Geo-archaeological and environmental survey. In Durham, B., Briscoe, R. & McKewan, C. 'The Binsey Boat: a post-medieval story of the Thames at Port Meadow, Oxford'
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This report describes a small scale rescue of part of a boat subject to river erosion, with quite unexpected implications for three areas of enquiry: the evolution of the Oxford Thames from commercial waterway to leisure activities; the challenge of reconstructing a possibly unique river craft from small areas of its inner hull; and reflections on the geomorphology of one of the most closely studies flood plains in England. The story started in 2003 when cabling works on the east bank f the Thames at Medley exposed a boat eroding from the bank, notified to Oxford City Council's archaeologist. The boat was of clench bolt construction and its exposed remains presented a risk to bathers, stock and navigation. In the context of Port Meadow's protected status and the uncertain age of the vessel it was clear that any investigation would have to be carefully designed so as not to compromise the vessel or its surroundings. With the aid of the English Heritage Maritime Team and students of the OUDCE MSc in Landscape Archaeology course, the boat was investigated in early June 2004 along with a topographical, geophysical and environmental survey of the surrounding area. The boat was tentatively established as a punt-like vessel approximately 20.6m. long by 2m. wide. Its hull construction had similarities to a canal narrow boat, but the exposed end, whether bow or stern, was squared. No tree0ring date could be recovered from the fast-grown timbers, but the historical evidence would support a late 18th or 19th-century date for its abandonment. Auger survey of the river bank suggests it was abandoned in riverside reed beds rather than in a separate channel. Its form is such that is may have been used for transporting loose, heavy cargo, such as sand or gravel along the Thames and would have been robust enough to navigate flash locks like the one that functioned at Medley from 1790 to 1926. This report draws on archaeological, historical and ecological research to better understand the remains of the boat in context of the protected meadow, and so promotes a strategy for its conservation and any further investigation.
Type of Material
Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society
Copyright (Published Version)
2006 Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society
Status of Item
Not peer reviewed
This item is made available under a Creative Commons License