Jon Adams and Joe Flatman with Duncan Brown, Wendy Childs, Ian Friel, David Gaimster, Colum Giles, Colin Martin, Paula Martin, Duncan McAndrew, Thomas McErlean, Nigel Nayling, Jesse Ransley, Mark Redknap, Susan Rose and Tom Williamson
This chapter charts the period in which ‘England’ became established, following a long period of gradual consolidation up to the arrival of the Normans in 1066. This was also a period when ‘maritime’ and ‘inland’ become increasingly integrated. Whilst over 80% of the population was ‘rural’, largely inhabiting extensive, low-level, scattered settlements, these communities were well connected by established, far-reaching, and sophisticated trade and communication links, providing movement of goods, ideas, and people, and serviced by a major road/ river network and periodic events such as seasonal fairs or festivals. In addition, urbanism in this period effectively meant ‘maritime-ism’, combining a higher (relative to previous periods) population density and increased movement of peoples and goods to create a relatively cosmopolitan urban population. This structure developed to take goods out of the country as much as in, notably wool and cloth in return for wine and exotics, but it also contributed to an increasingly ‘maritime’ society, even far inland. Both physical evidence and social structures highlight this, from the consumption of fish on Fridays to salt supplies and imported ceramics. It was also reflected in contemporary iconography, which made ‘maritime culture’ both visible and tangible (see Fig 7.1).
In addition to this connectivity and increasingly ‘maritime’ society, there were wider but interconnected socio-economic, environmental, and political dynamics at play which found expression in altered settlement patterns, coastal industries, fortifications, and even in shipbuilding and its associated infrastructure. Firstly, the ‘Medieval warm period’ and the ‘Little Ice Age’ (Fig 7.2) effected significant climatic and environmental change. Notably a series of North Sea storm surges in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries impacted not only coastal life but also farming locations and techniques (Fagan 2000). Secondly, in the mid-14th century ‘The Black Death’, a devastating plague pandemic, spread across Europe. There was a 40–60% population loss in two to three generations. It took more than 150 years for Europe’s population to recover and there were recurring outbreaks until the mid-17th century (Platt 1976; 1997; Herlihy 1997). The Black Death contributed to a series of religious, economic and social upheavals, including alterations to settlement patterns and a long-term, irreversible specialisation in almost every industry.
Thirdly, there were fundamental political, religious, and social changes in England during the period. Notably, the accession of Henry VII in 1485 was a key point of transition politically and dynastically, for it prompted a series of innovations in administration that signalled a key change in both the strategy and mindset of government. A principal indicator of this was the way the Henrican regime viewed sea power in terms of security, trade, and exchange as well as a projection of the king’s status as dynastic monarch. These shifts had profound effects on the associated material culture, much of which began to show distinct differences from its antecedents. Similarly, the dissolution of the monasteries during the Reformation marked an irreversible transfer of authority and resources away from the Church. This process had a particular physical impact on manorial structures, but also a significant social impact on the ‘world view’ and maritime-related religious practices.
In essence, the innovations of this broader High to Post-Medieval period encompassed the beginnings of a global world in which the volatile dynastic power relations of Medieval society were ultimately transformed into larger and more coherent nation states. As that process involved a dramatic increase in scale, it was also, de facto, a maritime process since much of the political, military, and economic competition between emergent nation states of the 16th century was played out at sea. It is this profound social change at every level that we see, for example, manifested in the technical and social changes in shipbuilding that swept across northern Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Previous regional research frameworks and Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment (RCZA) data for the High and Post-Medieval maritime world and Hinton’s key text Archaeology and the Middle Ages (1987) corroborate much of what is outlined in this chapter. However, there remains a need for a full review of the grey literature for this period, focusing attention on the data for archaeological fieldwork in major Medieval ports and harbours as well as other sites with significant imported ceramic assemblages (including for ‘inland’ riverine ports). Such a review should also include core journals like Medieval Archaeology and the regional journals, as well as relevant, recent ALSF projects. An integrated approach is required since non-archaeological data contextualises archaeological remains; work on Southampton is a key example of combining archaeological and documentary evidence to improve understanding of life in a major maritime urban centre (eg Platt 1973; Platt and Coleman-Smith 1975). Moreover, the crossover benefits of this programme should be emphasised to historians and archaeologists alike, and common ground identified especially as regards opportunities for collaborative research.
In order for our understanding of the period to develop, there is a need to address the following:
The large-scale processual changes and grand narratives of earlier periods no longer dominate archaeological discussion of England’s coastal evolution in the High to Post-Medieval period. It is instead characterised by local stories of gradual, smaller-scale changes punctuated by influential ‘events’. For, despite discussion of the ‘Medieval warm period’ (c AD 950–1250) and the ‘Little Ice Age’ that followed, which affected temperatures in the late 16th century and at intervals over the subsequent 300 years (Fig 7.2), we have little evidence that these climatic changes resulted in an overall trend in England’s coastal evolution (Hughes and Diaz 1994). Most studies are regional and focused on the development of estuaries like the Severn (eg Rippon 2001b), marshes (eg Rippon 1996; 2000; Gardiner 2001; 2007b), and/or saltmarshes, particularly of the southern and eastern English Channel and the east coast (Long 2000), the last of which are particularly associated with salt working (see McAvoy 1994; Bell et al 1999; Keen 1989). It is clear from these studies, however, that coastal instability was widespread and that, in key areas, localised inundations, accretion or erosive processes affected considerable change. Moreover, the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries saw important storm surge activity in the North Sea and eastern channel region (Galloway 2009; Long et al 1998). Storm events and associated processes had significant impact on both the coastline and coastal communities, washing away villages and parts of towns, devastating small ports, and altering shipping and trading patterns. However, these effects were not equivalent in all areas as local factors affected the nature and rates of change (Long and Innes 1993; Long et al 2006a; 2006b). Even within the Humber Estuary, for example, coastal development varied greatly with erosion, accretion, and flooding in different parts of the estuary during this period (Long et al 1998).
Human responses to the increasing frequency of marine storm surges, climate deterioration, and coastal change are evidenced in a number of areas. Most notable probably is Dunwich on the Suffolk coast, where up to a mile of coast has been eroded in the last 1000 years (Good and Plouviez 2007, 47– 8). A thriving port situated on a natural harbour at the convergence of the Rivers Blyth and Dunwich, it was a centre of the east coast wool trade with a successful herring industry in the 11th and 12th centuries (Good and Plouviez 2007; Wade and Dymond 1999), yet had all but disappeared by the end of the 14th century. Storm surges in the late 13th century (possibly a 1287 event in particular) marked the beginning of its decline as the River Dunwich began to silt up. Major storm events in the early 14th century swept away large parts of the port and caused serious coastal erosion (Comfort 1994; Pye and Blott 2006). However, there has been little archaeological or geoarchaeological investigation of the chronology of these events, which are still debated, nor of the archaeological record of the port’s decline and its effect on the region, or the submerged remains now offshore (Murphy 2009, 35), beyond recent geophysical survey work (Sear et al 2009).
There is significant potential in multidisciplinary approaches to investigating human responses to catastrophic events and longer-term changes in coastal morphology, which altered not only the lives of people in affected ports but also the social, economic, and political networks within they were was situated. Rye and Old Winchelsea on the East Sussex coast, for example, were significant ports by the 12th century. Positioned within a natural embayment, they were thriving urban centres connected to the industries of the Weald, to cross- Channel trade, to shipbuilding and important regional fishing industries, and members of the Cinque Ports confederation from 1189 (Murphy 2009). However, late 13th-century storm events destroyed Old Winchelsea and cut Rye off from the sea. In the late 14th century, further storm surges destroyed the eastern side of Rye. A prolonged battle to maintain the harbour approaches was lost and siltation eventually prevented larger vessels using the port so that by 1600 Rye was no longer an important south coast port. To its north, Small Hythe, a smaller shipbuilding centre, connected to the maritime trade and industries of Rye and Winchelsea, suffered a similar fate. Still known for ship repair in the 15th century, as siltation increased and the marshes expanded, the larger vessels common from this period could no longer reach its hards and, unlike Rye, it was virtually abandoned (Blair 2007). Coastal geomorphological work provides details of localised change and highlights specific environmental factors including accelerated inundation of the saltmarsh at Romney following widening of the breach in the coastal barrier in the 13th century, as well as a period of reclamation in the 1460s (Long et al 2006a; Long et al 2006b). At Romney Marsh historical documents record sea walls, groynes and jetties constructed as breakwaters in the manor of Appledore (Galloway 2009). The rise and fall of this integrated maritime landscape and responses to it reflect the complex human stories bound to coastal change throughout the period.
