UK news in brief: a shipwreck is grant protection, and there is a new management strategy for the MOD

A round-up of some of the latest archaeology news in the UK.

Mid-19th-century shipwreck granted protection

The wreck of the Josephine Willis, a 19th-century British ‘packet’ boat (a medium-sized wooden sailing ship) was recently granted protection by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport on the advice of Historic England. The ship sank 6.4km south of Folkestone Harbour in Kent on 3 February 1856, following a collision with a steamer. At least 70 lives were lost, including Captain Edward Canney.

The ship lies on the seabed 23m down. Remarkably, much of its cargo of ceramics remains in crates, with some patterns discovered by divers to have no known equivalents in museums. It is believed the ceramics can be traced to three Staffordshire-based potteries: Charles Meigh, Mexborough, and Davenport.

PHOTO: Stefan Panis

New management strategy for the MOD

Archaeologists from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) are now using the world’s first global Historic Environment Record (HER) – an online database that provides comprehensive access to heritage records and condition surveys. It is hoped this will provide greater efficiency in the management of the over 800 listed buildings, 700 scheduled monuments, and tens of thousands of monuments on the MOD estate.

Commenting on the new database, DIO Archaeologist Guy Salkeld said: ‘Our new system is incredibly exciting and will help us to be more effective in supporting Defence capability… The HER will add enormous value to the DIO Historic Environment Team’s work, from providing an accessible overview of the historic environment, to supplying detailed advice on the impact of MOD activities on heritage assets, and enabling a wealth of sustainability potential in between.’

New Treasure finds in Wales

A late medieval gold iconographic ring – found in September 2021 by metal-detectorist Ron Ford near Newport – was recently declared Treasure. The ring has an oval bezel engraved with the figure of St Christopher carrying the Christ Child on his shoulder while wading through water. The shoulders of the ring are decorated with a stylised foliage design.

IMAGE:  © Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Four other items were also recently declared Treasure in Wales, including another late medieval gold iconographic ring, a 14th-century silver annular brooch, an 18th-century gold finger-ring with two pairs of initials, and a post-medieval gold memento mori seal-ring with a skull motif.