes of 2014 in maritime archaeology: first, early 2014 was exceptionally stormy, with numerous reports of wrecks having been exposed in different locations around the UK as storms scoured sand off beaches. Many members of the public gave English Heritage fantastic reports of shipwreck material they had seen.

One such report was from Sutton-on-Sea, Lincolnshire. It gives me great pleasure today to introduce as my guest blogger this week Jordan Havell, who is 13. After seeing some timbers on the shore this year, he has been researching the story behind one of the wrecks in his local area, the Acorn, which was a barque laden with ice when she struck in Lynn Roads in 1898.

Jordan tells the story of her origins: 

I got very interested in this shipwreck, amongst others, while doing a local history project. I am 13 years old and home educated.

The Acorn was built in 1855 in Dundee, County of Forfar, Scotland. The register date is recorded as 05/03/1855, with the master’s name shown as Peter Anderson, in the hands of Andrew Low for the Tay Ship Building Company, dated 28/02/1855. The employment of the Surveying Officer, Joseph Northmore, is recorded as a tide surveyor. These details come from the Dundee Archives, for whose help I was very grateful.

The ship had one and a half poop decks, 3 masts and her length is recorded as 119 feet. She was a barque which had one gallery and a full female figurehead. The framework and planking were made of wood.

The subscribing owners were named as Peter Anderson – Master Mariner – 16 shares. The manufacturers are recorded as Matthew Low and John Morrison, both having 12 shares. It is noted there were 2 other owners.

Image courtesy of Dundee City Archives.
Original register entry for the Acorn, 1855. Image courtesy of Dundee City Archives.

The Acorn appears in various articles in Dundee newspapers from 1856 to 1873. By 1871 her master is listed as George Wilson. On the records from this time there are numerous notes, including a query shown in 1873 regarding conversions to cubic metres weight. In 1873 the ship is registered under the port of Grimsby. The Acorn was believed to have been carrying ice between Norway and Grimsby for use by the Grimsby Ice Company in the fishing industry.

It appears she ended her days on the beach at Sutton-on-Sea in 1901 and is recorded under the English Heritage wreck report 928347 and account of wreck site 1484623. I am very grateful to Serena Cant and her colleagues who gave me help with this project.

I am hoping to find out about more shipwrecks along this coast over time.


Many thanks to Jordan for his essay, which I am delighted to include today. I think an ice barque is an appropriate seasonal theme on which to end the year! For more on Norwegian ice barques, have a look at a past entry here.

The sharp-eyed among you, like Jordan, will have spotted that she struck a sandbank in the Wash in 1898, but ended up further north on the Lincolnshire coast in 1901. I did some research myself and found that the vessel was recovered in 1898, when she was sold for £105. (1) This was very typical. For the Acorn‘s owners, in far-away Sandefjord, it would have been much more economical to cut their losses by selling the vessel, rather than try to get her repaired at their own cost.

This, I suspect, is how she eventually ended up at Sutton-on-Sea in what has proven to be a ship graveyard, another theme which has emerged strongly in maritime archaeology over the last few years. These tend to be groups of vessels beyond economical repair, drawn up for breaking and then perhaps abandoned. The Acorn was one of six vessels which were recorded by partial excavation along this stretch of beach in 1997. (2)

I think there is plenty more for us to find out – what happened to the Acorn between 1898 and 1901, and what is the story of the other ships which may still remain under the sand at Sutton-on-Sea and elsewhere in the locality? Over to you, Jordan! I hope you will continue to be as fascinated by shipwreck archaeology as we are.

Wreck of post-medieval or early modern fishing vessel, Mablethorpe, 2007, first recorded 1997. Image courtesy of John Buglass.
Wreck of unidentified post-medieval or early modern fishing vessel, Mablethorpe, 2007, first recorded 1997. Image courtesy of John Buglass.

(1) Hull Daily Mail, 13 April 1898, No.3,902, p4

(2) Buglass, J 1997: The remains of six sailing ships and other archaeological features in the inter-tidal zone between Sutton-on-Sea and Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire; Buglass, J and Brigham, T 2008: Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire: Donna Nook to Gibraltar Point, Humber Archaeology Report No.236

One thought on “No.72: The Acorn

  1. Interestingly, while working on the third and final phase of the Yorks/Lincs RCZA, I found two postcards of Mablethorpe c 1900 each showing a beached three masted barque like Acorn, one with the mizzen and topmasts removed, the other still fully rigged. I assumed they were awaiting dismantling and I have since found other versions showing the second vessel from different angles (though they are probably the same ship at different stages of dismantling) suggesting it may have been a feature of the beach for some time. I understand dismantlers often ‘stockpiled’ vessels as part of a supply and demand process rather than breaking them up immediately.

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