Celebrating our coastal archaeology

Gustav Milne, Project Leader at CITiZAN


11 January 2016

CITiZAN volunteers

Last year, the CITiZAN team invited people to share photos of their favourite coastal or intertidal heritage site, explaining why they love it. Here are the judges’ favourites – and further below some of the CITiZAN archaeologists’ describe their own loved sites.

CITiZAN is the largest ever project to record and celebrate England’s incredible coastal archaeology. The Crown Estate is a key supporter of the community-led initiative. To celebrate our first few months, the CITiZAN team invited people to share photos of their favourite coastal or intertidal heritage site on Facebook and Twitter, explaining why they love it, for the chance to win a pack of goodies.

The winner was... the wreck of the 17th century schooner ‘Ocean’, near Hayling Island, submitted by Julian Whitewright. The 100 ft, 85 tonne schooner was lost in storms in 1865, along with two of her crew. The site was recently recorded with the Maritime Archaeology Trust.

Julian says: “The site of the 'Ocean' is amazing because of its unexpected, and all too brief appearance; the tranquillity while working there, wonderful archaeology and a shipwreck story that inspired the founding of the RNLI station at Hayling Island.”

Congratulations Julian!

The runner up was Morecambe Bay in Lancashire, Louise Martin's favourite site. Morecambe Bay is filled with coastal heritage – everything from a copper smelting chimney at Jenny Brown's Point to the 7th to 9th century St Patrick's Chapel at Heysham Head.

World War Two searchlight emplacement on Walney Island

Louise comments: “This is one of my favourite photographs of seagulls appreciating a World War Two searchlight emplacement on Walney Island.”

For CITiZAN archaeologist Andy Sherman, it’s Spurn Head, an isolated sand spit that forms one side of the mouth of the Humber Estuary. Spurn Head’s pebbly, eastern beaches are lashed by the waves of the North Sea and scattered with the broken remains of coastal batteries and submerged forests.

Andy explains: “It was these beaches I explored as a child with my mum, who was returning to her roots. It’s even where I walked my friend’s dog when I was at university. The shattered remains of these former landscapes have a wild beauty to them. It was here, and on other beaches around England, that my love of coastal archaeology was kindled.”

A pillbox at The National Trust site of Gwithian in Cornwall is CITiZAN archaeologist Alex Bellisario’s favourite site.

Alex says: “This site has fantastic archaeology, from the Bronze Age agricultural occupation site buried in the dune sands to the fantastic WW2 pillboxes in the picture. The dune sands which buried the Bronze Age site were replaced by post-medieval development like the tramlines, chimneys and pits which can still be seen at Gwithian today. The site was also on the line of defence in WW2 and some of its pillboxes are now falling down the sand.”

It was here, and on other beaches around England, that my love of coastal archaeology was kindled.”

CITiZAN archaeologist Andy Sherman

For CITiZAN archaeologist Oliver Hutchinson, it’s Birling Gap, a National Trust site in Eastbourne.

Oliver explains: “The foreshore at Birling Gap is strewn with the remains of ships and vessels dating back to the late 18th century, all resting beneath the iconic, crumbling chalk cliffs of the Severn Sisters. Amongst the seaweed lies a German U-Boat from the First World War, huge steam boilers from several SS ships and the Coonatto, a clipper ship that sank in 1879. It was a huge pleasure to take our volunteers down on site and to see their reactions upon first laying eyes of the timbers of a ship over 130 years old.”

Much careful deliberation went into the judging – and we particularly thank professional archaeological photographer and #CoastalContest judge Andy Chopping for his expert input.

Further information

CITiZAN project

CITiZAN website