Basic Site Facts
Period: post medieval (1627-1750)
Location: Outer Pollock Reef, West Bay, Dorset
Reason for Designation: archaeological significance
Discovery and Investigation
The West Bay wreck, located west of the Outer Pollock Reef, West Bay, Dorset, was discovered in 2004 by recreational divers and was reported to the Dorset Coast Forum with subsequent involvement by English Heritage.
Assessment by the archaeological contractor determined that the site consists of a low mound of heavily concreted iron bars containing a heavily concreted iron gun as well as a possible 17th century muzzle-loading bronze gun of European or Eastern origin. The remains lie in approximately 12m of water and the surrounding seabed comprises generally fine sand although the iron bar mound lies on an area of large cobbles. Analysis of hard slate and quartzite (ballast?) samples recovered from this area suggests a derivation from south-west England or Northern France.
The presence of the large quantity of iron bars does suggest that they formed part of a cargo and it is thought that the site may comprise the remains of a merchant vessel. The dating of the site is reliant on the bronze gun which is considered to be no later than 1750, but perhaps as early as 1627.
However, reports received through local authorities indicated that the integrity of the site was threatened through planned salvage attempts to recover the bronze gun. One attempt was apparently aborted due to the contractor’s presence on site. This prompted English Heritage to recommend to the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites that the site be designated through emergency designation. This duly came into effect on the 20 July 2005.
Bournemouth University has indicated its interest (with support from English Heritage) in undertaking a three-year research project on the site, to comprise both field and archive assessment. The intention is to re-examine the designation status of the site once this research is completed.