Record Details

NHER Number:2394
Type of record:Find Spot
Name:Late Prehistoric wooden boat


A wooden vessel was observed projecting into the River Ouse and was excavated in August 1878. The object was described as an oak-built canoe with a flat bottom and an angular section which had been carved from a single tree. A length of 15 feet was removed but a small portion was left in the peat. It was positioned within the middle of a buried peat layer and is believed to be of pre-Roman date. Unfortunately the vessel itself disintegrated shortly after removal, preventing further study.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TF 602 096
Map Sheet:TF60NW

Full description

10 August 1878. Excavation.
A wooden vessel was found in a "peat bed at a point in the River Ouse about halfway between Denver Sluice and Lynn, in fact just above the Great Horse-shoe Bend, commonly called 'Maudlin Bend'" (S1). The object is described as projecting about five feet from the steep bank and had been visible for several years, causing a hazard to boats. Mr. Marshall excavated the boat, which was laying upright in the middle of the buried peat bed (see (S1) p. 202 for section drawing). Described as a canoe, the vessel had been shaped from a single oak tree. It had a flat bottom and straight sides on the outer surface and measured about two feet four inches wide by just six inches deep. A length of ten feet was exposed during the initial excavation. A few days later, a further five feet were revealed by workmen but it was still penetrating into the bank and a decision was made to cut it rather than continue excavating. Thus, a fifteen foot length of the boat was removed to W. Marchall's stable yard at Ely where it consequently disintegrated. The original excavator believed that only a very small portion of the vessel was left unexcavated.
The position of the vessel within the ancient peat bed led the excavator to conclude that it was most likely of pre-Roman date as he believed the Fen Causeway (NHER 2796) Roman Road was positioned above the peat. This analysis A. Fox's 1923 publication on the archaeology of the Cambridge region (S2) confirms this analysis and references this find in the discussion of the Bronze Age.
No other objects were found during the investigation.
Information from journal article (S1).
See (S3) for responses to the presentation to the society in 1879.
See (S4) for a second article written for the Norwich Geological Society.
See (S5) for comparative sections across the Fen Causeway.
See (S6) for another comparative reference.
Also summarized on various record cards (S7), (S8), and (S9).
E. Rose (NAU/NLA).
Updated H. Hamilton (HES), 06 September 2018.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)

Associated Finds

  • BOAT (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

<S1>Article in Serial: Marshall, W. 1881. On an ancient canoe found imbedded in the Fen-peat near Magdalen Bend, on the River Ouse, in the county of Norfolk. Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society. Vol 4 No 3, pp 195-206.
<S2>Publication: Fox, C. 1923. The Archaeology of the Cambridge Region: a topographical study of the Bronze, Early Iron, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon Ages, with an introductory note on the Neolithic Age. pp 64-65.
<S3>Article in Serial: [anonymous]. 1881. Report presented to the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, at its thirty-ninth annual general meeting, May 26 1879. with an abstract of the proceedings of the society, 1878-1879. Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiqarian Society. Vol 4 No 3, pp i-xxiv. pp xii-xiii.
<S4>Article in Serial: Marshall, W. 1879. On a pre-historic canoe from the peat near Lynn. Proceedings of the Norwich Geological Society. Vol 1 No 3, p 74.
<S5>Article in Serial: Beloe, E. M. 1891. The Great Fen Road. Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiqarian Society. Vol VII No 4 (New Series Vol I) pp 112-130. Pl xxviii.
<S6>Article in Serial: Fox, C.. 1926. A 'Dug-out' Canoe from South Wales: With notes on the chronolofy, typology, and distribution of monoxylous craft in England and Wales. Antiquaries Journal. Vol VI No 2, pp 121-151. pp 64-65.
<S7>Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Miscellaneous. Runcton Holme/Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen.
<S8>Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 60 NW 31.
<S9>Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.

Related records - none

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