Langstone Harbour, Hampshire

Langstone harbour contains archaeological evidence from the Palaeolithic through to modern times. This once inland environment was dominated by a steep river valley which was later infilled with sediment; as sea levels rose the landscape was eroded and the area became the low-lying harbour we know today. The islands in the north of the harbour are the last remnants of this ancient landscape. Numerous archaeological sites and features have been discovered here. Much of this has been exposed as the islands, foreshore and the saltmarsh erodes and the intertidal sediments shift. 

Finds and sites on the islands include the Saxon log boat excavated in 2005, Bronze Age burial urns and large quantities of worked flint. The harbour foreshore, particularly the west coast of Hayling Island, also contains numerous archaeological sites and features. Evidence of the once thriving oyster industry can be seen in the north, and old field boundaries are now partially submerged. Studies into the loss of saltmarsh has shown that the harbour has witnessed a rapid decline in saltmarsh habitat over the last 50-70 years based on studies of aerial photography. Sites such as the Sinah Circle, thought to be a Saxon fishtrap or oyster pen is now only exposed at very low tides and surrounded by mudflat. During its time of construction it is probable that the site was accessible across the saltmarsh.

The coastline of the harbour has the potential to expose further archaeological material as the small cliffs erode and sediments shift. 

The South West team have been working with the Maritime Archaeology Trust to record remains on Oyster Island, a small island extending from Farlington Marshes in the north of the harbour. and linked by a tidal causeway. The foundations of a building, timber posts and a circular structure originally thought to be part of a WWI searchlight base (Allen and Gardiner, 2000) were recorded in January 2017.  

The site was last surveyed in the mid 1990’s as part of the Langstone Harbour Project. At the time the remains were interpreted as a WWI Observation Post and Searchlight base (Allen & Gardiner, 2000:107). However, further research suggests that the building foundations actually relate to the ‘Oyster Catchers House’, thought to have been built in 1819 by the Russel family as part of their oyster business. It is unclear whether the house was demolished in the 1950’s, or if it was destroyed in WWII as the area was used as a decoy site. Analysis of historic maps has also shown that the circular structure initially reported to be a WWI searchlight base is actually the remains of a well associated with the house. The site is known to be affected by erosion and changing sediment levels and was therefore selected as a monitoring site for the project.

The objective of the survey was to train local volunteers to monitor the site and to record the building foundations and circular structure using offset survey techniques as well as creating a 3D model. The building was surveyed using offset survey (see below site plan) only the footings remain which are made up of brick and stone as well as some timber structures on the island edge. A historic photograph of the house can be found here. 

The timber remains were photographed and a camera was mounted on to an extendable pole to photograph the footings and the circular structure in order to create a 3D model, this was processed by the Maritime Archaeology Trust and can be found here.

References

Allen & J Gardiner (eds), 2000. Our Changing Coast; a survey of the intertidal archaeology of Langstone Harbour, Hampshire. 124 edn, CBA Research Report, no. 124, Council for British Archaeology, York, 

 

CITiZAN are working to monitor the remains on Oyster Island. If you would like to help and submit a feature update or see more images of the remains check out the entry on our interactive map:

The Oyster Catchers House