The Solent has long been recognised for the importance of its marine heritage. The diversity and density of sites makes it one of the highest potential marine areas of England. The marine resources, sheltered anchorages and landing places which have drawn human populations to the area for millennia are also responsible for the modern prosperity of the region. Density of shore side settlement and industry in addition to one of the busiest marine areas in the UK mean that the marine heritage resource is also under pressure. The Hampshire & Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology (HWTMA) is well-placed to respond on a regional basis to sites and finds which require investigation and monitoring whether these are underwater or are in the intertidal zone. The Solent Marine Heritage Assets project has provided funding to enable the HWTMA to work together with English Heritage (EH) to target work on marine heritage assets to enable more effective regional management and also provide a possible model for cost-effective support for developing national structures.
The Solent Marine Heritage Assets project has included regionally based site assessments for the wreck sites of the Fenna, Invincible, the Needles, HMS Velox and Yarmouth Roads. The site of the Fenna was subject to a desk-based assessment of the site's current condition and potential, and inform its future management.
The sites of Invincible, the Needles, HMS Velox and Yarmouth Roads were subject to site surveys that enabled the identification and recording of structural elements with particular emphasis on the condition of exposed material. This allowed a comprehensive assessment of the sites in terms of their vulnerability and risk.
The reports for each of the sites assessed also include recommendations for further work to be carried out and the detailed consideration of potential management actions. These recommendations can now be utilised by both EH and the HWTMA. In relation to the currently protected wreck sites the outcomes provide information for the on-going monitoring of these important heritage assets. You can download all the reports here
The regional remit of the project has allowed the HWTMA to use their experience in the Solent by selecting the best survey methods to use on these sites, and has allowed pre-existing site archives to be used as a resource. The Solent Marine Heritage Assets project is based on being able to undertake diving on sites in conjunction with other planned HWTMA projects and has demonstrated that a regional basis for the assessment of submerged cultural heritage sites can be advantageous in terms both cost and localised expertise. The cost-effective nature of the surveys, combined with the access to regional expertise, are strong indicators in favour of the potential to develop similar schemes in other regions of England where local organisations are able to carry out survey assessments of submerged cultural heritage sites in their locality.
This project has proven successful through the flexibility created from combining the Solent Marine Heritage Assets work with other HWTMA projects. This allowed for the selection of the best windows for diving on site, and the sharing of logistical costs for the diving operations. The surveys completed under the Solent Marine Heritage Assets project have allowed for an assessment of the current condition of the sites, and for the compilation of management considerations pertaining to and recommendations for future work on the sites.