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October 2015

Brigantine ‘ Guide’ renamed ‘Shamrock’

I am to visiting the Purton today to try and locate the remains of the Brigantine ‘ Guide’ renamed ‘Shamrock’.
I have just visited your site and was surprised to find so much documentation about the ship.
I have an interest in hulk because my gt gt grandfather Robert Chaddock a Portland mariner was recorded as owner of the ship in 1861 –1865 Lloyds registers. Having purchased the vessel in 1860. It was the first vessel he had purchase and went on to establish a small shipping company in Liverpool.
I was interested to read the correspondence  from Roland Elliot who’s gt gt grandfather Thomas Elliot , Robert Chaddocks cousin also purchased the ship. However my family records
and the Lloyds register record show the transfer of ownership was in 1865. However Thomas Elliot was the ships master from 1861-1865.  Further transactions and transfer of ownership go back and forth between another cousin  John Angel. Cousins Robert Chaddock, Thomas Elliot and John Angel were all Portland mariners who shipped stone from Portland with later had links to Waterford and Liverpool.

I would very much like to contact Roland Elliot as it it seems we are distant cousins both with an interest in our Portland maritime ancestors.
Could you please contact him and let him have my email address as we may well like to share our research.

Many thanks

David H Jones

The FoP will willingly pass on any contact details or information if you can David with his quest.

September 2015

'Ron and Mary'

I just wanted to say that we visited the site on Wednesday on the estuary and were talking to 'Ron and Mary' (who gave us your card) what an amazing man and story he told us. We learnt so much and were so interested.  We popped along on a whim, taken there by our relatives who live locally near Stroud and were absolutely delighted by our encounter with Ron and Wendy. Please do thank them for us when you next see them.  
We will most definitely call in again when we are that way.
My husband and I live just outside Southampton and were visiting his sister.  We had been to Berkeley Castle and were on our way back to Stroud.  It was a most enjoyable day enhanced by our visit to Purton.

With Regards
Ruth and Harold Williams

June 2015


Drone flies over the wrecks ... a birds eye view

Our good friend of Purton Simon Clewes brought his drone to Purton ... see the stunning results

Drone Video 1

Drone Video 2

Drone Video 3

We would like to thank Simon for giving up his time and producing these stunning videos for all to share.


May 2015


Cotswold Tyndale Rotary pave the way to seating



The Friends of Purton wish show sincere appreciation to our very good friends from the Berkeley based Cotswold Tyndale Rotary Club who recently made a donation towards proposed seating at the site. In receiving the generous cheque, Chairman, Paul Barnett, thanked all who attended the site tour and stated that future visits to the site will be greatly enhanced as a result of this kind gesture from the Rotarians.

March 2014

New evidence emerges over bridge collapse

The 26th of October 1960 saw Gloucestershire awaken to the realisation that the quiet waters of the peaceful River Severn were not as benign and tranquil as first thought.  This came with the devastating news that the county's river crossing, linking Sharpness to Lydney by rail, had been struck by two runaway barges and lay in tatters, taking five of the eight crewmen to a watery end.  Thereafter, stories as to the possible cause of the tragic accident have abounded as to who or what was to blame and has, in part, gone into Gloucestershire folklore.
However, new and ongoing research into the event by our Chairman and Maritime Historian, Paul Barnett, has unearthed what is considered vital evidence into this untimely event and the bridge's demise. Previously unseen information has now come to light which highlights that the runaway tankers, Arkendale H and the Wastdale H, may not have been solely responsible the demolition of Pier 17 that fogbound night.
Mr Barnett has recently found written evidence to show that concerns for the safety of the bridge were being voiced ever since its opening in 1879 and thereafter, in light of being repeatedly struck by rogue vessels throughout its 81 year lifespan. 
His latest research goes further by examining the post destruction findings of one Mr P. Berridge, the Assistant Engineer for Bridges for British Rail, who, in his 1963 paper, openly criticised the official collision report by highlighting its lack of consideration regarding an earlier event in which the structure was struck and substantially damaged in 1943. At this time it was reported that the ill fated Pier 17 was damaged by an unnamed barge carrying some 400 tons of grain, just short of theArkendale and Wastdale combined cargoes. 
Mr Berridge went on to state “So serious had been the blow that six holding down bolts securing the fixed bearings of the girders to the top of the pier had been seared off”.   The report also detailed severe damage to the pier's cylinders and cast iron bracings, with cracks running from the waterline the entire length to the under side of the bridge, some 70ft.
This damage was, of course, eventually repaired, states Mr Barnett, however, there can be no doubt that the pier remained considerably weakened, thereafter, as a result.  A fact which only manifested itself that fateful October night some 17 years later.

8th Tour season set to break all previous records

Who would have thought it - eight years of tours and still going strong!  The Friends are gearing themselves up for what is looking like a great year for the promotion of this wonderful site.  This comes in light of the help of our newest member, and Publicity Officer, Mistey Burton who has pledged her help and support in promoting the site to a wider and ever growing group of supporters and friends within in the Gloucestershire media and press.  Welcome aboard, Mistey.

Hulk Health and Safety to take a front seat

The Friends wish to welcome new member and recently appointed Health and Safety Adviser, Nigel Braybrooke, IOSH, who has graciously taken on the important task of reviewing the current health and safety regime with the view to updating and consolidating the society's practices during the forthcoming programme tours and archaeological investigation.  Nigel comes to us with many years of health and safety expertise and his time, guidance and support is greatly received. Welcome aboard, Nigel.

