The true identity of the rotten boat in Plymouth has been discovered

The true identity of the rotten boat in Plymouth has been discovered

The true identity of the rotten boat in Plymouth has been discovered

Mallory Haas and Peter Holt look at an old photo of John Sims

The correct identity of the ship was discovered in a letter on file

A team of marine archaeologists have discovered the true identity of a large wooden vessel buried in Lake Hooe, on the outskirts of Plymouth.

The remains of the vessel are buried next to a stone jetty on the north side of the lake.

The Hulk has now been identified by The Ships Project as the John Sims, a Westcountry schooner.

Until the recent discovery, it was believed to be a Dutch barge called Two Brothers.

The Ships Project is a volunteer not-for-profit organization that undertakes research and exploration of maritime historical sites and events, both on land and underwater.

Lake Hooe is known as the ‘ship graveyard’ due to the 36 known vessels buried there.

The Ships Project said it was believed that Lake Hooe was a place where boats had been abandoned for centuries.

The lake is shallow and tidal, so boats can be abandoned at low tide, but still accessible when the tide recedes.

While writing archaeological investigations, the team discovered a letter between local historians John Cotton and Martin Langley when going through John Cotton’s archive.

The letter – held in John Cotton’s naval records – identified this vessel as the schooner John Sims.

Mallory Haas, a marine archaeologist and project manager, said there wasn’t much information available about the hulk to begin with.

Malory Haas

Maritime archaeologist Mallory Haas said the area has been an abandoned ship site since Roman times

However, when an archaeological survey of the hull was carried out, the team discovered that it was not built like a barge, but more like a Westcountry ship or schooner.

“We’ve now got all this great history and a picture of what it looked like when it was on the surface, so it’s all coming together, and we’re putting together a book about it and now we’ve got the name of a really interesting wreck,” Ms Haas said.

He added: “From what we can tell, this has been a place to abandon ships since Roman times, so there is quite a bit of mud around.

“But under the mud there are probably even older ships and wrecks – we just can’t see them.

“It’s kind of important to understand what this place is, even though what we can see, you know, like some of it is from the 1890s, 1870s, 1920s and even the 1960s.

“But, collectively, it tells a story of Plymouth and its maritime heritage.”

Ships Project manager Peter Holt said, according to historical records, the John Sims traveled until 1935 when it was converted into a log lighter for use in the Oreston timber yard at the end of Lake Hooe.

He said records showed the ship was built in Falmouth by HS Trethowan for the Sims family in 1873 and was registered at Plymouth at 98 tons.

In 1893, the vessel was sold to Thomas Stevens of Bursledon, near Southampton, then in 1900 she was sold to Richard Foster of Gloucester and re-registered in that port.

By March 1917, Albert Westcott purchased the vessel, moved it to Plymouth and appointed Bill Stiles as its master.

Peter Holt

Peter Holt said the schooner would have made transatlantic voyages in its day before being converted into a log lighter in Plymouth

The register was closed on the ship in 1935 when she was converted to a wood lighter at Plymouth.

At some point later, the schooner was abandoned on the east side of the stone pier in Lake Hooe – where it remains.

Mr Holt said: “Plymouth has the most amazing maritime history, stretching back to 12,000 BC. and then, and every time we look at something, we find something new.

“The hulks in Lake Hooe tell us a lot about trade and what was going on in Plymouth in the 1800s, but they also provide examples of ships that somehow no longer exist.

“Some of what we’ve found in the lake, some of what we’ve identified, are the last surviving examples of this particular type – and by researching them, by excavating them archaeologically, we can learn how they were made.”

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