Forton Lake Photography Project

December 9th, 2007 – February 18th, 2009


Project Report

Report prepared by Matt with the Nautical Archaeology Society

List of Wrecks

  1. Mine Countermeasures Vessel
  2. FL 2: Motor Fishing Vessel “Lauren”
  3. FL 3: WWII Motor Minesweeper
  4. FL 4: Unknown Vessel
  5. FL 5: Buried Sailing Barge
  6. FL 6: Metal Barge (Towed)
  7. FL 7: Metal Boat
  8. FL 8: Metal rounded Barge
  9. FL 9: Pre-WWI Steam Pinnace
  10. FL 10: WWII Landing Craft
  11. FL 11: Medina Chain Ferry
  12. FL 15: Buried Sailing Barge
  13. FL 16: WWII Landing Craft
  14. FL 17: WWII Motor Gunboat
  15. FL 18: Unknown Buried Vessel
  16. FL 19: Unknown Buried Vessel
  17. FL 20: WWII Landing Craft
  18. FL 21: Lifeboat (inside FL20)
  19. FL 22: Gosport Ferry “Vadne”
  20. FL 23: WWII Landing Craft
  21. FL 24: Post-WWII Modern Pinnace
  22. FL 25: Small Leisure Boat
  23. FL 26: Unknown Vessel (clinker-built)
  24. FL 27: Groyne Structure
  25. FL 28: Small Modern Leisure Boat
  26. FL 29: Buried Munitions Barge
  27. FL 30: Unknown Vessel (removed 2010)
  28. FL 31: Unknown Wooden Vessel
  29. FL 32: Unknown Small Boat
  30. FL 33: Wooden Post Structure
  31. FL 34: Wooden Post Structure
  32. HW 1: Metal Barge
  33. HW 2: Unknown Vessel
  34. HW 3: WWII Minesweeper
  35. HW 4: Fishing Boat “Veneville”
  36. HW 5: Unknown Small Boat
  37. HW 6: Thames Sailing Barge “Whip” (1922)


Though this project was the voluntary work of one person, it has received the help and encouragement of a wide range of individuals. I would particularly like to thank Mr Ted Sutton, Ms Sue Oakes, Mr Dave Wood, Mr Jack Smith and the Karmy family.

Photographic equipment was provided by myself where possible, however recording of results was facilitated by the Karmy family, which has been of much assistance and is greatly appreciated.

I would also like to thank those already mentioned for their participation in the Forton Lake Archaeology Project 2009-2011: A good season’s fieldwork in Summer 2009 followed what was an efficient and thorough planning phase, and I look forward to leading our group through the continuation of our recording in Summer 2011. I would like to assure all involved that the fruits of our labour will be put forward to the NAS, HWTMA, the local history museum, the Hampshire Archives and to UNESCO as well as the general public – confirming that their slouching around in foot-high wet, sticky black mud in pouring rain was indeed worth the effort!

Project Background

In 1997, Ted Sutton, on behalf of the University of Portsmouth and the HWTMA, undertook a short, basic photographic survey of three vessels in Forton Lake and a further six located North of the Lake near Hardway. This survey included basic dimensions of all vessels; FL1, FL3 and FL11, along with HW1 to HW6. It is worth noting that photographs of HW5, in the 1997 survey, showed post structures barely visible above the shore; upon inspection in 2008, these were no longer present and thus the UID HW5 has been taken by another vessel, which was not recorded in 1997 and probably not present. The results of Ted Sutton’s survey can be found in the Appendices.

In 2006, the NAS and HWTMA began collaborating on a large archaeological project centred on Forton Lake; with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, fieldwork was able to encompass recording of over 25 vessels. Further assistance was provided by local volunteers, one of whom I was in 2008 with several relatives, who collectively completed drawn records of several of the hulks. All figures and notes regarding the NAS/HWTMA Project, which reached its conclusion in Autumn of 2009, can be found in the Appendices. Any quotations from the NAS/HWTMA’s Year reports are marked as such.

The photography project, which began in December 2007, was brought to a halt in February of 2009 as I focussed on the planning phase of a continuation project, the Forton Lake Archaeology Project 2009 (now termed the Forton Lake Archaeology Project 2009 – 2011). This project involves myself and several relatives, and its aim is to provide a continuous record (until a date which is to be determined) of the state of the hulks in Forton Lake: inspired by the NAS/HWTMA Project, we saw the need to maintain a record which would not have been kept should we have left the area to the elements. I – unknowingly – brought into existence, in the photography project, the perfect precursor to the archaeology project; the report from the first season of the archaeology project is currently in progress. (July 2011)