As well as climatic and geomorphological processes, there are multiple examples of human contributions to coastal change. The reclamation of low-lying coastal land and drainage of marshes and fens was an extensive Medieval strategy, which accelerated from the 16th century (Crossley 1990, 15). For example, north of Dunwich there is evidence of early land reclamation in the coastal marshes (Good and Plouviez 2007, 48), while in the Hamble River, Solent, there are remains of a ferry hard, cooper hard, salterns, and ship- building site as well as sea defences (HWTMA 2008). Similarly, there are references in both the North-East RCZA and the Dorset Coast Historic Environment Research Framework (DCHERF) to sea banks and seawall construction on the major tidal estuaries (especially of the Tees and the area around Weymouth). However, dating these features and relating them to their wider context is often problematic. The DCHERF includes reference to the need for ‘systematic study of reclamation and seawall construction’ (Dorset Coast Forum 2004, 14), reflecting the need for archaeological investigation into early coastal management, the material practices involved, and connections to coastal manorial estates and the development of coastal industries. One key positive example is Galloway’s study of the storm surge breaches in Thames flood- banks, including changes in land use, the economic and social costs of defence, and the delay in repair until the 16th century partly due to the impact of the Black Death on the labour market (Galloway 2009).
Coastal management and change
This is also arguably the first time communities start to ‘set’ the coastline and so become engaged with management of coastal change:
Coastal industries were a significant factor throughout this period. The nature of these industries is bound to the scale and intensity of associated settlement (and related issues such as the provision of food, water, firewood, and building resources) and these industries, therefore, are important to our understanding of coastal life, whilst changes to these industries across the period also reflect the increasing connectivity between the sea, the coast, and ‘inland’. They raise socio-political questions of manorial/estate control and management of local, regional, and national distribution and communication networks. However, whilst there is substantial documentary, iconographic, and broader (often circumstantial) archaeological evidence for them, much coastal industry is elusive in the archaeological record and therefore requires innovative research strategies; for example Medieval mineral and metal extraction and working is largely lost within later industry (Tolan-Smith 2008, 79).
Among these industries, fisheries (including shell fisheries) were central. This period is distinctive for the expansion of deep-water fishing, as evidenced by fish bone assemblages from urban sites (eg Hartlepool, Newcastle), coastal sites (eg Lindesfarne) and also ecclesiastical sites (eg Jarrow). However, there is a need for a comprehensive survey of the limited evidence for deep-water, long-line fishing. Similarly, though there are documentary records of fish weirs and estuarine fish traps (and dietary evidence), the material evidence of the traps themselves is not well-dated or contextualised (notable exceptions include O’Sullivan 2004; 2005). From the late 15th century, fishing vessels venturing further offshore even crossed the Atlantic for whaling and cod fishing, contributing to the design development of ocean-going ships, which now required good cargo capacity and accommodation suitable for voyages lasting weeks and months. There is, in particular, a need for more archaeological research into the impact of the new West Country fisheries, especially the pursuit of cod off the coast of Newfoundland (see Starkey et al 2000; Kowaleski 1995; 2000; Kurlansky 1997), on established fisheries, ports and associated industries, as well as ship design and oceanic seafaring.
Onshore, salt making (Tolan-Smith 2008, 80; Johnson 2009, 135–6), mineral collection and iron working (which included iron ore collection, tin, other non-precious and semi-precious materials like lead ore; see Childs 1981) utilised coastal resources. These industries were interconnected, but also situated within local and regional networks which were affected by their relative rise and decline. The Medieval tin mining and ‘tin streaming’ industry was, for example, important in the south-west region, but also contributed to the severe siltation of the River Fowey estuary, which led to the decline of the once- important port of Lostwithiel, Cornwall (Gerrard 1987; 2000). By the 14th century this was recognised locally (Gerrard 2000) and early environmental legislation was introduced to reduce its impact in the 16th century (Pirrie et al 2002). From the same period, coal began to become a more important commodity. Coastal gathering was increasingly augmented by mining, mostly drift mining, but also bell-pit and shaft mining (Crossley 1990, 204–8), though archaeological evidence of these industries is often difficult to discern or date within evidence of later industry. ‘Gathering’ industries, for example, of reeds or seaweed, were widespread but ‘informal’ and therefore are also difficult to identify in the archaeological record. More visible is evidence of peat extraction in East Anglia (Rotherham 2009).
Timber industries were significant, providing firewood for metal working and timber for shipbuilding. The first indications of pressure on the timber resource occur in the 16th century when concern was expressed that alternatives needed to be found for wood fuel (Albion 1926; Adams et al 1990, 118). Timber was differentiated from wood, the former being used in buildings and ships. For this reason the commonly assumed competition between, for example, shipbuilding and charcoal burning may not have been significant (cf Rackham 1986, 23; Adams 2003, 178; Goodburn 2003, appendix 2). In addition, in this period warships and ocean-going merchant ships become larger, putting pressure on the ways that locally grown resources were managed and accentuating the importance of mast timber, tar, and other materials, particularly from the Baltic. Archaeologically, this is visible in the timber species used, methods of conversion, hull form, and construction (Adams 2003, chapter 7). These questions warrant further research, potentially at regional and inter-regional scales.
Further discussion of shipbuilding industries is found in Section 7.3.2 below, but it is worth noting here the industries and associated infrastructure that supplied coastal and ocean-going ships (such as victuallers, rope and sail makers, and coopers). This included the import and movement of key materials such as hemp (for rope making), tar and specific ship timbers such as pine trees for masts (Lavery 1984, 71). Limebast (bark fibres of the small-leaved lime) was a principal material for rope making, with hemp taking over when towns like Bridport began to specialise in rope production to supply dockyards. Place-name evidence records the frequency of rope walks in many towns and villages (Schofield and Vince 1994, 139), whilst the major dockyards such as Chatham, Portsmouth, and Devonport had their own rope walks. In addition to this supply infrastructure, there were important and vital networks of coastal trade, including imports of ale, wine, ceramics, cloth, and ‘exotics’, and exports of wool, metals, and cloth (see Section 7.4). In addition, building aggregates, such as stone and clay for brick making and ceramics, were transported by sea, whilst stone quarrying and brick making became increasingly important in the development of port towns and dockyards.
These industries are underplayed in our archaeological narratives of the period, in part because they were often ubiquitous, many relied on the same or related infrastructures, and evidence is frequently ephemeral (which has sometimes led to assumptions of absence when scholars look for modern intensive industrial evidence rather than low-level, extensive evidence). A different model of resource exploitation, linked to different models of settlement and social structure, is required for future work (see Fox’s (2001) work on Devon farms and fisheries and changes to these over time). Inherent to such an archaeological investigation are questions of the territory connected to these industries (for example, what were the implications of providing for these resource-based industries on manorial structures), and the economic/material investment required to support the expansion of maritime resource exploitation in this period. Neither question is well understood and they are probably best approached at a maritime landscape scale, since distinctive physical manifestations of the scale of coastal settlement and industry included religious maritime landscapes (Flatman 2010; see below), ‘lay’ maritime landscapes especially wool churches (which can be claimed as ‘maritime’ in terms of their socio-economic context even far inland), and settlement structures such as outliers to parishes that provided inland parishes with coastal access rights. It is at this scale that we can begin to ask questions about the interplay between industries and their associated infrastructure, such as whether specialised locales can be identified or if iron extraction and working sites with shipbuilding connections are identifiable in the material record. Research into specific industries and their associated networks also has the potential to provide insight into landscape change, such as the impacts of farming intensification and land reclamation, and related drainage and deforestation.