Birminghameuni1Bridge disaster research discussed

As a respected authority within Gloucestershire maritime heritage, the Friends are thrilled to have been invited to explore the recent finding regarding the events of 25th October 1960 and the fall of the Severn Railway Bridge.  In collaboration with Alan Hayword, our Chairman recently had the great privilege of attending a talk on the subject, as presented to the Institute of Civil Engineers at its headquarters in Cardiff.  (more to follow)

November 13

Purton takes to the skys





February 2014

The International Shipwreck Conference
Plymouth on Saturday 1st February 2014

An interesting and varied programme had been prepared with a range of shipwreck related topics. The Cornish coast had its very own “Titanic” in the form of  S.S. Mohegan (formerly Cleopatra) which experienced engine failure on its maiden voyage, then struck the Manacles and sank six months later. The project to locate the slave ship Leusden, belonging to the Dutch West India Co., which sank off Surinam in 1738 with the death of 664 captives, involves research by organizations in Surinam, French Guyana, France, the Netherlands and the UK. The tragic finds ensure that it may well become a memorial site. The Tortugas, a ship from Spain, wrecked in the Straights of Florida was the site for the first deep sea operation for  Remotely  Operated Vehicle Merlin, built in 1989 for the purpose of exploring depths unsuitable for divers,  using cameras, a positioning system and an innovative limpet suction method for retrieving artefacts. The various interesting finds included 6,383 pearls and coins providing dates around 1621. HMS Amethyst is just one vessel under investigation in The Ships Project: Shipwrecks and History in Plymouth Sound and work involving research and detailed survey methods was described. The Costa Concordia incident will be remembered by many and a talk was given by a representative from Adus DeapOcean involved in her recovery using up-to-date laser and multibeam scanning, LIDAR, GPS and drone photogrammetry, all providing precise detail. Appropriate to this year, research by Dr. Innes McCartney about the historical archaeology of WWI U-boats was described, together with recent corrections to the positioning of WW2 U-boats. More information about all these topics can be found via the www. One paper covered aspects of the moral and ethical implications of finding human remains on shipwrecks and another discussed the impact of the Marine Management Organization and Marine Conservation Zone on our marine heritage, with particular reference to Lundy Island where a dive trail has been proposed over the site of protected species.

December 2012

The Winter Games

A cold winter’s afternoon was suitably warmed at the Friends of Purton's Christmas Social, which took place at our Chairman’s newly renovated smallholding, on Saturday 28th December. Much merriment was had, whilst sampling simple fare and lashings of good old fashioned Purton hospitality. During this time, whilst partaking in a very heated round of ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ several members of the society were seen to knowing sabotage proceedings and thus channel the result – notably Janet and John (Oh! sorry). Either way, all was forgotten and friendships were re – cemented for the coming year ahead with an impromptu round of Forkie – Spoonie – Knifie and a hard fought session of Fizz–Buzz. Want to know more? Well, a date for your diary, join us on Saturday, 28th December 2013 – 2pm – Brockworth HQ – All welcome only this time – it’s a Geordie comeback!!!!

October 2012

Friends fail to secure MP’ meaningful support

A recent October meeting with  Stroud MP, Neil Carmichael, has been met with great disappointment after the ongoing issues of the Purton Hulks fell on deaf ears. During the meeting attended by our Chairman and Janet Presley, Mr Carmichael dismissed the Friends' claims of apparent maladministration and a real sense of entrenchment, preferring instead to concentrate on the question of whether FoP supported plans to erect toilets within the village. Upon leaving the prearranged meeting, both FoP members agreed that the meeting had failed to address the issues and had been conducted in a somewhat derisory manner, almost to the point of ridicule. This is indeed a sad day, however, the Friends remain committed to protecting this unique Gloucestershire collection and as such we implore Mr Carmichael to reconsider by calling for a Parliamentary Review.

September 2012

FoP meets with leader of Stroud District Council to discuss Hulks future

Chairman Paul Barnett recently attended Stroud Council in order to highlight the ongoing plight of the district's most famous of hulks' sites. Whilst there FoP made representation with Geoff Wheeler, Leader of the Council, and issued a direct request for SDC's help in securing greater protection for the county's maritime heritage. Further, during this time Cllr Wheeler agreed that it would be beneficial for SDC to be represented upon the Canal and Rivers Trust (CART) Purton Hulks Forum, which is programmed to take place 2nd November and as such pledged that a Councillor would attend the said meeting.

CART handbook celebrates the Purton Hulks

Recent events following the formation of the Canal and Rivers Trust (CART) have been welcomed by FoP, who during a recent exhibition to celebrate 200 years of Gloucester Lock, were delighted to discover a section of a recently published CART membership handbook has been dedicated to the Purton Ships Graveyard in a celebration of words and beautiful colour photographs.  

The Newport Transporter Bridge 

On the way to the Newport Ship is the fascinating Transporter Bridge, a suspension bridge structure which was used to ferry vehicles and passengers in a gondola across the River Usk. The bridge was opened on 12th September 1906, to alleviate congestion problems and is still operational, maintained by Newport City Council, run by the Friends of the Transporter Bridge and is a Grade One listed building. The two towers, separated by 197m, each stand at 74m high and the speed of the gondola is up to 3m per second. On the day of the visit the bridge was closed, but people were free-lining from one of the towers, for charity.
The group was warmly welcomed into the Visitor Centre because Mr. Norman
Phillips was in the party. He is the great nephew of the poet W.H.Davies (see the May item) who grew up in the vicinity of the bridge.

Lock 200 Celebrations at Gloucester Docks

Organised by the Gloucester City Centre Community Partnership, 7th to 9th September to celebrate the two hundred years since the building of the lock

The Friends of Purton were there among a variety of other stall holders and were delighted to see so many people showing interest it what we are doing, or sharing memories about their working days on vessels such as the Harker Tankers. The new reconstruction of a Wye trow,  Hereford Bull, came through the lock, cannons fired, soldiers in Georgian style uniform were on parade and music played. Perhaps someone might take up the challenge to sponsor a Gloucester style trow for a future anniversary...Why_trow
Janet tried her hand at rope making (worthy of an NAS point in Ancient Technology, perhaps?) and proved that she can still skip! It was all very convivial and useful contacts were made, but the wind on Sunday forced an early end as the display was continually pushed over and items blew away. So Paul's boat joined those leaving the docks during the afternoon



The Visit to the Medieval Ship at Newport on Saturday 15th September

In line with the earlier discovery of Purtons now famous 86 vessels, Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker are to spread their London River wings and attend the Gloucestershire site in order to walk the foreshore and strip away centuries of glorious Severn mud in search of our maritime past. Newport_ship



Mummen1June 2012

The History Channels 'Mudmen' come to Purton

In line with the earlier discovery of Purtons now famous 86 vessels, Johnny Vaughan and Steve Brooker are to spread their London River wings and attend the Gloucestershire site in order to walk the foreshore and strip away centuries of glorious Severn mud in search of our maritime past. Mudmen2


Stroud on Water


The Cotswold Canals' Trust organized three days of celebrations over the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend, on the Marling School playing fields, with an opportunity for fun for all the family and to see how work on the Stroudwater Canal is progressing. The event was opened by Prof. Mark Horton from Bristol University, well known to BBC viewers of the Coast programme.