2007 – 2009 Photographic Survey

Duration and Methodology

The aim of the photography project was to create an extensive, detailed photographic record of each of the vessels hulked at Forton Lake for a period of approximately one year. Each photograph would be stored on a computer-based archive. Survey began on Sunday, December 9th, 2007, and was completed on Wednesday, February 18th, 2009. Some photographs were taken in June 2009, prior to the advent of the Forton Lake Archaeology Project’s inaugural fieldwork season; these have been added to the total figures despite lying outside of the data bracket. Photographs taken during fieldwork in June, July and August 2009 have not been included in the figures; these are stored in the database for the Archaeology Project and are seen to be separate. The intention on visiting Forton Lake was to create a photographic database of the wrecks present; however, during the period of survey a large number (around 1,100) of “miscellaneous” photographs were also taken. These are added to the total figure, in a separate folder named “Misc” and can be seen on request. The camera used was primarily a Samsung L730D handheld digital compact camera; at times, a different model of the same version was used, and on selected occasions a film SLR, a Canon EOS 1000F, was used with a typical 18-55mm lens. Note: In description of each vessel, figures used are from either the current Archaeology Project’s findings, or adapted from those of the NAS/HWTMA Project, and in the latter cases, this has been noted.


In total, 113 visits to Forton Lake were made, and as each photograph was dated, it is possible to provide an overview of every individual visit as follows:-

December 2007 – 9th, 15th, 20th, 26th January 2008 – 11th, 13th, 16th, 24th, 31st February 2008 – 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 21st, 29th March 2008 – 1st, 2nd, 10th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st April 2008 – 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 19th, 20th, 24th, 25th, 27th May 2008 – 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 20th (film – album lost 2008) 23rd, 24th, 25th, 29th, 30th, 31st June 2008 – 1st, 2nd, 15th, 16th, 23rd, 24th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th July 2008 – 1st, 2nd, 7th, 11th, 12th, 17th, 19th, 25th, 31st August 2008 – 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 26th (film) September 2008 – 3rd, 13th, 14th, 21st, 27th October 2008 – 5th, 6th, 11th, 20th, 25th, 26th, 27th November 2008 – 2nd, 6th, 30th December 2008 – 7th, 8th January 2009 – 25th February 2009 – 8th, 18th

Note that a visit was made on May 20th, 2008 using film; however, as these photographs were placed in an album, and the album was subsequently lost, these are not counted.

FL 1: Wooden Mine Countermeasures Vessel

NGR: 461550 100865 First ID: 1997, Ted Sutton Photographs: 40 (24th January – 25th October 2008)

i.imgur.com_rk6xzcm.jpg Figure 1 FL1, identified by the NAS and HWTMA research as a mine countermeasures vessel, photographed looking North. Note the skeleton-like structure of the remains. (March 1, 2008)

Site Assessment: FL1 is a large wooden vessel located on the southern shore of Forton Lake, approximately 150m to the west of the Millennium Bridge. The vessel lies on its starboard side, which is not visible above sediments and, with the assistance of extensive salvage to the port hull, gives FL1 a “skeletal” appearance. This aspect gives it a unique appeal to passers-by, who are many as the Millennium Bridge is used by local residents daily. Visible in Figure 1, above, is the vessel as seen from the south shore; within the vessel are the keelson (the beam to the right) and several other beams, as well as iron strapping further aft, and the stern. What could be mooring gear or equipment which was left here with FL1 is visible to the right of the vessel. During low tides, the vessel is completely exposed to the elements; during high tides the higher reaches are not immersed (figure 2). FL1 was a subject of the 1997 survey by Ted Sutton, who, although not measuring its dimensions, took photographs and wrote of his inspection, “Extensively salvaged for timber apart from port side frames”. Measured in March 2009, the length of the vessel is estimated at approximately 30m.

i.imgur.com_43g8msr.jpg Figure 2 FL1 at high tide is not entirely submerged; a large section of the upper region of the vessel remains untouched by water. Seen here in profile, it is easy to imagine the origin of the “skeleton” reference (July 31, 2008)

There has been no decay of note since the 1997 survey. Below are the photographs taken by Ted Sutton of FL1 in 1997.

i.imgur.com_togymhn.jpg Figure 3 Bow of FL1 (T. Sutton, 1997)

i.imgur.com_vgkdncm.jpg Figure 4 View of the port side structure (T. Sutton, 1997)

i.imgur.com_a85dfp9.jpg Figure 5 Viewed in profile, at high tide. (T. Sutton, 1997)

As these photographs, and my own from 2008, show, FL1 has not been subject to rapid erosion such as that seen in the case of FL4 or FL9.

