CITiZAN Annual Conference: Turn the Tide II

08/10/2016  |  9 a.m.

SS Great Britain - Bristol


Turn the Tide: 2nd annual CITiZAN conference

CITiZAN, the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network,  is holding its second annual conference in the sunny south west this year.

Join us in buzzing Bristol for a voyage of discovery on the world famous SS Great Britain on Saturday 8th October 2016.

If youre interested in your coastal heritage, in community archaeology or just love the seaside, then come on down.

It’s a great day out: you’ll hear a host of inspiring speakers, be treated to lunch and refreshments and you’ll get a chance to visit Brunel’s superbly restored ship,all for just £10. Yes, just £10. 


Don’t miss the boat – book your tickets now via eventbrite


See below for the full conference programme and abstracts

Speakers include:


·         Professor Martin Bell (Reading University)

‘Footsteps through time: Intertidal Archaeology in the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel’

·         Peter Murphy (Chichester & District Archaeology Society)

‘The archaeology of an eroding beach: Medmerry, West Sussex’

·         Marie-Yvane Daire (CNRS - Universite de Rennes 1)

‘Coastal monitoring in France - Alert Project’

·         Gustav Milne (CITiZAN Museum of London Archaeology)

‘The Other Brunel Girl:  foreshore survey and the SS Great Eastern’

·         Charlie Johns (Cornwall Archaeological Unit/Isles of Scilly Community Archaeology Group)

‘Coastal Monitoring in the Isles of Scilly’

·         James Gossip (Cornwall Archaeological Unit/Meneage Archaeology Group)

‘Community Archaeology on The Lizard - Recording Coastal Sites on Britain’s Most Southerly Point’

·         Gary Marshall  (National Trust)

‘Shifting Shores: threats and responses to archaeological loss on the Isle of Wight’

·         Dr Michael Grant (Coastal and Offshore Archaeological Research Services)

Realising our coastal heritage - the rapid coastal zone assessment survey

·         Alex Bellisario & Lauren Tidbury (CITiZAN)

‘Our south-western shores: the coast with the most’


CITiZAN gratefully acknowledges the support for our programme provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, National Trust, The Crown Estate and our conference supporters Boskalis Westminster

Thanks also goes to MOLA, the Nautical Archaeology Society, the Council for British Archaeology and Historic England. 

Conference Programme

0930 - 1000         Registration, tea and coffee       

Session 1

1000 - 1010          Welcome address

                                Stephanie Ostrich (CITiZAN)

1010 - 1040          Brunel’s SS Great Eastern

                                Gustav Milne (CITiZAN/TDP)

1040 - 1110          Archaeological monitoring on Medmerry Beach, West Sussex

                                Peter Murphy (Chichester and District Archaeology Society)

1110 - 1130         Refreshments  

Session 2

1130 - 1200          Shifting shores: threats and responses to archaeological loss on the Isle of Wight

                                Gary Marshall (National Trust)

1200 - 1230          The French “ALeRT” project: a participative approach at the bedside of the threatened archaeological heritage

                                Marie-Yvane Daire and Chloë Martin (CNRS, University of Rennes 1).

1230 - 1310          Footsteps through time: Intertidal Archaeology in the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel

                                Professor Martin Bell (Reading University)

1310 - 1415         Lunch   

Session 3

1415 - 1445          Realising our coastal heritage - the rapid coastal zone assessment survey

                                Dr Michael Grant (COARS/Southampton University)

1445 - 1515          Coastal monitoring in the Isles of Scilly Community Archaeology Group

Charlie Johns (Cornwall Archaeological Unit/Isles of Scilly Community Archaeology Group)

1515 - 1545         Refreshments  

Session 4

1545 - 1615          Community Archaeology on The Lizard - Recording Coastal Sites on Britain’s Most Southerly Point

                                James Gossip (Cornwall Archaeology Unit/ Meneage Archaeology Group)

1615 - 1635          The South Western shores: the coast with the most

                                Alex Bellisario and Lauren Tidbury (CITiZAN)

1635-1715            Closing remarks and Q&A                            

                                Stephanie Ostrich (CITiZAN)

1715 - 1800         Further time to explore the SS Great Britain        



Brunel’s SS Great Eastern

Gustav Milne (CITiZAN/TDP)

It would be a dereliction of duty at a foreshore archaeology conference held next to Brunel’s magnificent SS Great Britain not to mention another of his nautical marvels, the gargantuan SS Great Eastern. At 692 ft in length (211m) and with a gross tonnage of 18,915, she was the largest ship in the world when (finally) launched in 1858. Built on the foreshore at Millwall in London, she was so large she had to be launched sideways.