The Friends of Purton exhibition tent was there, in varied weather conditions, manned by Paul, Dave and Janet. The constant stream of visitors indicated the amount of interest in the Purton Hulks, some had childhood or more recent memories, to others they were a new place to see in the near future, and many useful contacts were made towards gaining further information, or helping in the dissemination process. Postcard

Exhibitors had been asked to provide an activity for children and The Friends decided on the chance to design a post card with a drawing related to one of the displayed picActivitytures of the hulks. Some of the drawings showed great attention to detail as can be seen in the photo of the stern of Harriett, drawn by a 7 year old girl. Our thanks and congratulations to all the young people who took part.

Altogether, the event was considered to be a great success towards the fulfilment of our aims and, hopefully for the work of The Canals' Trust.



May 2012

Glendover_cottageThe Friends find time to stand and stare, and share poetry...

Friends of Purton have diverse interests apart from the vessel remains on the river bank. On the evening of Friday 11th May, member Anthony BurtonGlendover_plaque, also a founder member of The Friends of Glendower, led a group of walkers around the five properties in Nailsworth where the Welsh poet and 'Super-tramp', William Henry Davies, lived during his later years. Various stopping places en route were marked by readings of poems written by Davies and other poets of the W.W.1 era, and information given about his life. The final destination was Glendower, a small roadside cottage in the Watledge area, where welcome refreshments were served. The cottage is being refurbished in memory of the poet, by his great-nephew, with support  from The Friends of  Glendower.


Yet more historic ships....    ?

On Saturday 5th May, Lydney Yacht Club played host to the Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter Owners' Association at a gathering for a splendid lunch followed by a well received talk about the Purton and Lydney Hulks, presented by Paul Barnett. After the talk there was an opportunity to be shown around three of the historic vessels, each with their own stories to tell.

PilotsMascotte, built 1904, had her Edwardian interior, with mahogany panelling, authentically restored at the same boatyard. She is being used as  a racing cutter, for film and charter work, now based in Scotland.

Peggy, a smaller cutter, was built in Bristol in 1903, formerly called Wave, until she was converted to a yacht in the 1920s. She has been in the hands of her present owner since 1973, based in Bristol City Docks.
Much more information about these and similar cutters can be found at:

The Lydney Yacht Club is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year and will be holding the annual festival, by the harbour, on Saturday 23rd June. The Purton Hulks exhibition will be there and your support will be welcomed.

April 2012

Friends put on a splash

The Friends of Purton and its Severn and Wye Railway Bridge Disaster exhibition were a welcome addition to the recently Sharpness hosted, Parish Plan open day. Billed as an opportunity to promote Hinton and the surrounding area, the day although inclement, was considered both a success and most informative - with some good ideas being lodged by the local community for the region's pending Parish Plan. Thanks as always go to Tony and Janet, who were joined by Ron and Wendy, whilst Paul apparently swanned around as always. The Friends would also like to give a special mention to Sammy Patterson and his team of enthusiastic helpers who made the day the success it was.  Special thanks also go to our very own John Daniell for his excellent exhibition which took centre stage and did the Friends proud!

March 2012

Students return

March 3rd and 4th 2012 saw the return of a team of enthusiastic students from Bristol and Cardiff Universities, who, undaunted by the inclement weather, proceeded to conduct previously untried ground penetrating resistivity trails in and around the Purton Hulks' site. Team leader and MSc. Student, Christopher Waters of Bristol University said, "Early indications were that although somewhat effective, due to the natural ground sodden conditions of the site, the technology needed to have further trials in order to establish its full potential for use at Purton." Further trials are programmed in the coming months.

Purton polo shirts new for 2012

Thanks to our very own Wendy and Ron Manns, the Friends have now secured a new supplier of FoP T-Shirts, work vests and caps. Costings are yet to be finalised, but would all of those Friends wishing to purchase said items, kindly contact Paul on 07833143231 for further details.


Purton fixed on the map

March saw Friends' Site Engineer, Tony Burton, dust down his dumpy levels and instruct the Friends and welcomed guests in the art of land profile surveying.  During this time all were allowed to get to grips with both the science and equipment, whilst Tony effectively mentored all in the vital skill. It was, however, not all fun and games, as the exercise allowed the Friends the opportunity to level and fix a known point from which all subsequent site surveys will be taken in the future. Well done Tony and thank you for sharing your knowledge!

February 2012

Aptly named Project Hamlet - to pee or not to pee, Friends' Chairman, Paul Barnett, recently took part in rounds of discussion with Sam Patterson, and Geoff Forward of Hinton Parish Council and John Ship of Purton's very own 'Big Society' with the view to conducting a feasibility study in order to establish the need for public toilets within the village. Earlier in the year the project issued a questionnaire to villagers in order to gauge their views and opinions regarding the need for, and a possible location for, any such facilities. Although not directly connected with the management of the project, the Friends continue to wish the collective and the villagers every success in the decision making process.

Joint Univeristy colabration

Purton recently played host to several forward thinking students Bristol and Cardiff  Universities who attended the site to obtain much needed hands on archaeological field work. Whilst there the students took full advantage of the practical applications presented by the hulk of the Severn Collier and successfully recorded the remains using established field methods and techniques.

Footfall recorded at Purton

The Friends were recently active in recording visitor and car parking during Friday 24th, Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th February 2012 in order to collate a bench mark of footfall and tow path usage by visitors heading both north and south of the the Purton site. Collated over a daily four hour period, the as yet to be published initial results are most enlightening and represent visitor numbers during Purton's closed season and will be reviewed against further programmed counts over the coming year. The Friends are immensely indebted to Mr Nigel Crowe of British Waterways who graciously gave up his free time in order to assist in the project.   

