Heritage Partnership Agreements (Marine)

The Maritime Archaeology Trust has undertaken an English Heritage (EH) funded project to develop a methodology for establishing Heritage Partnership Agreements (HPAs) for maritime archaeology sites. HPAs are seen as an innovative method to manage sites that are not currently afforded legal protection, but which can provide a valuable contribution to our understanding of England’s maritime archaeological heritage without the need for recourse to the formal designation process. As such, the HPAs will be aimed at undesignated marine sites and will include shipwrecks as well as submerged landscapes to ensure that all classes of marine archaeological sites within England are included.

The project started by reviewing the existing situation, prior to developing and implementing a series of pilot HPAs. The project utilised a number of Pilot Study sites in the Solent Region to test a newly formulated HPA methodology. The success of this process will be assessed by English Heritage before the final methodology for the application of HPAs on marine sites at a national scale is developed, published and implemented.

The iconic coastline of the Needles and Alum Bay, site of a number of undesignated shipwreck sites as well as the Needles Protected Wreck Site.

Research on the broader benefits of HPAs had already been undertaken and includes a recommendation for the introduction of statutory management agreements. Importantly, the National Heritage Protection Plan directly addresses heritage partnership agreements and model management plans. However, there is a gap in the understanding of how HPAs work in practice, especially in the marine environment. By seeking to develop methodologies for HPAs for undesignated marine sites, this project has directly addressed national priorities while filling a gap in our present understanding regarding site management. More importantly, the project contributes to developing a more streamlined management of marine sites that are not being protected and/or managed under the current system.

HPAs in the marine zone are intended to encompass the broadest possible range of people, including professional and a-vocational archaeologists as well as sports divers, dive clubs, national or regional institutions and commercial or charitable organisations engaged in maritime research. This will provide EH with a flexible way to manage maritime archaeological activity on sites that are deemed to be of national importance, but which are not designated. The project has developed an outline approach in which heritage partners are provided with guidance about the type of archaeological activity that could be undertaken on a particular site to improve our understanding and management of it. This will allow archaeological standards to be maintained across a wide variety of sites and interest groups.

HPA Pilot Study Sites

The maritime archaeological record that is located within England’s territorial seas is extremely diverse and represents thousands of years of human activity. These archaeological sites include the submerged remains of terrestrial prehistoric landscapes as well as numerous types of ships and boats, including many from cultures and countries other than England.

The pilot study sites that  were chosen by EH for the HPA project are shown on the map below. They are all located within the Solent Region and have been chosen to be broadly representative of the types of nationally important, undesignated sites that are located within England.

Pilot study sites chosen for the HPA project and located within the Solent Region are broadly representative of England's underwater maritime archaeological heritage.

The oldest of the pilot sites is the submerged prehistoric landscape at Bouldnor Cliff (NW Isle of Wight) which is around 8,000 years old. Archaeological work on the site has seen the excavation of flint and wooden artefacts offering an insight into the lives of prehistoric people at a time of dramatic sea-level change.

Wooden shipwrecks from other cultures are represented by the site of the Dutch East Indiaman Campen, lost on the Needles in 1627 while sailing from Amsterdam to the East Indies. Meanwhile, HMS Impregnable was a British sailing ship-of-the-line which ran aground in the shallow waters of the eastern Solent in 1799. The loss of the vessel resulted in the decision not to scrap HMS Victory.

More modern, steel-hulled ships are represented through two sites which both date from the maritime conflict of the First World War. The torpedo boat destroyer HMS Velox , which sank in 1915, was one of the first warships to use steam turbine propulsion, while the merchant ship SS Britannia (1917) was one of the hundreds of vessels to be sunk by U-Boats off the south coast of England during the conflict.

Provisional HPA Methodology

In the first phase of the project, a review was carried out of existing schemes which have the same broad objectives as the HPA Project. This included studying how a variety of buildings and landscapes are managed by their owners and the relevant statutory authorities. The management schemes that were reviewed ranged from those used for listed buildings through to agricultural land. This review concluded that an HPA programme for undesignated marine archaeological sites had the possibility to provide a proactive way for EH to manage sites, while maintaining a consistent level of archaeological activity and research at sites involved in the process.

The draft HPA methodology developed by the project sets out a range of prescribed archaeological tasks that can be undertaken by a heritage partner on an individual site. The purpose of these tasks will be the same across all the sites included in the HPA programme, but the application of the task will obviously vary as a means to reflect the individual context of each archaeological site. The tasks which may be undertaken include archaeological survey and monitoring, desk-based research and public dissemination. These archaeological tasks are arranged into three classes: entry-level, intermediate-level and advanced-level. The different HPA classes will allow groups with different levels of experience or interest to be included within the HPA programme and will have the added benefit of developing maritime archaeological capacity and awareness within the non-archaeological and archaeological community.

Diver recording the archaeological remains of HMS Impregnable, which sank in the Eastern Solent in 1799.

Entry-Level (Class 1)

The most straightforward of the three HPA classes aims to provide heritage partners with a basic set of tasks that can be completed with the minimum of archaeological experience and with little or no interference to the seabed remains. Typical tasks will include the baseline documentation of the site through photographic and video survey and the creation of a simple overview site plan in the form of a measured sketch. The collected data will allow the site to be monitored in the future at a basic level and will facilitate the planning of further work on the site.

Intermediate-Level (Class 2)

The intermediate HPA will allow heritage partners to build upon, or include, tasks undertaken as part of a Class 1 HPA. This will see a more developed survey of the site that includes a detailed scale recording of the archaeological remains. In conjunction with this, the on-going monitoring of the site is expected to be more developed and comprehensive and geared towards the longer-term. A site risk-assessment will also be completed to allow the site to be managed on the same terms as other comparable archaeological sites. The work undertaken will be informally disseminated through the internet.

Advanced-Level (Class 3)

The most advanced level of HPA will encourage highly detailed in-situ recording of all elements of the archaeological remains. Where there is a justifiable need, limited excavation to answer a specific research question may be carried out. A system of monitoring points may also be established across the site to provide an on-going reference for the future management of the site. The archaeological work undertaken on the site and associated desk-based research should be of a high enough quality to be formally published as well as informally disseminated.

A full interim report on the first stage of the project is available from our downloads page here

Project Consultation and Feedback

A key element of the HPA project was a period of consultation with stakeholders and potential heritage partners to ensure that the methodology developed during Stage 1 of the project was deemed appropriate by the people and groups who might sign up to HPAs in the future. The purpose of this is to ensure that the final methodology is one that people feel they can engage with and that heritage authorities are happy to see implemented.

The results of this consultation and feedback were considered and some revisions made to the overall methodology. Following this, a set of draft HPA agreements were drawn up for the pilot study sites in order to be tested. The consultation and draft HPAs are also available from our download page here

Initial testing of the reporting system and data gathering took place in 2014 and the final project report submitted to English Heritage. The report is also available from our downloads page and it is hope that it will result in a wider project to begin to implement HPAs across the country as a means to engage the large numbers of people who are regularly visiting underwater cultural heritage sites. It is clear that the implementation of a future HPA programme within the marine zone has the potential to be extremely beneficial to the management of England’s Underwater Cultural Heritage and to the appreciation of it, by the general public to whom it belongs.

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