The remains of the custom-built slipways still (just) survive there, and these have been recorded and monitored by the Thames Discovery Programme team (a formidable forerunner of CITiZAN). They were able to persuade Historic England to have the remains designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. 

The ship itself enjoyed mixed fortunes as a transatlantic liner before being adapted as a cable-laying vessel, laying the first fixed transatlantic cable in 1866. After many global adventures, she ended her life in Liverpool, where she was ignominiously broken up in 1889.

As the focus of a geophysical foreshore survey by Time Team in 2011, it seems that the very bottom plates of this pioneering exemplar of modern shipbuilding still survive on the foreshore, though masked by the thick mud of the Mersey. Two foreshore surveys at opposite ends of the country have thus contributed to the history of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s last great and largest ship, which can claim to have invented globalisation.


Archaeological monitoring on Medmerry beach, West Sussex

Peter Murphy (Chichester and District Archaeology Society)

Following excavations by Archaeology South East (ASE) within the Managed Realignment area the Chichester and District Archaeology Society has been monitoring the eroding beach since 2013. The archaeology on the beach provides information on changing palaeogeography and land-use from around 4000 cal BC to the 20th century.

 The earliest remains from the beach comprise the roots of an oak. Basal humified saltmarsh peats from the ASE excavations date to around 4330-3990 cal BC, but the tree must relate to woodland pre-dating this. A string of Bronze Age burnt spreads of heat-shattered flint extends along the shore. Some are in situ, resting on a former land surface; others are spills within intertidal sediments. The shoreline sites have not been dated, but samples dated by ASE fall in the overall calibrated date range 1740-1490 cal BC. An Iron Age skeleton was lifted by the police, with all the limitations that implies. They obtained a determination calibrated to 760-410 cal BC. The skeleton is of a male, aged 25+, probably middle aged, with arthritis of the spine, cribra orbitalia indicating poor diet, tooth wear and pre-mortem loss, calculus and periodontal disease. The skeleton lay in grey intertidal sediments, probably a creek fill, and was associated with degraded wooden planks. It might represent an accidental drowning or could have been ‘placed’.

 A linear wattle fence cuts across one of the burnt spreads and is probably a continuation of similar structures in the ASE excavations, dating to the Late Saxon to 14th-15th centuries. Two large braced timber structures and a fish basket falling within the date range of 1449-1660 cal AD have also been planned and recorded on the beach. Later finds include an18th century leather slow match pouch. It might have come from the wreck of the HMS Hazardous prize in Bracklesham Bay (1706). In 2016, the flint and brick walls of Thorney Farm were exposed and then destroyed by erosion, leaving scant time for recording. The farm was certainly there by 1810 and it survived until the early 20th century. Two related wells, one lined with chalk blocks, another with timber and brick have also been recorded. Marshland drainage ditches of 19th century date are becoming increasingly well-exposed on the beach. Concrete anti-tank blocks and beach scaffolding, part of the ‘coastal crust’ defences from 1940 are visible on the beach. Munitions related to the air-to-ground gunnery range (1943-1954) are also common.


Shifting shores: threat and responses to archaeological loss on the Isle of Wight

Gary Marshall (National Trust)

The National Trust’s ownership on the Isle of Wight extends to more than 16 miles of coastline, embracing some of the most iconic island landscapes, most of which lie within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Archaeological evidence provides testament to human interaction with and exploitation of the coastal landscape, ranging from pre-historic earthwork enclosures to mass concrete defensive structures from World War II. This is a dynamic landscape with threats arising from coastal erosion, cliff-slips and pressure from recreational use. The presentation will review the extent of these threats and their impact on the archaeological resource. It will look and current and future initiatives to mitigate against the loss of an archaeological record extending back more than 5,000 years.   


The French “ALeRT” project: a participative approach at the bedside of the threatened archaeological heritage

Marie-Yvane Daire and Chloë Martin (CNRS, University of Rennes 1)

Climates changes effects (e.g. coastal erosion) combined with anthropic pressure have an increasing impact on coastal heritage. In Western France, an interdisciplinary group of researchers (archaeologists, geomorphologists, geographers) decided to address this problem; then, since 2006, they have put together the ‘ALeRT’ project (Archaeology, Coasts and Climate Changes – Archéologie, Littoral et Réchauffement Terrestre), in the framework of the CReAAH research team (Research Center in Archaeology, Archaeosciences and History – Centre de Recherche en Archéologie, Archéosciences et Histoire)(University of Rennes).

