UK news in brief: discovering SS Mesaba, St Saviour’s Priory, and a Roman ford

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

Remains of the SS Mesaba found in the Irish Sea

Using new multibeam sonar, which enables detailed seabed mapping, researchers from Bangor University have been able to identify some of the hundreds of shipwrecks that lie across the 7,500 square miles of the Irish Sea. One of these newly identified ships is the merchant steamship SS Mesaba.

The SS Mesaba is perhaps best known as the ship that sent a warning message to the RMS Titanic about icebergs lying ahead on the night of 12 April 1912 – a message which, unfortunately, never reached the bridge. Six years after that fateful night, the SS Mesaba was torpedoed while in convoy and sank.

Hundreds of burials found under Welsh department store

A medieval priory and hundreds of skeletons associated with it have been found during an excavation by Dyfed Archaeological Trust at the site of the former Ocky Whites department store in Haverfordwest. It is believed to be the remains of St Saviour’s Priory, which was founded by a Dominican order of monks around 1256, but its exact location had been forgotten with time. While ecclesiastical burials in the medieval period were usually reserved for those of higher status, roughly half of the skeletons recovered are those of children, attesting to the high mortality rate at this time, even for those from better-off backgrounds.

It is hoped that post-excavation analysis of the friary and skeletons will shed further light on what life was like in this area of Wales during the medieval period.

Rare ford unearthed at Evesham

A well-preserved ford has recently been discovered during waterworks near Evesham, in the Wychavon district of Worcestershire. So far, a section approximately 12m long and 4m wide has been excavated but, unfortunately, no concrete dating evidence has been discovered. Morphologically, it appears to be Roman in date, but it was found on the grounds of a medieval deer park and could equally date to any time before the brook that it was made for was moved in the 18th-19th century to cut through a nearby mill.

It is hoped that post-excavation analysis, including OSL dating, might shed some more light on its history. Rut marks on the stone seem to indicate that the ford was once well used by carts, perhaps over the course of a couple of centuries. Excavations have confirmed the feature was paved in two distinct phases; the primary phase measures 2.95m and is of a higher quality of construction than the secondary phase. Whatever the case, however, the degree of preservation makes this a rare archaeological find.