The Swash Channel Wreck exhibition launched at Poole Museum on 25 July and displays the results of work carried out by Bournemouth University staff and students, who raised and conserved the wreck.
The Seventeenth Century shipwreck was discovered outside Poole harbour in 2004 and is hailed as the most significant wreck found in UK waters since the Mary Rose in 1971. Smaller finds, recovered and preserved by students, are now on display in the museum along with replicas and related objects.
The exhibition, which is financially supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, tells the story of the discovery of the ship by archaeologists and the story of the ship itself, from its building to its untimely sinking. It is part of an on-going project led by BU’s maritime archaeologists – a team known as M.A.D. About the Wreck, whose aim is to widen public appreciation of underwater archaeology.
BU’s involvement in the Swash Channel Wreck project began in 2006 when maritime archaeology students were invited to monitor the site of the wreck as part of their training. Excavation of the ship began in 2010, led by BU and funded by English Heritage, and work is likely to continue for years to come as more treasures are rescued from the seabed. Surveying, excavating and conserving the wreck was aided with sponsorship from Jenkins Marine and collaborating with Poole Maritime Heritage, Borough of Poole and Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust.
The ship is thought to belong to the Dutch East India Trading company and comes from the Dutch Golden Age of shipbuilding. The vessel would have been ornately carved, carried several cannons for protection and was destined for trade in the Tropics and the Americas. The preservation and lack of weathering on the carvings suggest it was possibly on its maiden voyage to the tropics when it was sunk by a storm near Poole. It is currently the only known example of this type of ship and signifies the transition from maritime exploration to global trading.
Gordon Le Pard, Project Officer for M.A.D. About the Wreck was involved in the public interpretation of the Swash Channel Wreck. Commenting on the historical significance of the wreck, he said, “[The ship] is the very beginning of the modern idea of international trade.”
Alongside Gordon and BU’s Programme Leader for MSc Maritime Archaeology Paola Palma, exhibition curator Katie Morton helped to bring the ship’s story to life and said,
“I think there are so many stories around the ship wreck and even though it’s a very local wreck, discovered just outside Poole harbour, it’s an incredibly international story. This ship, and you have to picture it all decorated with carvings and painted, would have been absolutely incredible.”
“It’s fabulous that it’s on our doorstep. Poole is full of amazing maritime heritage which we are lucky to have at Poole Museum but this is really special.”