This interdisciplinary project has successively developed tools for observation and evaluation of the archaeological sites vulnerability, then sites monitoring and heritage management approaches. A participative approach was developed, allowing not only researchers but also volunteers, to work in connection with archaeologists and participate, thanks to a range of interactive devices.


Footsteps through time: intertidal archaeology in the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel

Professor Martin Bell (Reading University)

The Severn Estuary has by far the greatest tidal range in the British Isles at 14.8m, the third highest in the world. The result is that vast tracts of foreshore are exposed at low spring tides. These include extensive areas of Quaternary and Holocene sediments which contain archaeological sites used during periods of lower sea-level and buried by accumulating estuarine sediments which are now eroding to reveal them. Within this sequence are extensive submerged forests. Recording of these sites means working in the narrow tidal window so techniques of rapid recording are required.  The paper will review evidence for Pleistocene sediments and Palaeolithic activity, a major complex of excavated Mesolithic sites at Goldcliff in South Wales. The most striking aspect of these sites is their association with many footprints of people, animals and birds. Other Mesolithic sites such as Westward Ho!, Devon will also be considered. The use of the estuary for seasonal grazing from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age will be reviewed with reference to excavations at Goldcliff and Redwick in south Wales and Brean Down in Somerset. 


Realising our coastal heritage - the rapid coastal zone assessment survey

Dr Michael Grant (COARS/Southampton University)

Since the late 1990's English Heritage (now Historic England) have initiated a programme of Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys (RCZAS) to enhance the knowledge of the coastal historic environment in an effort to inform future Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs). This programme has helped to identify heritage assets around our coastline, improve our recording of them (including location), assess their age and purpose and their threat from current predictions of coastal change and flooding. While such national programmes are instrumental for assessing risk to known (and identifiable) archaeology, it is well established that it is the volunteers who are the real investigators on the ground. By being on the ground all through the year they often have the greatest understanding of the archaeology present, and changes in the local environment, and will often be the first to raise awareness of archaeological sites as they are slowly revealed through coastal erosion and / or storm events. This talk will outline current work on the RCZAS in SW England and how community groups could play an instrumental role in enhancing such work, including active monitoring, moving forward.


Coastal monitoring by the Isles of Scilly Community Archaeology Group

Charlie Johns (Cornwall Archaeological Unit/Isles of Scilly Community Archaeology Group)

The drowned landscape of the Isles of Scilly is an archipelago of approximately 400 islands, islets and rocks situated 45km south-west of Land’s End. Coastal monitoring effectively began in the islands when the antiquarian Dr William Borlase first recorded the submerged stone walls on Samson and Tresco Flats in 1752. Since then many archaeologists, amateur and professional, have recorded and speculated on the intertidal remains, the rate of sea-level rise and the archaeological sites exposed in cliff-faces around the islands — notably the late Professor Charles Thomas whose work culminated in the classic 1985 publication ‘Exploration of a Drowned Landscape; archaeology and history of the Isles of Scilly’.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s the Cornwall Archaeological Unit (CAU) and English Heritage undertook a rolling programme of coastal monitoring and small-scale recording projects in Scilly (the Costal Erosion Project or CEP) which was reactive to weather events and local circumstances such as heather/gorse fires. As well as producing a revised model for sea-level rise, the CEP led to the identification of many important archaeological sites; in 1991, for example, 41 new sites were identified following winter storms. At present there are some 310 sites recorded in the HER ranging in date from the Mesolithic to the Modern period.

The Lyonesse Project, a new study of the historic coastal and marine environment of the Scilly, was funded by Historic England and carried out by CAU with a team of experts and volunteers between 2009 and 2013.  Intertidal and submerged ‘peat’ deposits were investigated, surveyed and sampled. Seventy-eight new radiocarbon dates and 15 new OSL ages were obtained for the project; the new data providing a much more robust chronology than previously existed for reconstructing the evolution of the islands during the Holocene.