The complex entanglement of socio-economic, environmental, and political factors outlined in the introduction has, therefore, a range of identifiable effects on these industries and the maritime landscapes to which they belonged throughout the period. This provides archaeological routes into interrogating those larger questions of administrative and political change, the Reformation, as well as ruralism, increasing connectivity, and ‘maritime’ influence on society. However, the material evidence of the interplay between these factors requires further study and there is a need for multidisciplinary approaches to many of these questions.
Urban life in this period largely meant port life. The increasing population and movement of people and goods in and out of the country supported growing, relatively cosmopolitan ports (and all the material features we associate with this such as cellars and narrow burgage plots). However, the term ‘port’ is a deceptive one, covering a broad range of installations within which the nature of the place (coastal, estuarine, riverine), its activities (import, export, transhipment), and its organisation (civil, military) can differ markedly. In many ways ports were a compromise between geographic and social factors. As Jackson (1983, 14) points out, ports were not necessarily places where ships could conveniently trade but places where they might legally do so under the prevailing tax regime, and it is, perhaps, the growing importance of this commercial aspect that characterises much of the development in the High to Post-Medieval period. At one level, many ports remained rudimentary, where even quite large vessels continued to trade in to rivers, creeks and on foreshores in the virtual absence of any substantial waterfront structures. However, maritime traffic passing between the major population centres increased the need for permanent facilities and an infrastructure capable of handling ever larger ships and larger volumes of goods, in a measure of security.
Nevertheless, well into the 16th century administrative control was often chaotic and the attempts to address this, primarily for regulating tax, were the basis of port hierarchies which developed during this period. Hierarchies were in part produced by the Crown identifying head customs ports and their ‘members’. There was some variation in the early years, with a ‘top tier’ of fifteen head ports by the 15th century. These were (working from north-east to south-west) Newcastle, Hull, Boston, King’s Lynn, Yarmouth, Ipswich, London, Sandwich, Chichester, Southampton, Poole, Bristol, Bridgwater, Exeter with Dartmouth, and Plymouth with Fowey (notably, the system did not include Wales or the North- West) (see Carus-Wilson and Coleman 1963, appendix II, Areas of Customs Jurisdiction). There are a number of additional ways the hierarchical relationships between ports can be categorised, including factors such as number of ships arrested for war service (see Rodger 1997, appendix III), tax returns and even Bordeaux wine accounts. Moreover, there is considerable scope to investigate the connections between these economic and political rankings and the archaeological evidence for the spatial and material organisation and development of individual ports, as well as other towns, across the period. Such analysis could be integrated into larger ‘urban hierarchies’ including large and small towns, markets, and ecclesiastical Minster towns (which may in particular reflect monastic influence on maritime landscapes).
Port towns, both coastal and inland, were topographically different from towns in which water transport played a minor role. The waterfront provided an alternative focus to the market place, civic or religious centre; away from it, the zoning of activities and the nature of both spaces and buildings also differed. It is important, therefore, that research into Medieval ports places the waterfront in its wider urban context, considering the impact of trading activity on the form and nature of the whole town (see for example Milne 2003 or Parker 1971 on King’s Lynn). In recent studies, detailed examination of archaeological and architectural evidence has been combined with documentary research to build up a picture of Medieval port environments and society, eg New Winchelsea (Martin and Martin 2004; 2009); Sandwich (Clarke et al 2010); and Bristol (Leech forthcoming). Rose’s work on Calais (2008), under English control from the mid-14th to mid-16th century, usefully considers hinterland connections, especially marine and terrestrial, and military defences, including the defensive use of a system of sluices in floodable areas. This approach could be applied productively elsewhere: Harwich, Boston, Hastings, and the Devon ports, among others, offer potential for deepening our understanding of different types of port (see also Appendix 1: National and Local Customs Accounts in Print).1 Notably there is little archaeological research into the north-west coast, despite the wealth of documentary sources and specialist sites like Meols (Johnson 2009, 140).
The stories of smaller or lost ports such as Dunwich and Axmouth are, for the most part, only known through historical records, with notable exceptions being Sandwich (Clark et al 2010) and King’s Lynn (Parker 1971). The physical remains of those hards, harbours and ports that were silted up, washed away or marooned in land by salt- marshes are an under-investigated source (see Section 7.1.1). Their true size, influence, material and cultural connections are still to be explored and currently form noteworthy gaps in our understanding of the maritime world of this period. The connection between the complex local history of coastal change and the historical and archaeological evidence of its effects on ports and small harbours, such as Dunwich, needs to be properly examined. The overall research aim should be to assess the degree to which trading activity was central to forming distinctive environments. This would allow the significance of the fabric remains, in terms of landscape forms and surviving structures, to be assessed and port towns to be considered in the wider context of English High to Post-Medieval towns.
Coastal defence at the beginning of the period was usually proactive rather than reactive. Defence involved activities or processes rather than simply structures. For example, the Cinque Ports, a confederation of five south-east coast ports, was established by Royal Charter in 1155 to provide naval service for a set number of days a year, rather than static defences or a permanent naval establishment. Maritime threats were too ephemeral and too widespread in this period to be dissipated by static defences. Instead militias and fast, oar- powered vessels were often effective. The sporadic wars against/in Scotland and Wales throughout the High Medieval period also initiated a major emphasis on military supply-chain logistics, which often involved lay or ecclesiastical landowners. For example, Edward I used the Cistercian Abbey of Holm Cultram, Cumbria, as a logistics base for a campaign against the Scots, in which Skinburness, the abbey port, became the main naval base involved in the provision of dried fish and other victuals from around the region, including Ireland (see McErlean et al 2002, 184–5). Defence was also a highly symbolic event. The Welsh coastal fortresses built by Edward I are an exemplar of this. Similarly, the Cinque Ports made a show of ‘sweeping the seas’ of pirates every year.
In the late 14th century, following the arrival of gunpowder in Europe, crenellation of buildings for guns began to occur, giving coastal installations some effective defensive capability. Subsequently, the Tudor period saw a substantial increase in coastal fortification with a greater centralisation of power and the concomitant importance of maritime security. Substantial fortifications, for example, protecting the increasingly important naval facilities at Portsmouth, were built towards the end of Henry VII’s reign (Loades 1992). The break from Rome in the 1530s and subsequent alliances between Henry VIII’s principal continental competitors, prompted him to construct coastal fortifications along the south coast in two phases, the latter employing the new bastion and embrasure construction associated with gunnery (eg Southsea and Yarmouth castles). As subsequent French raids along the south coast showed, an enemy could still pick ‘easy targets’ between strongholds, for the Henrician forts were as much for display as for practical defence. They presented a coherent, well-resourced system that facilitated effective communication – a network to warn of attack and so prepare a controlled response. Similar elaboration of maritime defence in response to threats from both France and Scotland was also carried out in the North at Hull, Tynemouth, and Berwick. The latter, together with Portsmouth, exhibited the most wholesale application of Italianate bastion design and both sites were successively updated (Crossley 1990, 109–112). Individual forts, and the systems they comprised, manifested changes in the political climate of Europe and new developments in military technology in response to international maritime imperatives.
The socio-economic, environmental, and political factors outlined in the introduction had a range of identifiable effects on coastal industries and the maritime landscapes. However, the material evidence of the interplay between these factors requires further study and there is a need for multi- disciplinary approaches to many of these questions.