The 30th International Shipwreck Conference

Three representatives of the Friends attended this year's gathering of shipwreck enthusiasts, on 4th February, in Plymouth. Presentations were diverse and there was pGoldlenty of opportunity to meet acquaintances and make new contacts sharing similar interests. Topics ranged from: the legacy of the Dutch United East Indies Company (VOC); exploration of the wreck of HMS Victoria, which sank off Lebanon during manoeuvres in 1893, and was discovered in 2004 together with Admiral Tryon's collection of Nelson's personal effects; shipwrecks of the West Country; some fascinating, well preserved remnants of WW2 in the fiords in the Telemark area of Norway, and Peter Holt's work on the SHIPS Project in Plymouth. All are worthy of further research on the various web-sites. A controversial aspect in current thinking among divers is that of treasure hunting. Following a talk about three generations of search and salvage operations on two 17c wrecks in the Florida Keys, great interest was shown in handling the two artefacts presented, a gold chain and engraved bar. Updates were provided on the Marine Management Organisation and the areas of management by English Heritage. No-one in the party came home with a raffle prize!

January 2012

Friends sign up to Parish Plan forum

Representatives from the Friends recently attended the first round of a Parish Plan meeting after being cordially invited by Parish Representatives Sam Paterson, Geoff Forward and Jane McCredie. Despite inclement weather the packed meeting, which took place 7:30pm - 30th January 2012 at Sharpness and district Village Hall, was attended by representatives of 25 local organisations and political figures encapsulating Hinton, Hamfellow and Berkeley Vale.

During this time those gathered were given a comprehensive introduction on the purpose of a Parish Plan by visiting community project advisor Ellen Tattersall of Stroud District Council, who in turn explored the merits and purposes of formulating a plan and how those gathered could all be an essential part of it. Following a brisk Q & A session, the meeting closed in jubilant form with the next meeting being scheduled for 27th February 2012, same place same time, all welcome. The Friends value this opportunity to actively support the project and wish all concerned, a fruitful collaboration, and the successful formation of a worthy document.


December 2011

Perfect stroll

The Purton hulks feature in the December addition of the prestigious national publication Country Walking, with a 5 page spread devoted to the area. The article written by Nick Hallissey with stunning photography from Tom Bailey is entitled ‘Walk among the ghost ships’ and features, along with a history of the site a reference to the work of the Friends. Those wishing to obtain a copy can do so from leading newsagents or by contacting the publishers on 01858438866 and requesting a copy of the December issue.

November 2011

Certificate of Merit awarded for the display and commemoration events for the 50th Anniversary of the Severn Railway Bridge Disaster

The Nautical Archaeology Society's Adopt a Wreck Award this year went to the Weymouth Lunar Society for their research on the “Lost torpedoes of Weymouth and Portland.” Our congratulations go to them. The Friends were delighted to receive a Certificate of Merit in recognition for the “exceptional level of work regarding the promotion of the disaster and protection of the wrecks.” The display, The Severn Railway Bridge Disaster, prepared by our photographer, John Daniell, using material from a number of  contributors, was mounted at the Conference and received a great deal of interest.  Well done everyone who was involved in the preparation and especially to our Chairman for his ceaseless efforts, over a year or more, to bring everything and everyone together,  culminating in such a memorable day providing a unique opportunity for many people  to share memories of those who were affected by the tragedy, with permanent memorials now standing at Purton and Lydney. Thank you Paul

October 2011

The last of his generation



It is with the greatest of regrets that the Friends of Purton announce the sad passing of Mr Arthur ‘Dick’ Woodward on 29th October 2011 aged 88 after a short illness. Known for his boundless enthusiasm and continued support of the Friends in his role as our inaugural honorary President, Dick will be fondly remembered for his wonderful sense of humour and a willingness to share his extensive knowledge of his experiences whilst actively beaching the collection, during a long and distinguished career working for British Waterways as the suction plant operator. The society is deeply saddened as a result of his passing and wish to pass on our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Dick and the Friends .. read more


September 2011

Friends of Purton address Purton’s Big Society

Thursday 22nd September saw Friends' Chairman, Paul Barnett and Janet Presley attend a packed Dauncey’s Farm in order to explore how best to address villagers' concerns relating to increased numbers of visitors and a lack of public conveniences within this rural idyll. 

Billed as part of Purton's recently formed ‘Big Society’, the Friends where cordially invited to explore ways of limiting the effects of hosting the country's most famous ships graveyard, whilst exploring ways of belaying the concerns in what was heralded as a most constructive Q&A session which followed. 

During a most enjoyable evening which included locally produced bread, cheese and cider in the company of our splendid host Dr Phillip Pritchard, Paul was honoured to present a well received presentation to a packed house which included local residents, representatives from Purton Church, The Parish Council and Mr & Mrs Neil Carmichael, MP for the region.

The Friends of Purton would like to thank all for both offering us the warmest of Purton welcomes and would wish to offer our fullest support to all of their future endeavours. 

See for details

Journeying down the River Severn

At the request of well known Gloucester based Photographer, Michael Barnes, The Friends of Purton joined him at Frampton Village Hall for an exhibition of his work, complemented by the display of  the Friends' activities, during the weekend of the 16th to 18th  of September. Over a hundred visitors were guided on a pictorial walk along the banks of the River Severn from Tewkesbury to Aust, entitled  “A Visual Journey of a Gloucester Photographer,” with evoking  views of the almost bygone life on the river, bridges, sunsets and wonderful scenery. The visitors included passing walkers, keen photographers and artists, and many with a considerable knowledge of the area. Conversations ranged from personal memories, local methods of fishing, the days when the ferries worked between Aust and Chepstow, the Severn Railway Bridge and the need to keep up an interest and record the history of the local wooden work-boats of the past, before it is too late.