In 2012, a ShoreWatch project for Scilly was initiated by CAU, Cardiff University and CBA South West with the aim of encouraging and training local volunteers to make records of sites threatened by coastal erosion. The project used scaled photography and a recording sheet based on the SCAPE forms and concentrated on six key Prehistoric and Romano-British sites. One of these, a Bronze Age cairn at Pendrathen on St Mary’s was completely destroyed during a severe storm during the winter of 2013/14.  The islands’ Community Archaeology Group was formed in March 2014 continues to monitor these, and other, sites.


Community Archaeology on The Lizard - Recording Coastal Sites on Britain’s Most Southerly Point

James Gossip (Cornwall Archaeology Unit/ Meneage Archaeology Group)

The Lizard Peninsula is an area of Cornwall’s southern coast measuring approximately 14 x 14 miles and tipped by Lizard Point, the most southerly point of mainland Britain. A mixture of gentle heath, coastal grassland, wooded valleys and rocky cliffs, most of the peninsula has been designated an Area of Outstanding National Beauty and is particularly well known for its unique geology and rare plants. The history and archaeology of the Lizard is equally diverse, with a range of sites dotted around its rugged coastline, from prehistoric settlements to historic harbours.

Whilst the coast of the Lizard has long been known as the site of many shipwrecks, its coastal archaeological sites, safe from modern development, have been the subject of less attention. In the 1970’s the work of the Cornwall Archaeological Society’s Parochial checklists of Antiquities began to build a picture of the Lizard’s historic environment assets, leading to the adoption of a fully digitised Historic Buildings, Sites and Monuments Record - making it possible for all data to be accessible to the national online archaeological database known as the Heritage Gateway.

Since the formation of the Meneage Archaeology Group (MAG) there has been an active community group on the Lizard, largely dedicated to the ongoing excavation of an inland prehistoric site, but also with concerns across the wider peninsula. The storms of the winter of 2013/2014 were particularly damaging to the Lizard Coastline – historic harbours were damaged and sensitive archaeological sites suffered further erosion. MAG members recognised the urgency of the situation, and a visit from CITiZAN was seen as the perfect opportunity to begin a programme of detailed recording. Using the Cornwall and Scilly Historic Environment Record and the Heritage Gateway a list of coastal sites was drawn up and members were encouraged to investigate the level of threat at these sites.

Under imminent danger of being lost to the sea were the Romano-British salt-production site at Trebarveth, the historic quay at Withan, Frenchman’s Creek, the Herra, a possible round barrow and a post-Roman settlement at Gunwalloe. Second World War defensive sites were also recognised as being in particular danger. Recording work is now underway, with data sheets being collated by members for submission to CITiZAN. Members’ vigilance will continue over the coming winter, monitoring known sites and looking out for others under threat.


Our south-western shores: the coast with the most

Alex Bellisario and Lauren Tidbury (CITiZAN)

The south west coast of England has the most varied and distinctive geomorphology in the United Kingdom. CITiZAN South West have been working our way around the coast, from the drowned estuaries of Chichester and Langstone Harbours, the chalk cliffs laid down in the Cretaceous period of the Dorset Jurassic coast, the cliffs of Devon with their volcanic origins and around to Cornwall’s iconic craggy faces and small harbours. The only archipelago in England is also to be found in the south west, the Isles of Scilly battered constantly by the Atlantic Ocean. We then finish our journey with the largest estuary in the United Kingdom, the Severn.

We will be exploring this wonderful coastline throughout this paper using our CITiZAN themes to guide the way. During ‘May Day: Save Our Ships’ we investigated individual hulks such as the Motor Minesweeper at Gosport to the largest vessel assemblage recorded in England at Purton, Gloucestershire. Moving on to ‘Defending our Island’ the cliff castles of the south west feature prominently as an Iron Age way of watching our seas; these sites such as at Brean Down in Somerset are often reused during later periods due to their prominent positions. A variety of ‘Coastal Industries’ are represented  from small fishing ports all around our coastline to the industry of smuggling in the 17th and 18th centuries; we will be demonstrating the value of 3D-modelling to record the remains of such industries using an eroded brick kiln on Brownsea Island. Finally with ‘Lost Landscapes’ we will explore the work we have done at Dunster where a previously unrecorded Roman site has been identified by the local community group. We will also look at the submerged forest at Porlock which hints back to a wooded landscape with animals that have long been extinct in the British Isles. We hope that this final paper will demonstrate that the beautiful south west coast really does have the most.