Record Details

NHER Number:21961
Type of record:Maritime
Name:Wreck of the Vicuna on Holme Beach


The wreck of a post medieval wooden and metal ship is located on Holme Beach and is visible on aerial photographs. It was first recorded in 1985 and since then it has moved southwards by about 100m. It may be the remains of the Vicuna, an ice carrying ship that sank on 7 March 1883 on route to King's Lynn. The Vicuna was recorded as having a cargo of ice; in 2004 the wreck contained a large amount of stone that would have been used as ballast. The site is located within a sensitive and fragile National Nature Reserve, Site of Special Scientific Interest and Natura 2000 site. Holme Beach should be visited with great care not to disturb nesting or wintering birds.


  • A post medieval wreck on Holme beach. It may be the remains of the Vicuna, an ice carrying ship that sank on 7 March 1883 on route to King's Lynn.  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service


Grid Reference:Not displayed
Map Sheet:TF74NW

Full description

November 1985. Revealed by tidal scour.
Wreck. Hull and keel of wooden ship.
Stated by [1] to have been in this position for fifty years or so and now to have been uncovered to a greater degree; suggests it was an 18th century collier Carrington (coal remains in wreck).
However, coastguard officer quoted in (S1) to effect that the wreck had been dragged in from further offshore and was a 19th century boat, Viona or Viner.
Possibly some confusion here with site NHER 21962. Remains 36m (120 feet) long.
E. Rose (NAU), 22 November 1985.

Further details from [1] suggest that the ship may be the Vicuna, recorded by Lloyds as having sunk with a cargo of ice for Lynn 7 March 1883.
See (S2).
E. Rose (NAU), 29 January 1986.

August 1998.
The wreck in question is now that at site NHER 21962, where it has been for a year but previous to that had moved up and down the coast, according to [2]. It is a very large wooden ship with many close set ribs, from which wooden pegs 0.6m (2 feet) long hold on the planking, which is carvel built. There is a massive keelson and mast step. A brass rudder pintle shows that this is a ship of late date, probably the Vicuna.
E. Rose (NLA), 14 August 1998.

It seems unlikely that the wreck moved from the location recorded in November 1985 to be close to NHER 21962/TF 7100 4552 in August 1998. See below for further details.
D. Robertson (NLA), 14 June 2006.

Photograph (S3) in file.

26 May 1999. NLA air photography.
Wreck of Vicuna visible on photographs of Holme timber circle excavation.
S. Massey (NLA), 26 March 2001.

August 2002. Norfolk NMP. National Grid Reference corrected from original TF 7120 4568.
The wreck of the post medieval ship the Vicuna is visible on recent NLA aerial photographs (S4)-(S5). It is located at NGR TF 7119 4554.
This was previously mapped by Suffolk County Council, and the aerial photographs used are unknown.
H. Clare (NMP), 16 September 2002.

The grid reference plotted by NMP from the 1999 photographs suggests that in 1999 the wreck was in more or less the same location as it was in 1985.This suggests that the position given for the wreck in August 1998 is incorrect - although possible, it seems unlikely that the wreck could have moved about 200m southwest between 1985 and August 1998 and then returned to its original site between August 1998 and May 1999. The location was probably recorded incorrectly because it is very difficulty to locate exact positions on Holme Beach, a relatively featureless beach with few reference points, without electronic surveying equipment. In conclusion, if the wreck did move between 1985 and 1999 it moved only a short distance - it is very unlikely it was situated close NHER 21962 in 1998.
D. Robertson (NLA), 14 June 2006.

May-November 2004. Norfolk Rapid Coastal Zone Archaeological Survey.
Inter-tidal survey (Environmental Zone 6), Context 11:
A scatter of stone, iron and wood fragments was found loose in an area roughly 30m square on the beach. The material originally came from the wreck (Context 13), which was observed to the southwest; it represents a previous resting place of the wreck. The stone is probably Scandinavian in origin and would have been used as ballast on the ship. Pieces of this stone have been collected previously from Holme Beach and it has been suggested that they were used in Bronze Age rituals; this is very unlikely.
See assessment report (S6) for further details.
The associated archive has been deposited with the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 2017.421).
J. Allen (NLA), 14 April 2005. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 21 July 2019.

The scatter of stone, iron and wood recorded during the Norfolk Coastal Survey (context 11) was found in the same location as the 1999 aerial photographs show the wreck (see (S4)-(S5) and NMP section above).
The wreck itself was discovered about 100m southwest of this spot, between TF 71085 45392 and TF 71112 45424 (a comparison of (S1), (S3) and photographs taken in 2004 (S7) demonstrates that all three are of the same wreck). This means that it moved about 100m between 1999 and 2004. The mapped area of the site has been extended to include the wreck's new location.
During the Norfolk Rapid Coastal Survey the wreck was recorded as Context 13 and was described as: Partly buried in beach sand; a tidal scour surrounds it. A wreck, measuring 27.60m by 5.65m. Made from wooden planks held with metal braces, it was surrounded by scatter of stone ballast (of probable Scandinavian origin and the same as that found at context 11).
See (S6).
In 2005 the above description was assigned to NHER 21962 by mistake; it is no longer part of that record.
D. Robertson (NLA), 14 June 2006.

April 2005.
[2] reports bow of wreck broken off by storm, lying further up the beach, and probably by now washed away.
E. Rose (NLA), 21 April 2005.

Monument Types

  • WRECK (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1999. TF 7145G - J, R - W, AD, AJ.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Unpublished Document: NAU. 2004. Norfolk Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Context Sheet.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
<S1>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1985. Sands' retreat reveals ancient wreck. 14 November.
<S2>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1986. Old wreck mystery solved. 8 February.
<S3>Photograph: JGK 17-9.
<S4>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1999. SMR TF 7145G-J, R (NLA fl395/JPJ7-9,16) 26-MAY-1999.
<S5>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1999. SMR TF 7145S-W (NLA fl395/JPK1-5) 26-MAY-1999.
<S6>Unpublished Contractor Report: Robertson, D., Crawley, P., Barker, A., and Whitmore, S. 2005. Norfolk Rapid Coastal Zone Archaeological Survey. Assessment Report and Updated Project Design. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 1045.

Related records - none

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