Devon shipwrecks given listed protection

Shipwreck at Westward Ho Image copyright Historic England
Image caption All three wrecks lie in sand or in mud and on certain tides can be accessed on foot

Public access to three "really significant" shipwrecks will not be affected by government protection for the sites, Historic England has said.

Permission will now be required for people to investigate the medieval fishing boat and two 18th Century merchant vessels in Devon.

Causing deliberate damage to the wrecks will also be classed as illegal.

Historic England said the status did not prevent people from "building sandcastles next to them".

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Image copyright Historic England
Image caption All three wrecks are rare examples of wooden sailing vessels found in English waters

Head of listings, Joe Flatman, said the three wrecks on the west side of the Axe River and off Westward Ho! were a "small number of really significant wrecks" with two accessed by a walk down the beach creating a "perfect day out".

He said the status "won't stop people from walking over them and building sandcastles next to them, but will stop them from hacking off some wood for a barbecue".

Bill Horner, Archaeologist at Devon County Council said: "While these wrecks have been known about for some time and we have been monitoring their condition, it's great that Devon's maritime past is now being recognised."

The shipwrecks

Image copyright Historic England
Image caption The biggest of three is thought to be a merchant vessel sailing from Oporto to Bristol with a cargo of port wine

The Axe Boat

  • The earliest of the wrecks lies in a mud bank on the west side of the Axe River in south Devon
  • Discovered in 2001 samples of wood show it was built between 1400 and 1640
  • Ships like this were used in coastal trade or fishing and a common site as England's mercantile trade developed
  • Nearby Axmouth was ranked as a major port by the mid-14th Century and accounted for 15% of the country's shipping trade


  • The larger wreck at Westward Ho! (23m (75ft) long x 7m (23ft) wide) is nationally important as the ship's construction and orientation remain clearly visible
  • It is believed to be the remains of the Sally that ran aground on the sands in 1769, while bound from Oporto in Portugal to Bristol with a cargo of port wine

A Severn Trow

  • The smaller of the two by Westward Ho! is a small merchant ship working locally in the Bristol Channel coastline around 200 years ago
  • It is lying at such an angle that it appears to have been driven ashore in a storm
Image copyright Historic England
Image caption About 11,000 vessels are known to have been wrecked in England's waters in the late 18th Century, but few from this period have been discovered other than important trading vessels
Image copyright Historic England
Image caption Historic England advised people to check of the tidal and weather conditions before visiting the wrecks

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