The Walthamstow Boat

By Peter R.V. Marsden , published February 1964

Abstract

In July 1900 the remains of a wooden boat were found in Essex buried on the bank of the River Lea, near Walthamstow, during excavations for the Lockwood Reservoir.  The paper describes all of the available technical evidence and concludes that it was a Saxon or Viking pagan burial boat from the Dark Ages.  Fragments of the boat were kept in the Bruce Castle Museum, Tottenham, the Vestry Museum, Walthamstow, and in the London Museum, but curio hunters were allowed to carry the rest of the boat away piecemeal. Using the available contemporary records, including press reports, photographs and a contractor’s report on the finding, the author attempts to re-create the finding and explore its possible origins in the Dark Ages as a burial site. The boat was found under four feet of soil and one foot six inches of silt, lying on 12-20 feet of sand and aligned N.E.-S.W. It was upside down and covering a skeleton, which was accompanied by a sword, and, so it was rumoured, some gold ornaments. The boat was about 45 feet long and seven feet wide, with an elm keel timber about 14.5 inches wide. Constructed using a double skin with ribs in between, the outer skin of oak planks was clinker built held together by iron rivets, but pinned to the ribs with trenails.

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Filed under: Antiquity | Internal Waterways
Subjects include: Archaeology

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