Interpretation: The NAS and HWTMA Project successfully identified this vessel’s type, despite a name or number not being present, during their survey in 2007 and 2008. I and my fellow members of the current Project were responsible for the recording of FL1 from June 28-29, 2008 (figures 6 and 7). Components of FL1 identified in 2007 were found to be similar to components of FL3, a former Second World War Motor Minesweeper; along the hull are numerous vertical saw cuts while it was noted that the frames of the vessel are cut flat, indicating the upper part of FL1 was used for salvage. Saw marks like these are often found in vessels which have salvageable material within the hull structure, between hull and frames; as part of the Mine Countermeasures vessel’s (MCMV) degaussing system, copper would be placed around the hull. The commercial value of copper means it is valuable to salvors; the NAS/HWTMA Project noted that construction of FL1 and FL3 had many similarities, most noticeably in the framing and planking of the vessels. From the survey results and the evidence of salvage, the NAS/HWTMA Project came to the conclusion that this was likely the remains of a MCMV.

i.imgur.com_ycnagjy.jpg Figure 6 Roger Forster, a local volunteer and keen amateur maritime archaeologist, prepares for the survey of FL1. (June 28, 2008; featuring R. Forster)

Archaeological Potential: The identity of this vessel is, despite my own further investigation and that of the current Forton Lake Archaeology Project, as yet unknown. As of July 2011, various attempts at contact with the local Explosion! Museum and local history archives have remained unanswered; it is assumed that no more information on FL1 or the local area is possessed than has already been uncovered through local residents and thorough research. The vessel is not likely to endure rapid decay; photographs show that over a period of a decade from 1997 to 2008, little – if any – change occurred in the state of the remains. However, presently (2011) a heavy mooring pontoon is located within FL1; this pontoon is tied to a frame at the bow section, and the bow section appears to be coming loose from the rest of the vessel. It is hoped that – either in a high spring tide or by other means – the pontoon is detached from the vessel and the bow section survives, as FL1 is seen to be of high archaeological potential, and thus an important piece of local heritage which should be preserved as much as possible.

Access/ Health & Safety Assessment: Access to FL1 is without difficulty at the bow end, however great care must be taken when attempting access to the stern. Provided one keeps to within around 20cm of the vessel, access is possible at all areas, however sediments grow deeper the further aft progress is made. Within the vessel – noting that care should be taken upon entering as the bow lies on a small incline – again provided one does not stray too far access is possible from bow to stern. There are many metal nails protruding from the outer hull planking; however these are not sharp, and act usefully as grips, providing better access along the hull. FL1 should not be seen to pose any immediate, nor severe, risks to health and safety.

Recommendations: It is recommended that further research take place into the identity – and hence the career history – of FL1, as this would fill a large gap in the information already known about the vessel, piecing together the puzzle of its life. As a large vessel, FL1 has been of prominence in Forton Lake for many years; additional contact with local residents, and raising local awareness of FL1, is potentially a route which would lead to further information. As far as recording of FL1 is concerned, much has been completed over the past fourteen years; Ted Sutton conducted a photographic survey in 1997, before the NAS and HWTMA identified its type in 2007, while I and several others completed drawn plans in June 2008. Due to the slow nature of decay on FL1, it is not recommended that drawn recording take place in the very near future; at present FL1 is listed by the current Project for annual site inspection and observation. Should any major change occur, however, a record of the vessel’s state after such a change, followed by annual inspection and observation, would be considered beneficial.

i.imgur.com_nvuabdy.jpg Figure 7 Volunteers survey the remains of FL1 during the NAS and HWTMA Project. (June 29, 2008 featuring (left to right) D. Wood, P. Donohue, J. Karmy, Unknown volunteer; photo D. Karmy)

FL 2: Motor Fishing Vessel “Lauren”

NGR: 461243 100915 First ID: 2006, NAS & HWTMA Photographs: 31 (31st January – 8th December 2008)

i.imgur.com_x4rqn44.jpg Figure 8 A section of the remains of FL2 viewed looking South. Note the in-situ metal table and a metal box – now no longer present – to the right of shot. (February 2, 2008)

Site Assessment: FL 2 is the remains of a motor fishing vessel named “Lauren” (figure 8). Though not identified by Ted Sutton in 1997 – for reasons unknown, given its proximity to FL3 which was recorded – FL2 was recorded in the NAS/HWTMA Project’s inaugural fieldwork season of 2006 before being subject to full drawn survey in 2007. The vessel is incomplete; only the starboard hull remains, as it is listed to port, while the upper sections of the vessel are no longer present. Bow and stern are visible, as are several objects likely to have been contents of FL2. From black marks and weaker, flaky wood, it is assumed that a fire took place aboard FL2 at some point, which would have caused much of the vessel to be burnt, leaving what remains today. Its length has been recorded at 16.10m and its width at 3.70m.

