Programme 3

Magor Pill Boat - Introduction

The design of the Boat
Clues about the Boat's fate
  • Picture of Severn Levels
  • Severn Levels

Archaeologists made an exciting discovery in August 1994 on the intertidal mudflats of the Severn Levels. They came across timbers from a medieval boat, and as careful excavation progressed, it became clear that this was a significant find, more intact and better preserved than the fragments of medieval boats that had been found previously.

From the 12th Century onwards there is historical evidence of the importance of shipping around the Welsh coast. Administrative records, financial accounts and legal cases show that goods were traded by sea across medieval Europe. 13th Century Manuscripts contain miniature pictures of ships, and the seals of the port towns of Wales also show depictions of the trading vessels used in this period. However, until the Magor Pill boat came to light, there had been no examples found in Welsh waters of any medieval boats. Thus the discovery of this excellent example of a boat built in the Northern European tradition, with some additional local features, was very exciting for the archaeologists.

  • Picture of Severn Levels
  • Severn Levels

The wreck was situated about 500 metres seaward of the present sea wall, in an area that was only exposed for about two hours either side of low tide, making it a tricky job to excavate the site. A thorough investigation in May 1995 revealed that several metres of the timbers were intact, and showed that the boat had been carrying a cargo of iron ore. Because of the difficulties of getting to the site, it was decided to take the unusual step of recovering the boat as a single object, rather than dismantling it in situ.

The archaeological team of the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust and the National Museum of Wales received support from the construction consortium Laing-GTM, who were building the Second Severn Crossing at the time. Working together they succeeded in raising the remains of the boat, and transporting it to a custom-built holding tank in Cardiff.

Hanes Cymru a'r Môr

9:00PM Tuesday
Repeated on S4C Digidol 9:00PM Saturday
with English Subtitles