News in brief: minesweepers off Ireland, Kenyon Medal winner, and Bristol’s plague hosptial

Minesweeper discovered in the Irish Sea

A shipwreck in the middle of the southern Irish Sea has recently been identified as that of the HMS Mercury, a Clyde-based ferry that was requisitioned by the Admiralty in 1939 to serve as a minesweeper. It sank off the coast of Ireland in 1940 after a mine was snagged in its sweeping gear and exploded under the stern. The discovery was made by maritime archaeologists at Bournemouth University working with scientists at Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences.

Commenting on the discovery, Dr Innes McCartney of Bournemouth University, said: ‘The wreck was assumed to be the final resting place of a submarine. Once the sonar data had been processed, the wreck resembled a paddle-wheeled vessel with its paddles boxed into the vessel’s superstructure, rather than the characteristic tube-like profile associated with submarine wrecks. Within our databases of shipping losses there was only one possible candidate that featured boxed-in paddle wheels: the minesweeper HMS Mercury.’

IMAGE: Bournemouth University.

Kenyon Medal winner announced

The British Academy has announced the 2021 winner of the Kenyon Medal, which is awarded annually in recognition of work in the fields of archaeology and Classical studies. Professor David Breeze was chosen in recognition of the outstanding international contributions he has made to the archaeology of the Roman Empire, particularly regarding the Roman frontier in Britain, throughout his career.

The medal was first awarded in 1957 and takes its name from Sir Frederic Kenyon (1863-1952), who was elected Fellow of the Academy in 1903 and served in turn as its sixth president and second secretary.

The ‘Forlorn Hope Pesthouse’ found?

A history student from the University of Bristol, Alex Beard, has unearthed new information about a 17th-century plague hospital in the city, leading to the discovery of its location. 

The ‘Forlorn Hope Pesthouse’, led by surgeon John Dunbarr, was established by the city council to aid Bristol’s population during the Great Plague of 1665-1666.

The hospital’s whereabouts remained uncertain, but then Alex’s supervisor, Dr Evan Jones, and others went on to pin down its location using 19th-century estate plans and a 1743 map from Bristol Archives. These revealed that the pesthouse was located on farmland, since redeveloped as housing, and that, appropriately, it was the most isolated dwelling within Bristol’s county boundaries.