August 2011
Purton vessel has links with Brunel

Some may consider the vessel Briton Ferry  (details on the Vessels' Page) to be of lesser significance than other exhibits in the Purton fleet, but a recent visit to the town of that name has revealed a fascinating link with Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The grab dredging crane was purchased from the Neath Harbour Board and brought up the river from Briton Ferry to Purton, in 1911, to work on the Sharpness to Gloucester Canal. A visit to Briton Ferry, in August, has opened up an opportunity to research an area, once of outstanding natural beauty and early history, full of Welsh industrial and nautical archaeological interest and the involvement of the renowned Engineer.

Friends of Purton, cross the river
The Friends accepted the kind invitation to join the exhibitors at the Lydney Yacht Club Rally / Festival Music Day on Saturday18th. Undeterred by heavy showers, visitors showed great interest in our cause and that of The Inland Waterways Association with whom we shared our tent. The atmosphere was convivial throughout the day (although Paul went missing for a while, working, he said) and there were demonstrations being given on the making of salmon putchers, opportunities for young people with the Sea Cadets and many other items of interest. Bevis and Steve had arrived in their boats. Janet took the opportunity to reconnoitre a walk for the rambling club and later went with Dave to investigate the vessels on the foreshore, with an eye on future, perhaps. Those who missed it this year might consider visiting the Lydney Festival in 2012.

May 2011
MP to debate future of Purton Hulks

The Friends of Purton are today welcoming the formal announcement by Stroud Member of Parliament, Neil Carmichael that he intends to chair an open public meeting in order to discuss the future of one of Gloucestershire’s most famous of maritime monuments.
This come in the wake of British Waterways recent adoption of the site which is now formally recognised by the nations heritage governing authority English Heritage, as the largest ships graveyard in the country, and its designation in 2010, of the sites last remaining Kennet built canal boat Harriett, as a vessel of great archaeological significance and maritime importance.
The meeting, which it is hoped, will include prominent members from English Heritage, Natural England, British Waterways, elected politicians representing Hinton Parish Council, Stroud District and Gloucestershire County Council, is seen as the most proactive step to ensuring adequate protection of the Gloucestershire time capsule since its formation in 1909.
Friends Chairman Paul Barnett heralded the move as a unique opportunity to openly discuss both the protection of the site and the preservation of the surrounding environment. Scheduled to take place at the Sharpness Dockers Club commencing 6:45 pm for 7:00pm on 1st June 2011 Mr Barnett encouraged all with an interest in the future of the site, to attend in order to participate in the ongoing debate to protect the regions diminishing maritime  archaeology.

April 2011
Friends gain a hand on history

SpryApril saw the the Friends travel up country as honoured guests of the Blists Hill Heritage Centre: in order to see for themselves the wonders of an age gone by. Whilst there, we were treated a rare, behind the scenes, tour of many of the attractions, in the company of Shane Kelleher, the museum's Archaeology and Monuments Officer. Of particular interest was the only surviving Severn Trow, Spry, and the Hay Railway Incline, used to transport barges from the low lying River Severn, up the steep valley side, to the purpose built narrow canal used to supply the raw materials for the nearby blast furnaces.   


Radio Gloucestershire reports on the work of the FriendsRadio_Glos

Friends' Chairman Paul Barnett, was once again in action on BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Sunday lunch programme, with Dominic Cotter, in which both enjoyed a pleasantearly summer stroll through the remains of the largest ships' graveyard in the country. During the programme Dominic explored the past, present and future of the Purton hulks whilst highlighting the geographic expanse of the site's now famous 81 “ladies”. . Listen

Historic Hulks take place on the register

The Friends of Purton are celebrating, following the inclusion of 5 of Purton's concrete lighters have been officially placed on the National Historic Ships' Register. Seen as a huge step forward in the continuing endeavour to protect the region's maritime heritage, Purton FCBs (Ferro Concrete Barges) have, at last been duly recognised as of national importance. Originally built in c.1941, in Barrow in Furness, for work in the Port of Bristol as floating grain stores, these unique vessels captured the imagination of their builders and operators alike by their revolutionary use of blown concrete to form a cheap and effective replacement for steel lighters. Upon hearing the news, Friends' Vice Chairman and Committee Historic Fleet liaison officer, Bevis Musk, stated that this is a further leap forward, both in the campaign to protect the site and to form greater ties with the nation's existing floating historic fleet and its industrial/maritime past.

Minister questioned in light of Protection Question

Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 24 March 2011, c60WS)

John_PenroseJohn Penrose (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport; Weston-Super-Mare, Conservative) issued the following statement via Hansard

"My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 26 July 2010 our intention to make a number of changes to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's arm's length bodies. These changes included the abolition of the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites (ACHWS), which was set up to advise Government on the designation and licensing of historic wrecks under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. The ACHWS held its final meeting today, and will cease to exist as of 24 March 2011.  The ACHWS has served a valuable purpose over the years, but we believe that advice on the operation of the 1973 Act can be provided in a more streamlined way. In future such advice will be provided by English Heritage in relation to heritage assets located in UK territorial waters adjacent to England. As the Government's statutory adviser on the historic environment, English Heritage already provides advice on the protection and conservation of terrestrial heritage assets in England and we believe it makes sense to bring procedures on land and at sea into line. The devolved Administrations will in future source their own advice for Ministers on the operation of the 1973 Act in their respective areas of UK territorial waters. The Government remain fully committed to ensuring the continued conservation and management of underwater heritage assets in the UK's territorial waters. We are confident that the new arrangements will ensure the continuation of appropriate advice to Ministers while allowing flexibility to meet the particular needs and circumstances of each country."

In response Paul Barnett posted the following annotation on 25 Mar 2011 10:57 am
"The Right Honourable Member of Parliament John Penrose, 
Following the announcement that "The Government remain fully committed to ensuring the continued conservation and management of underwater heritage assets in the UK's territorial waters", may I respectfully enquire what provision is to be made within this decision, for the effective protection of the many hundreds of maritime hulks which currently reside within the inter tidal zone of the British foreshore?"

