The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on the advice of Historic England, announced recently that the hulk of the nineteenth-century iron steamship, Lady Alice Kenlis, located at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk has been granted protection as a Scheduled Monument. The hulk (the term is used to describe an old ship which has been permanently moored and wholly or partially stripped of its fittings, as opposed to a shipwreck) is located on the River Deben and can be seen from the quayside at Woodbridge, but is not accessible to the public.
Scheduling of monuments is the oldest form of heritage protection, dating back to the 1882 Ancient Monuments Protection Act, and is decided on by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport following a recommendation by Historic England. Scheduling is the selection of nationally important archaeological sites in accordance with the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979. Scheduling applies only to human-made structures or remains and applies only to sites of national importance, and even then, only if it is the best means of protection. Decisions on national importance are guided by the Principles of Selection laid down by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and criteria include period, rarity and vulnerability of the structure in question. Where the owner of land on which a scheduled monument is situated wishes to carry out any work on the monument, they must apply for prior written permission from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
The Lady Alice Kenlis was designed by the Scottish shipwright, Hercules Linton who later designed the Cutty Sark, the only vessel in England to have Grade I listed status. According to Historic England, she was built in Glasgow and served as a cargo ship from 1868, carrying cattle, goods and passengers between Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. She was also used for a short time as a ferry and was converted into a suction dredger in 1913, before being partially dismantled in the late 1930s or early 1940s. The hull was heavily built in comparison to other iron ships of the time to allow it to be more easily loaded and unloaded in shallow waters.
According to Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, “[w]hilst only the rather ghostly remains of the Lady Alice Kenlis survive, it deserves protection as an important part of our seafaring history. Being able to see the hulk of the ship itself emerging from the intertidal zone of the River Deben is striking and unusual.”
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, Arts and Heritage Minister has commented: “[t]he hulk of the Lady Alice Kenlis, resting in the River Deben, offers us an important insight into the work of Hercules Linton, who – as the designer of the Cutty Sark – became one of the most notable shipwrights of the nineteenth century. I am delighted that this important piece of our national heritage has been given protected status so that it can be preserved for generations to come.”
The geographical location of the hulk is also of huge historic significance: it is located on the National Trust’s Sutton Hoo estate which is home to another ship – an Anglo-Saxon burial ship which was excavated in 1939 and is the subject of a recent film, The Dig. Excavation of this ship was initially carried out by the amateur archaeologist, Basil Brown, who was called in by the landowner, Edith Pretty. However, once the significance of the site became apparent, professional archaeologists took over. The ship was intact and was found to contain a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts, including a ceremonial helmet, a shield and sword, a lyre and silver plate from the Byzantine Empire. It is described on the British Museum website as “the most impressive medieval grave to be discovered in Europe”.
The Lady Alice Kenlis Hulk during high tide, view from the East © Historic England Archive. The image is used here under fair dealing for criticism, review and quotation (s. 30 CDPA). The source of the image is Historic England Archive and can be found here: Hulk of 19th Century Iron Steamship by Designer of the Cutty Sark Granted Protection | Historic England. If you are a rightholder in this image, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will happily respect your wishes around image use.
Cutty Sark deck with lifeboat, 2016, London History at Home via Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0 – File:Cutty Sark deck with lifeboat.jpg – Wikimedia Commons.