Coastal industries and settlement
Ports and harbours
Coastal military defence
During this period, written records became increasingly common and offer a new opportunity for multidisciplinary research. The value of analysing different sources on Medieval watercraft has long been demonstrated (see Burwash 1947 and Rose 1982 for documentary data; and Moll 1929; Ewe 1972; Villain-Gandossi 1979; 1985 for iconographic data). However, identifying the differences between vessel traditions and the interaction and development of technology, particularly in the early part of the period, is still problematic. The documentary evidence for ship types in High Medieval England is unsatisfactory if a comprehensive description of, for example, a cog is required. There are lists of arrested ships or accounts of payments to masters (see Rose 1982; Oppenheim 1896; and royal accounts in The National Archives), which name different ship types but they are often equivocal or contradictory, especially when identifying what is meant by cog, keel or hulk, or the plethora of smaller barges, balingers, farcosts or crayers (Burwash 1947, chapter 4). These issues become clearer later in the period, especially in the light of recent archaeological finds, many of which reveal data on shipbuilding that can be correlated with the accumulated iconographic and documentary record (see Unger 1994; Christensen 1996). However, it is notable how few ‘large’ vessel finds are known from the 11th to 14th centuries, in contrast to countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. There is no ‘great’ English ship find of either a ‘Viking’ ship or a ‘Hanseatic’ cog; this has markedly shaped the focus of research for the period as a whole and represents a distinct gap in our knowledge.
Shipbuilding accounts and equipment inventories in royal accounts allow some deductions to be made regarding the number of masts, or whether a vessel used oars as well as a sail. Information in documentary sources regarding the use made of a vessel can also provide clues as to its possible design. Balingers, for example, were often used when a swift vessel was required, having the reputation of being favoured by sea robbers, whilst Friel argues the term suggests a connection to whaling boats (eg baleiner and other variations) (Friel 1995). However, the majority of vessels in documentary sources are described simply as a navis (or nau in southern Europe) or a batellum, the usual Latin words for ship and boat. Manuscript illuminations have been used to analyse specific details of the different ship types/traditions (see Greenhill 1995), and visual sources can provide some help, although there are the problems and risks inherent to using such forms of iconography as a direct source of information (see Flatman 2009 for a full discussion of technology in iconography; also Basch 1976; 1982; 1987; Tilley and Fenwick 1973; 1980; Villain-Gandossi 1985; 1994). Iconographic sources also include evidence for related tools, equipment, activities, and processes (Flatman 2007; 2009). However, even when archaeology and visual images can provide additional information to that found in documentary sources, details of rigging remain elusive beyond the terms used for ropes and cables in inventories and accounts (see Sandahl 1982, volume III).
Henry V’s Grace Dieu (launched in 1418) highlights the potential when there are both documentary and archaeological sources available. A series of accounts and inventories relating to the ship mention the copious numbers of rove nails needed, suggesting that her hull was clinker-built, but only excavation of the remains in the Hamble River provided evidence of the unusual three-skin system used on what may have been the largest entirely clinker-built vessel ever constructed (Friel 1993). Excavations of the remains of cogs have likewise provided important evidence of their design (Reinders 1985; Cederlund 1990; Adams and Rönnby 2002), while the absence, to date, of any excavated vessel that can be reliably identified as a ‘hulc’, as postulated by Greenhill (2000), has cast doubt on the precise implication of this ship type in documents (Adams 2003, 85–6).
The principal technological development in northern European shipping into the Post-Medieval period was the change from clinker to carvel. The differences are all too evident in their archaeological remains although the causes of the change, and the mechanisms by which they occurred, have fuelled one of the longest debates in the field (eg Hornell 1948; Sarsfield 1991; Greenhill 1995; Friel 1995; see Appendix 6). Among documentary sources, the Howard Household Books (Crawford 1992) contain casual mentions of carvels in late 15th-century fleets, whilst the earliest surviving shipbuilding treatise in English was produced during the 1570–80s by Matthew Baker, collected as Fragments of Ancient Shipwrightry (in the Pepys Library at Cambridge); in contrast, in Venice several manuscripts are known from the 15th century.
Archaeologically, we have a growing British record for the ‘before and after’ of the transition from clinker to carvel. Clinker ships that provide a detailed view of later Medieval practice include the 15th-century Aber Wrac’h I (found in France but may be English) (L’Hour and Veyrat 1994), several wrecks dated to the 13th–14th centuries in Guernsey (Adams and Black 2004), a mid-15th-century ship found at Newport (Roberts 2004), and timbers of a large clinker ship found at Sandwich, Kent (Milne et al 2004). As well as wrecks and abandonments, evidence from London includes the reuse of large quantities of ship structure for the revetment of wharves and dock frontage (eg Goodburn 1991; 1997; 2002; 2003).
The first recorded building of a carvel vessel in England is not until 1463–66, though carvels had been sailing to English ports for around a century and had been bought or captured since the early 15th century. They were being built on the Continent in northern France and the Low Countries by the 1430s, and by the second half of the century ships built or repaired for Henry VII are all carvel, so it is possible that some were built in England prior to 1463 (Friel 1995, 164). The earliest archaeological example of an English carvel hull is the remains of Henry VII’s Sovereign (begun in 1486), found at Roff’s wharf, Woolwich, in 1912. The vessel was long thought to have a clinker hull, later converted to carvel in 1509, but there is substantial evidence to suggest that, like the Regent (begun in 1487), it was carvel- built (Adams 2003, 56). Without doubt, however, the principal find from this period is the wreck of Henry VIII’s Mary Rose (see below). A recent indicative find in the Thames Estuary, the 16th-century wreck known as the ‘Gresham ship’ (Auer and Firth 2007), provides the first evidence of the measures shipwrights had to adopt when their designs proved faulty (including the furring of frames to increase the breadth and thus the stability of the vessel). Other early carvel hulls of probable English origin, albeit less precisely dated, include the Alderney wreck (Loades 1995), the Bulls Bay ship from the Isle of Wight (Adams and Tomalin 1999), and the Axe Boat (Adams and Brandon 2003). The fact that many of these finds are recent and discovered in the soft preservative muds of coastal or riverine sites suggests that others await, though such sites are coming under increasing pressure from coastal and harbour development.
The reasons carvel technology was adopted so rapidly are complex. For about 1000 years the predominant technology for building large ships in England had been clinker, a plank-orientated method, which originated in Scandinavia. Based on a shell of radially split planks joined through the overlap, this technique ideally required high- quality straight-grained oak. The archaeological record shows a progressive reduction in size and quality of planking in clinker vessels from a surprisingly early date (Crumlin-Pedersen 1986; 1989; Goodburn 2002), suggesting a growing pressure on the primary resource. Whilst clinker building still remains in use today for small craft, it is likely that the costs and quality of materials, and a possible shortage of skilled labour, together with the new needs of long-distance trade, promoted the subsequent fundamental technological changes in larger ships that occurred from the early 1300s.
In addition, by this period contact between northern and southern Europe by sea had dramatically increased, and, during the 1300s and 1400s, with the catalyst of trade, an exchange of technologies took place concerning the ways shipwrights in northern Europe and the Mediterranean approached the processes of design and construction (see Figs 7.4 and 7.5) (Hutchinson 1994a; Friel 1995; Adams 2003). Stimulated by characteristics of northern vessels, including cogs, Italian shipwrights began building coche (cocha singular). On their frame- orientated or ‘skeleton-built’ hulls they mounted the northern-style stern rudder and developed a two-masted rig with the northern-style square sail on the main mast and a lateen sail on the after or mizzen mast (later a third mast was added forward). These ships traded north and were, apparently, called carracks by the northerners. Alongside the big carracks, caravels, built with a similar construction, were also appearing off England in the 14th century. Etymology suggests the smaller caravels, albeit built in the same frame-led manner, may have had more lasting influence (Friel 1994, 80); a form of the word caravella appeared quickly in every shipbuilding country of the North, eg carvel in England, carveel in the Low Countries, and krafwell in Denmark and Sweden.