Fate of Purton Hulks once again at jeopardy following announcement of legal loophole

The maritime world was today holding its breath at the recent announcement by Natural England, the body responsible for the protection of the nation's open spaces and associated environmental well-being that Purton's famous hulks have more to fear than simple natural decay.  Located on the banks of the River Severn, the Purton site, which is officially designated as a protected Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), has latterly been acknowledged, in 2011, as the largest collection of timber, steel and concrete vessels anywhere within the British Isles.  Despite this accolade, Friends of Purton, a volunteer group set up to monitor research and record the site, have received the bitter news that a legal loophole exists, which could sound the death knoll for the county's famous ships' graveyard. 
This ruling has come to light following the recent release of a previously undisclosed Natural England two page document ‘Clarification of the role of wildlife protection legislation in the conservation of the Purton Hulks’, which advises that Purton's artefacts, which are buried, are indeed protected, however all other items situated above ground level have no legal protection within current environmental law. This point was further confirmed by Gerry Hamersley, Natural England's Area Manager for Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, West of England and Dorset, who, when questioned regarding possible impact on the non-buried part of the Purton vessels, issued the following statement: “As there is no likely impact on the wildlife interest of the site Natural England would not be able to take action to prevent impact.”  Furthermore Mr Hamersley stated that, “In essence, activities that impact solely on the fabric of the vessels would not be of concern in respect of wildlife conservation or the continued favourable condition of the SSSI habitats and species and cannot, therefore, be regulated using wildlife legislation”.
Upon hearing the news, Friends' Chairman Paul Barnett is said to be vindicated by the report and stated that this historic stand by Natural England should be used as an example to all stakeholders, be it British Waterways, Hinton Parish Council, Stroud District Council, English Heritage or the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, himself, who all continue to stand by, in the belief that someone else will come to the aid of our dwindling maritime heritage.
As a result, Mr Barnett directly called upon Local MP, Neil Carmichael, to act in the first instance, in order to ensure adequate protection and in doing so, he requested a Parliamentary Review of the Purton situation before it is too late.Debate radio Gloucestershire

Tours resume .. see events page for details

'Further to our meeting on site last week I would like to thank you for raising the issue of the discrepancy over the closed periodNatural_England for tours between the draft management plan and other information you have received – I am sure that you will agree this demonstrates why consultation with partners and stakeholders is so valuable.  I have now had a chance to discuss this in detail with British Waterways and I am pleased to confirm the closed period identified in the Management Plan (Dec, Jan and Feb) is correct and that you may therefore arrange tours between 1 March and the 30 November 2011. Please note however that the Management Plan is a live document and subject to review as required to address any management issues arising.
As we discussed briefly at our site meeting, other non-invasive activities such as survey and monitoring by FOP may continue but all ground works or excavation must be requested through British Waterways so that they may consult all relevant stakeholders and secure the necessary approvals.

Charlotte Pagendam
Gloucestershire, Wiltshire & Bristol Team
Natural England

The Friends would like to thank Charlotte and her team for their valued help in resolving the issues.

Febuary 2011

Purton's past meets tomorrow's world

Vista_visitMembers of the Friends were treated to an amazing insight into the world of tomorrow with a visit to the hi-tech VISTA Centre of Birmingham University. The VISTA unit specialises in the use of leading edge visual and spatial technologies which are helping to revolutionise current archaeology. During the visit our hosts Simon and Helen were able to demonstrate some of the graphics based projects they are currently working on, as well as giving a presentation of the results of laser scanning carried out at our own Purton site by Simon and his team. It is hoped that some of these results can be displayed on this website in the near future.
The Friends would like to thank Simon and Helen for their hospitality and look forward to working closely with them again, on future Purton projects.


Its official! The Purton Hulks is the largest ships graveyard in the Country

The Friends of Purton and the Country of Gloucestershire are to celebrate the news, that its now famous collection of once ocean going and inland waterway hulks littering the banks of the Severn at Purton, have officially been recognised as the largest assemblage oSitef maritime hulks to lie anywhere on the shoreline of the British Isles. This comes in light of the soon to be published findings of a national Hulk Assemblage Survey, conducted on behalf of English Heritage by Natalie Cohen of the Museum of London Archaeology, and places the 'Purton Armada' streets ahead of the competition.
Originally conceived in April 2010 as part of the Historic Environment Enabling Programme, this comprehensive project has conducted a nationwide survey of all known vessel assemblages, a term used to define two or more hulks which lie within 50m of each other. The report, which is not due out until later this summer, has officially put Purton's 81 at the top of almost 200 other known hulk locations a round the country. These include the 26 barges on the Barksore Marshes, Kent; the 25 Mersey Flats at Sutton Locks on the Weaver Navigation, Cheshire; and the 22 hulked vessels at Holes Bay, Poole, Dorset

Upon receiving the news, Maritime Historian and long time campaigner for the protection of the Purton Hulks, Friends Chairman Paul Barnett, heralded the findings and stated that the report would go some way in protecting the site which remains, a beacon of our once glorious maritime heritage. Press release

Purton Hulks to feature in eminent University exhibition

The following is an extract from a letter recently received by FoP and effectively demonstrates that the draw of the Purton Hulks is truely nationwide. The Friends are of course happy to oblige and welcome the opportunity to be involved

Man_museumDear Friends of Purton

I am contacting you in connection with the ship’s graveyard at Purton and the possibility of perhaps incorporating images or other material in an exhibition about archaeology at the Manchester  Museum hopefully opening in October 2011. We are using this as an opportunity to explore different aspects of archaeology including conservation and science. We’re working with a conservator at York Archaeological Trust which specialises in waterlogged wood and we’re interested in reflecting not only individual discoveries but potentially wider landscapes such as the ship’s graveyard. We’d be interested in using images, moving film, sound recordings, possibly artefactual material, if available. So surveys, remote sensing, aerial photographs etc are potentially of interest to us. I appreciate you have been working with the University of Birmingham and perhaps you could put me in touch with a contact there? Thanking you in advance.
Yours sincerely,

Bryan Sitch
Deputy Head of Collections
The Manchester Museum
The University of Manchester

Sustainable management of change

The Friends are today celebrating the news that our friends at 3H Consulting have agreed to provide a course of training sessions, continued Site_recordermentoring and much needed sponsorship in the form of a license for its survey and recording software program Site Recorder 4. The software suite will not only enable the Friends to accurately record the entire remains of the largest ships graveyard in the country, but will also aid the ongoing programme of monitoring which is recording the continued destruction of the County’s maritime heritage.
Director of 3H Consulting Ltd, Peter Holt, upon pledging his support stated that "3H Consulting is pleased to support the Friends of Purton as this is an example the best type of avocational archaeology and history project: engaging to the public, inclusive to all and producing worthwhile result".
In response Chairman Paul Barnett said 'this is a real opportunity to take the recording of these historic remains into the 21st century and we are most grateful to Peter and 3HConsulting who have shown real vision and continued support by this wonderful gesture.  Now at last do we do have the capacity to transform the fortunes of the site and accurately monitor the condition of Gloucestershire’s dwindling heritage with the view to reporting in real time.