Interpretation: Upon first visit to the site in February 2008, I noted that the vessel appeared to have been burnt; this is supported by photographic evidence of aforementioned black and flaky wood, as opposed to showing signs of decay. Though it is clear that decay has taken place, the main damage seems to have been caused at whichever time the vessel was alight; there is no evidence of salvage as on FL1, so one must assume that fire was the cause of FL2 being in the state in which Figure 8 shows. In photographs from 1997, FL2 is shown to be very similar, in condition, to the present day.

i.imgur.com_vceatfp.jpg Figure 9 This photograph depicts FL2, seen left of shot, in an almost identical state to the present day. (photo: Barry Shimmon, August 1997)

To the right of shot in figure 8 lies a metal box; over several years, this has since eroded and has become shards of metal resting on the sediment (figure 10). The metal table is also no longer in-situ (figure 11).

i.imgur.com_npvwxdd.jpg Figure 10 The box seen in figure 8 has since eroded, leaving shards of metal. (July 6, 2011)

i.imgur.com_2c6jdq2.jpg Figure 11 Metal table, formerly situated on the hull. Futtocks - like that seen supporting the left-most frame here, and knees, like that present by the frame above the table – are a frequent feature of FL2. (July 6, 2011)

As seen above, FL2 has not been without some change; however what remains is enough to distinguish the vessel’s type. Construction is carvel, and the NAS and HWTMA found in 2006 that FL2 would have been engine-propelled. Research conducted by the NAS found the identity of this vessel to be a motor fishing boat named “Lauren”; this was made easier by its identification on the Historic Environments Record (HER) as 53066. Pictures of FL2 in its earlier days, and its career history remain unknown. Many parts of the vessel remain; most notably the bow (figure 12) and stern (figure 13), also the starboard hull planking (figure 14), frames and futtocks (figure 15) and the rudder (figure 16).

i.imgur.com_6qyl0e8.jpg Figure 12 Bow section of FL2 (April 5, 2009 featuring J. Karmy)

i.imgur.com_cgocwec.jpg Figure 13 Stern section of FL2; note the in-situ tiller (April 5, 2009)

i.imgur.com_kruloeh.jpg Figure 14 Starboard hull planking of FL2 (April 5, 2009)

i.imgur.com_iev4ltx.jpg Figure 15 Within FL2, a total of 41 frames and several futtocks remain despite evidence of fire (April 5, 2009)

i.imgur.com_7d0jqvy.jpg Figure 16 the rudder and stern section of FL2. Note the curvature of the vessel, and evidence of fire in the charred uppermost frame (April 5, 2009)

Access/ Health and Safety Assessment: FL2 lies in an area of shallow sediments, high up on the shore. There are some sharp edges within the vessel, and numerous small items lie on the shore, which are not uncommon or harmful provided that care is taken. It is recommended that no extra precaution is taken when visiting FL2 than is the norm for a low-risk Intertidal side.

Archaeological Potential: FL2’s identity, through consulting the HER, is known to be an engine-propelled fishing boat named “Lauren”. However, its career, and its history after said career, is presently unknown. Fishing vessels are common, which could thwart investigation as there may not be a record of the career of the “Lauren”. Seen in an aerial photograph of the area in 1960, it is known that this vessel has been around Forton Lake for at least 50 years; of course, what is not known is whether, in 1960, she had yet been hulked.

Recommendations: FL2 has undergone a photographic survey and measurements by the NAS and HWTMA in 2006, which they followed-up with a complete drawn survey in 2007. In April 2009, in preparation for the inaugural season of the current Forton Lake Archaeology Project, FL2 was used as the subject vessel for a fieldwork training exercise. This was conducted in an identical fashion to any other survey using the datum offset method; a baseline was established (figure 17) and a plumb-bob used to aid recording of each frame and all items within the vessel, from the bow to 7.50m aft. i.imgur.com_dkgae1j.jpg Figure 17 A survey tape was run from bow to stern during the training exercise; as FL2 had already been subject to complete survey, only 7.50m of the vessel was recorded (April 5, 2009)

What appears to be the mast is still present (see figure 17); this was also recorded. Survey was completed in around two hours and involved each member of the current Project (figure 18).

i.imgur.com_cw5wtjb.jpg Figure 18 Recording of the bow section of FL2 in progress (April 5, 2009 featuring (left to right) D. Karmy (Co-ordinator; tape readings, plumb bob); D. Wood (drawing board); J. Karmy (measuring tape, plumb-bob, tape readings) and S. Oakes (plumb-bob, tape readings, measuring tape readings) Photo by R. Nagle (photography))

This particular exercise was a success, as was the 2009 fieldwork season. Due to the amount of work having been accumulated on FL2, by various groups and individuals, including my own 2008 photographic survey, it is recommended that no further fieldwork take place unless the vessel’s condition is seen to deteriorate rapidly.


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