10 September 2007

Viking boat found in a Merseyside pub car park

Archaeologists believe they have found the only intact Viking boat in Britain beneath the patio of a Merseyside pub. The boat was actually found first in 1938 when a labourer building a pub car park ate the Railway Inn in Meols on the Wirral, Merseyside, unearthed part of it 3 metres below ground. However, his foreman told him to cover it up, because an archaeological dig would have slowed down construction.

John McRae, who discovered the boat in 1938, told the story to his family. Before he died in 1991, his son asked him to describe the proportions of what he had seen, which he turned into a sketch. He sent the details to archaeologists at Liverpool University, who put them on record. When the pub's owner sought planning permission for a new patio, details of the buried boat emerged. Stephen Harding, an expert on the Viking settlement which once covered much of the Wirral peninsula organised a radar scan of the area which revealed a "boat-shaped anomaly". It is buried in waterlogged blue clay a medium , which preserves wood and which ensured the survival of the few Viking vessels found in Norway.

Dr Knut Paasche, of the University of Oslo, has examined the scan and believes the vessel may well be a "six faering", a six-oared boat which could carry 12 people. If this is the case then it will be the first intact Viking boat found in Britain. Examples have previously unearthed at Balladoole on the Isle of Man and Sanday in Orkney, but all that was left of these vessels were imprints in sand and some weaponry

The Wirral was an independent Viking mini-state in the 10th century. Many Viking place names remain, including Thingwall, the name of the parliament., Kirby and Pensby.

I daresay some wag somewhere will make a comment about Anglo-Saxon scallies nicking the oars.....


Anonymous said...

Interesting! There was probably also a "thing" in Rochdale, which also has many Viking placenames ...including Rochdale "dale" meaning Valley in Old Norse!



Stuart Mendelsohn said...


jams o donnell said...

I'm glad you found this piece interesting. It certainly fascinated me. Thanks for the link to your blog. An excellent article about a possible Thing in Rochdale

Steve Bates said...

I've read explanations of the name "Viking" as being a word for an activity... pillage, plunder, etc. ... which came to be the name of the people who engaged in that activity.

I don't believe a word of it. As I said on Bryan's site, "Viking" is surely a misunderstanding of something the townspeople shouted when they approached, something that sounded like, "Lookit all them Viking warriors!"

I hope this time they excavate the boat; I'd love to read about and see the results of such a dig.

(BTW, Bryan and I are both offline for Monday afternoon [U.S. CDT] because our shared host is moving all the servers. You've heard the old joke about the bandwidth of a truck full of disk devices rolling down a highway? well, they're doing exactly that.)

jams o donnell said...

It's from to go a viking - going off for some pillage. but I can imagine the vernacular when the longships hoved into view!.

Seriously I really hope the boat is excavated. It will be an important national artefact.