This was clearly a process of adoption rather than invention. The rapidity of the adoption across northern Europe was probably due to the changing political map in which power was becoming concentrated in larger, more stable entities that would eventually become nation states. These larger geographic regions all had coastlines, and competition between them was, of necessity, maritime. The heavy framing and sawn planks of carvel technology provided the means of constructing the great ships that became progressively more difficult to build in clinker, and was better suited to carrying the increasingly heavy armament which underlies Tudor maritime policy. Within two years of coming to the throne in 1485, Henry VII had begun building two great ships, the Regent at c 1000 tons and the Sovereign at c 800 tons. Prior to this, a Medieval navy was more an event than an institution (Loades 1992, 11); the Crown generally owned few ships so navies were assembled for a particular purpose and afterwards dispersed. Henry’s actions mark a departure: these ships were built to ‘be’ royal maritime England. Their names mark another change: the names of Henry VII’s Regent and Sovereign are explicitly dynastic (their size, adornment, and heavy armament manifesting the earthly power of the new monarchy), while Henry V’s were ecclesiastical, Grace Dieu, Jesus, Holigost, and Trinity (Adams 2003, 97). For the Crown, maintaining ships of this size necessitated new dockyard facilities, staff, and administration. The first permanent dry dock was built at Portsmouth in 1496 (Loades 1992, 41) and thus, although Henry VIII is usually credited with being the father of the Royal Navy, the seeds were sown in Henry VII’s reign.
That we can narrate this sequence of change has been largely facilitated by several 16th- and early 17th-century archaeological finds, yet our knowledge is of what happened and why rather than ‘how’ it occurred (Friel 1995), and the details and impacts of this transition remain elusive. For example, at the beginning of the 15th century Mediterranean and Iberian carvel-built ships frequently visited the major ports of southern England, as did ships from south-western France, but it is not clear to what extent the carvel tradition had spread to southern England. It is probable that in Gascony, an English enclave into the mid-15th century, clinker construction remained predominant for longer. In fact, a large carrack begun in Bayonne for Henry V in 1419, though never finished, was apparently of clinker construction (Manwaring 1922, 376). Henry V’s difficulty, c 1418–20, in finding shipwrights to repair captured Genoese carracks might support the apparent predominance of clinker construction in England until later than on the Continent. Hence archaeological study of an early carvel vessel built in England, and/or of the shipbuilding site, would substantially transform our understanding of this important technological tipping point. In its absence, research on how skills were acquired within this key episode of innovation requires equally innovative methods.
In summary, there are a number of key gaps in our knowledge, related particularly to the 11th- to 14th- century building traditions, and to the mechanisms through which technological innovations occurred in the 15th century. Similarly, we have limited knowledge of smaller vessel traditions, with the exception of the logboat, though there is still a heavy reliance on McGrail’s (1978), Mowat’s (1996) and Fry’s (2000) reviews of logboats from, respectively, England, Scotland and Ireland, and considerable potential for investigating the context and use of examples from this period. Other small vessel types could benefit from further work, particularly oared vessels such as balingers and barges, in order to elucidate the relationships between, and contexts in which, these various boats were built and used. In addition, there is scope for further research into the many known finds (see Appendix 6 for list). For example, dating of vessels is variable, reliant upon an array of evidence types including C14, dendrochronology, and associated context. Work to record then calibrate known C14 dates for ships finds would be useful, as would similar work comparing dendrochronological records. Finally, it should also be noted that there is a locational bias in the record towards south-east England, a result of the generally more intensive archaeological fieldwork in that region, particularly London, as well as towards terrestrial contexts (eg waterfronts or silted-up channels), with very few ‘marine’ finds. Some urban contexts are well represented, while others are missing (eg Exeter, Bristol) or include only one or two find-spots (eg York). In addition, England’s 16th-century age of exploration means that part of the shipwreck database is to be found overseas and, in terms of research strategy, this cannot be ignored.
The most fruitful sources for documentary evidence of international trade in shipbuilding materials are royal accounts relating to the building and repair of vessels for the Crown. Some timber used was described by a name indicating its origin and a European network of supply is evident; ‘Prussian deal’ or ‘deal’ refers to softwood from the Baltic, and ‘rigold’ or ‘righolt’ and ‘wainscot’ (high-quality timber) originated from Riga. Other naval stores from the Baltic included masts and spars, pitch, rosin, and hemp cordage. Sailcloth or canvas was frequently imported from Brittany and often known as ‘Olonnes’, since it was produced near or imported from Oléron. Iron bars to be worked up into various fittings and nails, manufactured in smithies adjacent to the slip where a vessel was worked on, frequently came from Bilbao.
Sandahl’s Middle English Sea Terms identifies many of the terms used (Sandahl 1951; 1958; 1982). There are published royal shipbuilding accounts (see Rose 1982; Navy Records Society 2003; 2008; Oppenheim 1896) and accounts for the repair of royal vessels (TNA E101, E364, E101), though there are no full accounts for vessels in private ownership. Beyond these sources, however, there is little documentary evidence for the location or equipment of shipyards from the early part of the period. It appears that smaller vessels were built on the banks of suitable watercourses, where there was easy access to timber and to which other materials could be brought without difficulty (Friel 1995). For example, an oared vessel built at Newcastle for Edward I was constructed in a specially cleared space eventually surrounded by a paling for security; once launched the ship was moored in a dug-out berth on the Pandon Burn to the north of the town (ibid, 34). In the 14th century, shipbuilding and repairs for the Crown in London were often carried out at Ratcliff, near Limehouse, but there seem to have been few facilities except a mud berth with some earthworks around it (like those at Deptford) (ibid, 53). In the early 15th century, Henry V’s great ships, including the Grace Dieu, were based at Southampton (Friel 1993). The Clerk of the King’s Ships constructed a stone building as store and smithy, but its location is unknown, as is the site of the mud dock where the Grace Dieu was built; both Eling, on Southampton Water, and the mouth of the Itchen have been suggested (Anderson 1934; Friel 1993). Ships for the King were also built at Small Hythe on the River Rother and at Winchelsea (Martin and Martin 2004). At all these sites mud ‘docks’ or berths were dug out on the riverbank or foreshore but few if any permanent facilities existed. Later in the 1480–90s, during the reign of Henry VII, considerable work was undertaken on a dock at Portsmouth but it is not clear that this was a dry dock as understood today (Loades 1992, 41).
Early shipyards and docks are thus a problem because, like the navies they served, they were ephemeral, places rather than built structures. Even for large ships, building required no permanent infrastructure and docking involved being hauled ashore or into a mud dock dug into the bank (Friel 1995, 54–7), and so the places where this was done are almost invisible archaeologically. Exceptions may include the Hamble River, where ships like the Grace Dieu and Holigost were moored in mud berths. Nevertheless, indentations in the bank may repay investigation by geophysics and test pitting, as successful research into likely construction sites of known vessels would be invaluable.
Into the Post-Medieval period shipbuilding became established at permanent, often semi- urban sites in secure locations. The slipways were constructed for repeated launching rather than one- off building. Alongside these, ancillary buildings developed for mould lofts (associated with the new methods of controlling hull form), timber stores, and smithies. Eventually, stone-built docks like those at Portsmouth were constructed at all the major royal yards and principal private yards; see for example the Poole foundry site (Hutchinson 1994b). Associated with the longer voyages of the Post-Medieval period, various trades, such as cooperage, grew increasingly important. Barrels and casks were used for carrying water and other liquids, salted meat and fish, as well as many other foodstuffs including flour, biscuit, and dried fruit. The supply of stave-built containers to dockyards and port towns became part of an increasingly complex victualling system involving the many suppliers of individual commodities. Barrel staves are, therefore, a common find on wreck sites and their typology, size, material, manufacture and marks branded or incised on their lids, make them an important artefact of maritime infrastructure (eg Loewen 2007).