The International Shipwreck Conference

Friends of Purton members, Paul, Bob (a keen diver) and Janet set off before dawn to attend the Shipwreck Conference in Plymouth, on Saturday 5th February.
Some of the reasons for diving wrecks include finding the exact location of  a named vessel or identifying specific wrecks, and studying Bob_discusses_divingremains in detail. Problems encountered may involve fishing nets, damage caused by trawling and scallop dredging, oil pipelines across the vessel and looting. Exploration requires archive research, access to local knowledge, fieldwork, then dissemination. Conservation of finds is a developing area of study. On screen presentations are enhanced using images from archive film, hand held cameras, remotely operated vehicles, side-scan sonar, seabed scanning together with geophysical survey data etc.
Among other things, we heard how the 18th century French privateer in the English Channel, La Marquise de TornayNautical_Archaeology_Society_merchandise was definitively identified; how rusticles are the link between the hospital ship Britannic and Titanic; about research into the events relating to the submarine Poseidon which sank in 1931 and the Chinese Government admitted, in 2009, to having raised and scrapped in 1972; how the term “bouncing bomb,” for the Highball, has been applied, during film making, to a different spherical surface torpedo, the Upkeep, as actually used by the Dambusters, two of many devised by Barnes  Wallis; that some fishermen in Indonesia are now taking photographs of artefacts rather than the actual object; and how all the shipwrecks around Plymouth Sound are being plotted and linked to the history of the area.
A final quote from the speaker from English Heritage, “Protect the past for the future,” who went on to say that remains on the foreshore are easy to manage and are not challenged, left us with food for thought.

January 2011

FoP explore the Gloucestershire Archivey

January 15th saw several Friends receive a sneak peak into the very bowels of Gloucestershire's heritage, following the very kind offer by Vicky Thorpe of Gloucestershire Archives to lead us on a journey of exploration behind the scenes at Alvin Street. During the most informative tour the Friends, were taken to the very workings of the archive and shown many of the countie's historical treasures that are beautifully preserved for the use of generations to come. Whilst there, Vicky highlighted several problems associated with having such a large collection and gave those present a rare insight into how the operations to deliver many hundreds of individual documents each week were orchestrated and made to run smoothly. Where the two hours went, we shall never know. The Friends would like to thank Vicky and her team for their hospitality and never again will we view the process as merely the storage of papers.

FoP transcribe our maritime past

The Friends, in collaboration with Gloucestershire Archives, are working towards making our maritime heritage more accessible from the comfort of our own homes, following many man-hours of typing and painful deciphering of the Gloucester Port Closure Registry. Drawn up over many years, the registry contains individual vessels' names, their official numbers, their port registry number and the date when they were closed or their associated fate. Considered a vital piece of our maritime heritage the Friends welcome the opportunity to record the entire registry, here on our web site, for use by future researchers. That said, plans are afoot to transcribe many other such documents and our Chairman. Paul Barnett, requests that all Friends who are interested in helping with this project, should contact him direct on 0783314321 for further details

December 2010
FoP spread research net

With the sound of 'Ship shape and Bristol Fashion', ringing in our ears, the Friends attended a series of programmed visits and guided tours of Bristol's colossal vaulted archive situated in the cities historic B Bonded Warehouse on the bank of the feeder canal, sandwiched between its world famous dock. Once assembled, the Friends were eagerly whisked on a whistle stop private tour by impassioned Archives Manager, Richard Burley whose informed commentary kept all enthralled. The Friends would like to offer our personal thanks to Richard and his team, for allowing us access to some of Bristol's most precious manuscripts and for sharing a unique insight into Bristol's maritime heritage. Bristol Record Office 'B'
Bond Warehouse
Smeaton Road

November 2010
Time Teamers

As the Nautical Archaeology Society website promotes "the NAS Annual Conference provides an opportunity to discuss research, review the archaeological activities, exchange ideas and network with friends", and that is exactly what the Friends did when invited to attend. Janet and Paul represented the Society, again spreading the word about the fate of the hulks.
Paul discusses the Purton Hulks with Phil Harding of TV's Time Team

Friends invited to grand opening of the Brunel Institute and the David R. MacGregor Library

The Friends rubbed shoulders with the great and the good of South West maritime when attending the official opening of the recently completed Brunel Institute, situated alongside Bristol’s most famous lady, the SS Great Britain. As invited guests of TV historian and Friends Patron Professor Mark Horton, society members were treated to a behind the scenes' tour of the conservation and archives vaults. The centre was officially opened by Professor Lord Robert Winston and is free to maritime researchers and students alike. Held within the collection, is the David R MacGregor photographic library and Lloyds Registry dating back to the beginning of the 1800s. Entrance is via application and can be achieved Tuesday to Saturday between 10:30 -16:30

October 2010
17th October 2010 a day to remember

TodayMemorial saw the Friends gather with approximately 150 family members, friends and former neighbours to unveil two stone memorials dedicated to the memory of the crews involved in Severn and Wye Railway Bridge Disaster. The day, set in glorious Gloucester sunshine, was organised to formally commemorate the 50th anniversary of the partial destruction of the bridge, struck one fog bound night by the M.V. Arkendale H and the M.V. Wastdale H leading to the untimely loss of five of the eight man crew. To compliment the event an exhibition depicting the disaster, organised by Friend, John Daniells, opened at the Dean Heritage Centre. The Friends would to thank all of those involved in making the day a complete success, and wish to especially thank Mike and Martyn Truman of M.E.Damsell (Stonemasons) for their valued help and without whom, the memorial stones would have remained a dream. 

