County Hall ship

This Roman ship was discovered in 1910 on the site of the County Hall, on the south bank of the River Thames opposite Westminster, London, England. The ship had been abandoned at the edge of the River Thames.

The construction of the ship is dated to about 300 AD by dendrochronology, and its loss soon after by associated pottery and coins.

Only part of the ship, from the centre towards one end, had survived, and the remains measured about 13m long and 5.5m wide. The hull comprised the bottom and part of one collapsed side. The ship was carvel built entirely of oak, and with mortice-and-tenon joints holding the planks edge-to-edge. This is typical of the Mediterranean method of Roman shipbuilding and contrasts with the Romano-Celtic method then in general use in central and north-western Europe. The dendrochronology, however, shows that the ship had been built locally.

The ship had a keel to which the strakes were attached. The frames were fastened to the strakes by oak treenails. The bottom of the hull had more frames than had the sides, and the side survived in a collapsed form to an original height of 1.55m, just above which was probably the gunwale. A wale existed at a height of 1.3m above the bottom frames, and it held the ends of deck beams. A longitudinal stringer, one of a pair originally, attached to the top of the frames on the bottom of the ship, had mortice holes presumably for the stanchions that once supported the deck near the centre of the vessel.

The ship was originally preserved in the London Museum, but did not survive intact. Some timbers of the ship are now preserved at the Shipwreck Heritage Centre, Hastings, and at the Museum of London, England.

Main Publication:

Peter Marsden, Ships of the Port of London: first to eleventh centuries AD. 1994, English Heritage Archaeological Report 3.

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