In summary, evidence for shipbuilding sites, and thus the associated industries and communities, is scare, particularly before the 16th century. For the High Medieval period, there is virtually no evidence for shipbuilding except at Small Hythe. Investigation of later sites and potential location of earlier sites are key research aims, which would not only provide insight into the lives of those undertaking shipbuilding, but could contribute significantly to our understanding of the transition from clinker to carvel technology.
From the High Medieval period onwards, the gun was central to the changes seen in the technologies of offence and defence both in coastal installations and aboard ship. By the mid-13th century, knowledge of gunpowder had reached England and guns, albeit of doubtful efficiency, are known by the early 14th century. An early use aboard ship was at the battle of Sluys in 1340 and by the end of the century guns had a significant effect on the strategy of warfare in general (Glete 1993). Within a century, large ships such as Henry VII’s Regent carried hundreds of guns, although these were directed against enemy soldiers and crew rather than ship structure. However, as the size and power of guns increased, so the potential for stand-off gunnery at sea began to be appreciated. Just as the gun changed the design of land fortifications, it also affected ship design and tactics, developments represented archaeologically by the Mary Rose (see above).
Of the two principal methods of manufacture, either forged in wrought iron or cast in one piece of bronze or iron, the former was cheaper and could be produced in large numbers by competent smiths (Blackmore 1976, 4). Casting technology was more challenging and early expertise was centred on the Continent, particularly in Italy. By the 16th century, not least through the efforts of Henry VIII, some English foundries had acquired the knowledge needed to produce cast bronze guns of good quality. Cast bronze guns were expensive and problematic, however, so stave-built, wrought-iron, breech loaders were used to equip the growing Henrician fleet and land fortifications. Recent experimental research (Hildred 2011) has demonstrated their efficiency and this, as well as the rapidity with which they could be made, explains why they were carried in large numbers on European ships into the 17th century. As casting technology advanced, cast-iron guns eventually succeeded both cast bronze and wrought iron but all three are found in archaeological contexts of the High to Post-Medieval period. For example, excavations of an Elizabethan wreck in the Thames recovered cast-iron guns with Sir Thomas Gresham’s maker’s mark (Fig 7.6), alongside breech- loading, wrought-iron guns and a cargo of iron bars (Auer and Firth 2007). In the 1570s, Gresham had interests in the Weald iron-founding industry and held licences to export cannon to Denmark, highlighting something of the extent of the economic and political European networks within which guns circulated.
Although relatively large numbers of guns from the period survive, research is still needed into questions of manufacture and performance in order to shed light on the relationship between the development of the gun and the changing design of ships and fortifications (see Hildred 2011). Similarly, despite the broad narrative of change set out above, there is considerable scope for work on the details of how the increasing importance of the gun in naval warfare affected ship design, particularly in the case of early carvel vessels. For example, the square tuck stern in carvel-built warships is commonly thought to reflect the need for stern-mounted guns to combat the threat of galleys. However, this design innovation is evident in merchant-built carvels too, including the Basque whaler San Juan (1564) (Grenier et al 2007) and the Swedish kravel (1525) of probable German origin (Adams and Rönnby),2 which raises questions concerning its relationship to warfare and to the greater cargo capacity and accommodation demands of long-distance, merchant voyaging.
As work on the Mary Rose suggests, there is potential for future research to investigate the lives of sailors and the nature of shipboard society during the High to Post-Medieval period. Clearly the Mary Rose represents a unique example in the breadth and richness of its artefact assemblage, and multi- disciplinary methods will more commonly be needed to address life aboard ship. For example, writing about Hanseatic cogs and drawing on a range of sources, Ellmers (2000) discusses sailing the vessels in detail, including navigation, living on an open deck, seamanship and key tasks (notably bailing), evidence of live animals aboard as victuals (from the Kollerup cog c 1200), and even stowing cargo and managing incomplete loads. Notably, experimental archaeological work using three replicas of the 14th-century Bremen cog has provided considerable data on performance and life on board (Hoffman and Hoffman 2009). Similarly, work by the Roskilde Maritime Museum on reconstructions of the earlier 11th-century Skuldelev ships highlights the potential of studying shipboard life when archaeological sites provide less complete assemblages (eg Crumlin-Pedersen and Vinner 1986; Englert 2006).
This area is under-researched in England, yet even in the early part of period, which lacks archaeological examples of English ships, where the scale and nature of a vessel is known, research can address questions of crew size and the nature of tasks and accommodation on board. In addition, patterns of sailing routes offer insights into the rhythms of sailors’ lives, providing typical length of journey and of sojourn in foreign ports as well as seasonality. From customs accounts, it is possible to investigate seasonal trades, including wool (August– October), Bordeaux wine (mostly in the autumn in the early 14th century, but more evenly spread in the 15th century), Icelandic cod (ships left England in April–June and returned in August–September) (see Fig 7.7 ; Berggren et al 2002). These records also suggest something of the nature of work on board the vessel and possibly, even, the region and community from which the mariners were drawn.
A combination of sources, therefore, is crucial to future research. Royal customs records and local customs or port books provide key documentary sources for merchant ships, though it can be difficult to trace named merchant vessels since a few names dominate with variant spellings, eg St Mary Boat or Mariole. Their survival is patchy, but particularly good series exist for Exeter (14th and 15th centuries) (Kowaleski 1995; 2003) and Southampton (15th century only) (see Studer 1913; Quinn 1937–38; Cobb 1961; Foster 1963; Lewis 1993). Notably, local port books include details of coastwise shipping as well as voyages to or from foreign ports, whilst the lists of payments by ships arrested by the Crown often include crew sizes and other details (which vary considerably in alternative sources), and details of royal ships and their activities are well recorded from the reign of Edward III. In addition, because certain cargoes frequently came from particular areas, it is possible to make a reasonable estimate of where imported goods originated (Berggren et al 2002); for example, the export of raw wool was largely channelled through Calais from the late 14th century (Childs 2002). Similarly, the Southampton Port Books give a clear picture of the cargoes (both inward and outward bound) of Italian ships and it is often possible to deduce from the cargo unloaded at Southampton whether these ships stopped off en route to Bruges, their final destination, or whether they were on their way back to Genoa or Venice. Drawing on additional documentary sources can provide a perhaps surprising level of detail, but there remains a need to integrate this data with that from material finds, experimental archaeology, and environmental factors (such as weather patterns etc) to reconstruct the experience of seafaring more fully.
The technological changes outlined in the sections above also offer potential insights into the ways in which the experience of seafaring changes across the period. The development of specific warships in the Tudor period would, for example, have required different and more specialised skills from mariners, including gunnery skills. Adams has also raised the question of technological innovation and the requirements of longer voyages in the Post-Medieval period (2003). With the potential of weeks rather than days at sea, spatial organisation of merchant, military and exploration vessels, including accommodation, would have altered and patterns of life on board changed accordingly, a point Adams connects to the development of the square tuck stern in carvel-built merchant ships and warships (2003, 97–8).
There is no complete understanding of the archaeological evidence for High to Post-Medieval vessels in England. A partial ‘catalogue’ of published sources is provided in Appendix 6, based on a previously published partial catalogue (Flatman 2007). However, that index is extremely varied, reliant upon published sources, and does not include any analysis of key sources such as SMR/HERs, the NMR, or the UKHO. There is considerable potential for a future review of grey literature, and the proceedings of various national and local archaeological and historical societies. There is scope for more analysis and synthesis of the fragmentary evidence by sub-period to provide a better summary of what is known and where the gaps are. Contexts that may contain well- preserved finds (the harbours, creeks, anchorages, and banks such as the Goodwins) would repay the sorts of proactive surveys that were begun in the 1980s (Redknap and Flemming 1985). Key research questions include:
Vessel traditions and technology
Life on board
As Figure 7.7 highlights, there was considerable development during this period of complex European maritime trade networks. These were mercantile, political, and social networks, which influenced and reflected not only urban, port life, but aspects of social consumption and status, migration and European geopolitical change (and religious persecution), religious life, and even shipbuilding. Increased trade between northern Europe and the Mediterranean from the 14th century was, for example, significant in the development of English carvel-built ships (Hutchinson 1994a; Friel 1995; Adams 2003). Throughout the period, foreign shipping appeared in English ports from as far as Danzig and Venice, whilst English ships sailed regularly to Iceland, Danzig, Bordeaux, Lisbon, and Andalusia. The huge variety of imported goods included luxuries and industrial raw materials, such as timber and iron for shipbuilding (Fig 7.7). Examining archaeological reflections of these networks, in both broad and site specific studies, is crucially important to future maritime research.