Friends of Purton hit the headlines in Severn papers

Pick up a newspaper anywhere in Gloucestershire this weekend (23.10.10) and you will surely be surprised, as the Friends of Purton appear in no less than seven different publications stretching the length of the River Severn and the surrounding hills. These include the Western Daily Press covering Somerset and Bristol to the Gloucester Citizen(L) and its countrywide readership to the Vales of Berkeley via the Gloucestershire Gazette to the five Valleys of Cotswolds and the regional Stroud Life, Of course the Forest of Dean is not to be left out as both the Forester and the Forest Review both run articles regarding our activities of maritime endeavour. 

One to watch or should that be two?

How's this for a double bill of maritime promotion, the work of the Friends are programmed to hit TV listing of 25th October on both the BBC and ITV. First up, our work to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Severn and Wye Railway Bridge Disaster takes centre stage on ITV WEST 6pm evening news, when our Chairman answers questions on the importance of this timely act of remembrance. Next up, tune in at 7:30pm for BBC INSIDE OUT WEST in which Friends' Patron Professor Mark Horton explores the cause and effect of this Gloucestershire tragedy.

Friends Welcome BW stewardship live on the BBC

Radio Gloucester listeners have recently tuned in to hear the latest round of ongoing negotiations between British Waterways and the Friends of Purton to secure a lasting future for the Purton Hulks. During the live debate, David Viner, BW Heritage Advisor, outlined the historical significance of the site and issued a firm commitment to manage the Gloucestershire time capsule through measured improvement of sign-age and an increased BW presence on the ground. This news was welcomed by Friends' Chairman Paul Barnett, who further called upon English Heritage, Stroud District Council and the Local Parish Council to join forces with BW to assist in this historic process.
The interview

Bridge Disaster remembered

  October 17th 2010, will see the Friends stand alongside descendants of the men lost during the greatest tragedy in Gloucestershire's maritime history. It will be almost 50 years to the day that the 17th pier of the Severn and Wye Railway Bridge was hit and carried away by the Arkendale H(L) and Wastdale H(L) killing 5 of the 8 men aboard the vessels. It is a great honour for Friends members to be part of this act of remembrance, which will include the unveiling, at Lydney and Purton, of two identical memorial tablets, dedicated to the crews. Furthermore, Friends' member Bevis Musk has organised for two historic R.N.L.I. lifeboats to visit the wreck site and cast a memorial wreath onto the waters in memory of those lost.

Church Bells ring to remember

After hearing about the proposed commemoration event, Ian Unsworth, an accomplished bell-ringer from Dursley, felt that a specific tribute should be made for the Severn Bridge disaster memorial event, and arranged for the nearby church bells to be rung. It is planned that a full peal will be attempted at Wotton-under-Edge on Saturday 16th October followed by quarter peals at Berkeley, Stone, Slimbridge, Awre and Lydney during 17th October, all to be dedicated to the memory of those affected by the tragic event on 25th October 1960. Full article

September 2010
British Waterways to lead the way in hulks salvation

The Friends of Purton are overjoyed at the news that after 12 years of delicate negotiations, the Purton Hulks have been formally adopted by British Waterways, who have taken the pro-active step of registering ownership of the land encompassing the hulks. In a recently released statement, Mr Brian Casey of British Waterways formally acknowledged that "This land has been registered and is in British Waterway ownership" Furthermore, Mr Casey went on to advise "We have checked our records, cross referenced these with BW_Mapthe Land Registry and can confirm that British Waterways now own the land on which the Hulks sit". Upon hearing the news, the elated Friends of Purton Chairman Paul Barnett stated, "This is a great day for these last remnants of our maritime history. For too many years we have witnessed our heritage being habitually destroyed by vandalism and arson, now, at last British Waterways, by taking this monumental decision, have embraced the challenge to ensure that these few remaining relics are to be given a fighting chance. We therefore applaud BW and welcome the chance to strengthen existing ties with the land owner for the benefit of the region's heritage and tourism". The news comes in the wake of an announcement earlier this year that the site's last remaining Kennet built canal boat Harriett has been afforded legal protection as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Initial indications are, that now the ownership of the site has been recorded with English Heritage, Natural England and the County Archaeologists, there will be little in the way to prevent the site from being registered as an assemblage worthy of further designation and protection.

August 2010
Joan du Plat Taylor Award 2010

Work of the 'Friends' continues to attract the accolade of nautical archaeologists, with news that we have been awarded £400 by the Committee adjudicating for the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) Joan du Plat Taylor Award. Mark Beattie-Edwards on behalf of Dr John Cooper, Committee Chair of NAS Joan du Plat Taylor Award, stated today, "The Committee felt that the project aims are exactly in keeping with NAS objectives and wish you all the very best with your work". The 'Friends' would like to thank the Committee for both considering and honouring us with this award.

July 2010
Severn Bridge disaster exhibition announced by 'Friends'

The Friends of Purton are today  immensely proud to announce that they are to host a comprehensive exhibition to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Severn and Wye Railway Bridge disaster which took place on the 25th October 1960 and saw the untimely death of 5 men from the John Harker tankers Arkendale H and Wastdale H following a collision on that fog bound night.  Purton site photographer John Daniells is currently putting the finishing touches to the exhibition that is set to open at the Dean Heritage Centre on the 16th October 2010  and is therefore most keen to speak to anyone who may have information, anecdotes or memories of that fateful night for possible inclusion in the finished exhibition.  Furthermore the 'Friends' are particularly interested in making the acquaintance of any surviving relatives of the vessels' crews with the view to inviting them to an official opening ceremony at the centre in October.  Please contact us on 07833143231 or by writing to 22 Gurney Avenue, Tuffley, Gloucester, GL4 0YL for further details.