Most of our knowledge of these networks is drawn from documentary sources, notably national customs system accounts (TNA E122), sometime supplemented by local accounts for Southampton, Exeter, and Chester. These, while not complete, provide patterns of contact for all fifteen major ports and their members, and show how contact varied between ports and over time. Stated destinations, last ports of call, home ports of ships and type of cargo all provide details of shipping patterns, although this data must be treated with caution (see Section 7.3.4 for further discussion of documentary sources on sailing routes).
This material can provide pivotal, contextual information about maritime networks including details of the impacts of political and economic shifts over time. For example, for much of the 14th and 15th centuries, it is apparent that on the east coast the predominant connections were to the Low Countries and the Baltic – a southern North Sea network (Childs 2002). Numerous French fishing boats were to be found in Scarborough and Whitby until the outbreak of the Hundred Years War (during which Scottish ships were also scarce), and direct contacts between the east coast and areas further west and south were few, though all the east coast ports regularly sent ships to Bordeaux for wine. For example, in 1464–65 62 ships arrived at Hull, from the Low Countries (27), England (16), Scotland (11), Danzig (3), Normandy (2), Calais (1), Brittany (1), and the Basque region (1). However, in 1471–72, during the Anglo-Hanseatic war, only 25 ships arrived from the Low Countries and 18 from other parts of England (see Childs 1986, 65–96, 151–77).
In contrast, at London and Southampton, international connections were wider and more varied, stretching from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. However, Hanseatic and Low Countries trade was more important in London than Southampton, where Italian trade was significant. Iberian trade flourished in both ports whenever politics allowed, and became particularly visible from the 1470s. In the far west, more of Bristol’s trade was carried in English ships and it centred on the western maritime sphere: Ireland, Gascony, the Basque Provinces, Portugal, and Andalusia (see also Berggren et al 2002).
It is clear that this European maritime context needs to be understood better archaeologically, and that future research requires engagement with continental sources, perhaps collaboration, and both documentary and archaeological evidence, whilst questions of the extension of these networks inland, and therefore the influence of maritime trade, are an obvious gap in our knowledge.
In a maritime context, pottery is an excellent source of evidence for lines of trade. The movement of French pottery into England, for instance, has been explored for some time (eg Dunning 1968; Brown 2002). Significantly, pottery is one of the few traded items that remains in the archaeological record (unlike less durable things such as fabric, foodstuffs, and wine) and, therefore, reflects the patterns of distribution pertaining to those staple commodities. Wider political, economic, and cultural issues can be revealed archaeologically through ceramic analysis, an example being the marked decrease in north French pottery found in English ports following King John’s loss of Normandy in the early 13th century (Brown 2002).
The trade in pottery between England and Scotland and mainland Europe was mostly one way, with the exception of English and Scottish wares being traded to Scandinavia. Those places where pottery manufacture was well established, such as France and the Low Countries, traded pottery westwards but there is scant evidence that wares travelled back the other way. It is also worth remarking that, on the whole, pottery imported into England, Scotland, and Wales remained in the ports rather than being distributed further inland in great quantities. This changed during the 15th century when it is possible to characterise pottery as a commodity traded for its market value rather than incidental to trade in staple goods (mainly wine in the 13th and 14th centuries).
From a maritime perspective the significant sites are coastal ports and their counterparts, especially Perth, Edinburgh, Hull, King’s Lynn, Norwich, Ipswich, London, Sandwich, Southampton, Poole, Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol, Chester, and Dublin, as sites of both exchange and consumption. Some towns have been researched and published more thoroughly than others and a priority should be to expand and integrate that work to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the archaeology of maritime trade in Medieval England. The Channel Islands are also of interest, especially Guernsey, which could represent a nodal point in the trading network between England and France. The ultimate aim should be to reconstruct which types of pottery were distributed where, in what quantities, and for how long, in order to study of pottery distribution inland and enable a more complete understanding of how ceramics were moved and why and how they were used. The key, of course, is to understand what pottery meant to the various peoples of High to Post- Medieval Europe.
Often represented archaeologically by ceramic remains associated with the consumption of wine (eg imported cups and jugs), wine was one of the most important commodities imported into England for much of the period. Small quantities were made in England, often by monasteries or ecclesiastical landowners for liturgical purposes, but the court, nobility, and upper levels of society drank imported wine. The importance of the wine trade for the development of shipping in northern waters is evident in the standard wine tun of Bordeaux (generally estimated at c 252 gallons capacity) which became the recognised measurement of the capacity or size of a ship (Rose 2011). It is also apparent in the undercrofts and cellars probably used for its storage in Chester, Winchelsea, and Southampton (see Brown 1999; Martin and Martin 2004; Faulkner 1975). The trade represents one of the most consistent, though shifting, maritime networks across Europe throughout the period, and though a considerable amount is known about its scale, economics and geography from documentary sources, there is still considerable research to be done on the shipping itself.
The best known part of the wine trade is that between Bordeaux and English ports on the south and west coasts. Documentary evidence from Bordeaux has, however, probably been under- utilised. The Bordeaux wine export accounts (TNA E101) list the ships and the amounts of wine loaded. They show that around 100 English ports sent ships to Bordeaux during the 14th and 15th centuries. This trade, however, did not become predominant until the late 13th century when the English had control of the Duchy of Aquitaine but no longer of Poitou and its port, La Rochelle. Earlier what was known as ‘French’ wine (produced in the Île de France) and some from Burgundy had been imported via Rouen, an English possession until 1204.‘Rhenish’ wine from the Moselle and Rhine valleys was also imported to England and often sold for a higher price. Much of what is known about the quantities imported, and the ports used, comes from the Butlerage accounts (TNA E101), which relate to the prerogative right of the Crown to one barrel of wine shipped before the mast and one barrel shipped aft in all wine cargoes entering English ports (see Rose 2011; Simon 1907, vol 1; James 1971).
The voyage to Bordeaux has been seen as particularly important in the development of the skills of navigation and seamanship among English mariners, since it was the longest voyage routinely carried out by many English shipmasters in the 14th and 15th centuries and the earliest sailing directions in English relate to this route (Ward 2004; 2009). The Bordeaux accounts also reflect the size of shipping through the tonnage of wine loaded. Comparisons between the numbers of ships sent by English ports provide some insight into their relative development and influence. For example, in the 14th century, Yarmouth sent 40–50 ships a year to Bordeaux, while Bristol and Hull were only small suppliers. By the 15th century Yarmouth had fallen away and Bristol and Hull became steady suppliers, with Devon and Cornish ports, including relatively small ones, also becoming carriers (Rose 2011).
In the later period, there were two distinct seasons for wine voyages. The first in November/December brought the season’s new wine to England. ‘Old’ wine, from the previous season, immediately halved in price, since wine was kept in barrels and deteriorated rapidly. In the spring (February/March) there were imports of ‘racked’ wine, made the previous autumn and filtered to remove debris. Once unloaded in port, wine was distributed either inland by cart or by river, or coastwise by smaller vessels. The Southampton Port Books provide evidence of cargoes of one or two tons frequently taken, for example, to the Isle of Wight or to smaller, south coast ports like Chichester, whilst the Royal Butler’s accounts show the costs of distributing wine from ports to royal castles all over England, by coastal and river transport as well as by land (Veale 1971). Although Gascon wine was imported all around England, there were also other wine supplies from Andalusia, Portugal, northern Spain, La Rochelle (during truces), and Germany; and by the end of the 15th century, with the loss of Gascony in 1453, English ships travelled further afield for wine. Customs returns demonstrate that the English sailed to Lisbon, Seville, and Cadiz, whilst sweet wines such as malmsey (or malvoisie, produced in Crete) were imported by Italian merchants (Rose 2011). However, whilst there is a strong documentary narrative, archaeological reflections of this trade, and the details of its practice in terms of port buildings, networks, and even material manifestations of hierarchies of trade, are less well represented and there is considerable scope for further research.
The European context of England’s maritime sphere needs to be appreciated better. Future research should build comparable archaeological data with the Continent and collaborate internationally to explore both documentary and archaeological evidence and address ‘trades’ and maritime networks beyond ceramics and wine. It could highlight, for instance, how relatively small ports had extensive international connections in this period (eg the ‘lost’ small port of Gosford on the River Deben in Suffolk). This area also raises the key issue of inland waterways and networks, as well as patterns of transhipment, which though not central to the focus of this volume relates to the wider research area of maritime networks.
Key questions include:
Much of this chapter focuses on the materiality of ‘maritime’ in this period, in ports, fish weirs, ships, and even castles, but also on the social aspects of coastal life and maritime enterprise. All of these change rapidly and fundamentally over the 650 years in question and reflect the processes by which England created itself, how it engaged with maritime space, and how maritime identity was understood and expressed individually and institutionally and at local and national scales.
For centuries ‘England’ was a somewhat fluid concept. In AD 1000, ideas of an ‘island nation’ protected by the sea were still a long way off. Any ‘English’ identity did not describe homogeneous ethnic identity but was understood through contrast with, and resistance to, outsiders, whether they be Scots, Irish, Danes or Normans. Nor was England a finite geographic entity. Much of this fluidity of space was maritime by virtue of the extensive territories in France held by the English Crown as well as through its seaborne trade. England in this sense flowed back and forth across the sea and ideas of maritime identity and space were closely linked to the vicissitudes of the political and economic climate. It is not surprising, therefore, that after centuries of this geographic fluidity, it is relatively late in our period before people’s sense of being English is felt as keenly as their identity with family, manor, village, town or county, or indeed of coast or port.
When and how this changed is a matter of enduring debate; some connect the birth of a national consciousness with the 8th-century writings of Bede (eg Wormald 1992), others variously see a first English state under Alfred the Great (Davies 1999), William the Conqueror (Campbell 1995) or Edward I (Elton 1992) and so on into the 19th century. For, as Kumar (2003, 41) points out, historians tend to see the origins of national consciousness in their own specialist eras. Many of these indeed fall within our period, but it seems clear that the waxing and waning of English fortune between the loss of Normandy in 1204 to the eventual loss of Calais in 1558 sees the emergence of a more sharply defined sense of national identity to which there is a strong maritime element. This sense of maritime space altered over the period. With the earlier proprietary attitude of English monarchs towards France, the Channel was a connecting medium between their territories, but as lands were lost, regained, and lost again, it came to be defined as a frontier, not in a sense of isolationism but of security and then of opportunity. If control over French territory was no longer possible, control over the sea was. Increased awareness of national identity was therefore partly a product of maritime affairs, linked, at the level of governance, to the process of state formation, but perhaps more importantly, across society to those engaged in or connected with maritime occupations.
Consciousness of a maritime identity and maritime space for rural, inland communities might seem of dubious relevance, yet the lives of these communities were not unaffected by maritime affairs. Certainly, coastal communities had more easily identifiable local, and sometimes regional, ‘maritime identities’, but there was an increasing inland-coastal connectivity in the period and many industries had maritime connections. Towards the end of our period those with more directly ‘maritime’ livelihoods increased steadily, reflecting the importance to the state of shipping, commerce, and access to overseas resources. The political map of Medieval Europe comprised relatively small, volatile administrations but by the 15th century power was becoming concentrated in larger and more stable entities that would eventually become nation states. This greater scale brought with it a fundamental reality: these larger geographic regions all had coastlines and this meant maritime competition. New, generally secular, instruments of government were developed, better suited to administering these larger polities (Dobb 1963; Johnson 1996), a change perhaps most evident archaeologically in the port towns and among the growing dockyard and administrative communities (Milne 2003). This underlies the radical developments in 15th- and 16th-century English shipping and in the ways maritime space was experienced and understood. This too involved a new scale of action: everything from fishing, to global exploration, warfare, trade, and colonial enterprise.
Perhaps one of the most revealing illustrations of the changing perceptions of the maritime world are the mappae mundi and portolan charts, for they provide a timeline from the 13th to the 16th century during which knowledge of the world is expanded by sea. The mappae, though apparently crude maps, are really ways of representing the cultural, historical, and religious relationships of the world in the contexts of contemporary, Christian, and Classical centres of importance (Harvey 2006). In contrast the portolans represent geographic space and practical interests in navigation. In both forms we see the progressive additions of newly discovered lands until the mid-15th century, when it is the portolan and its descendent charts that indicate the ascendancy of Renaissance, humanist thinking and the political and economic importance of distance and direction between the old and new worlds.
All this had practical implications for being at sea, for as maritime space was understood and experienced in new ways, space aboard ship was being reconfigured in response. In most areas of maritime activity, voyage distance and duration were increasing. This necessitated changes in vessel configuration, not necessarily in size (though ships in general become larger) but in the space organised as work areas, cargo stowage, and accommodation. For voyages of a few days and less, especially in the undecked vessels of the High Medieval period, accommodation was not differentiated with significant internal structure. As voyage length grew, extending to weeks or months (notably for transatlantic fishing and whaling), capacity and accommodation factors were reflected in the design and construction of the hull, as well as in the partitioning and organisation of internal space. This reflects parallel changes in Medieval houses identified by Johnson (1993; 2010); over the period, both in the house and on board, space is increasingly subdivided partly for function and role but also to address notions of identity, status, and privacy (cabins for a navigator, a barber-surgeon or a carpenter aboard the Mary Rose (Marsden 2009; Gardiner and Allen 1995), parlours and bedrooms in the house). This sort of voyaging necessitated increased specialism in crews, heightening a sense of communal identity in contrast to those ashore, and also developing an increasingly professional class of vocational seafarers. In addition, those interfaces between the familiar and the exotic unknown, the new geographic knowledge of New Worlds revealed by transatlantic voyaging, circumnavigation and first contact, conferred the sort of esoteric knowledge discussed by Helms (1988), not just for commanders and masters but for each and every member of the crew.
Specialisation in the practice of seafaring brought an increasing specialisation of material culture aboard, everything from clothing, adornment, style and decoration, which together with idiosyncratic vocabulary, all heightened a sense of belonging to a maritime community. At the beginning of the period, relatively few things carried aboard were exclusively maritime (eg navigation instruments). Even at the time the Mary Rose sank, many of the objects used for the sailing of the ship or carried by the crew as personal possessions, including their clothes, were the same as those used ashore (Gardiner and Allen 1995). Of those objects specific to tasks on board, many were made by the person concerned: for example, gun captains made their own linstocks, the swagger stick-like holder for the slow match used to touch off the gun (Hildred 2011). By the end of this period much more of what is worn, carried and used aboard is not only specifically maritime in design, function, and nomenclature but, particularly in naval vessels, institutional rather than individual. Archaeological investigation of this process in the context both of shipboard communities and wider society would be a fruitful focus for future research.
High to Post-Medieval seafaring then became a matter of distance both in spatial and temporal senses but also in a cultural one. Yet increased professional segregation and specialised material culture went hand in hand with a growing importance of maritime affairs to society at large. Perhaps here lies an approach that unifies every strand of enquiry proposed above, for it must be the case that developments within the maritime sphere gave rise to responses or changes in wider society that have not yet been investigated sufficiently historically or archaeologically.