A ‘hulk’ is an old ship stripped of its fittings and permanently moored in intertidal areas, estuaries, canals, and rivers. These ships are often in a condition too dilapidated to return to sea.
Generally, ships become ‘hulked’ when they become obsolete and are no longer economical to operate.
Hulks can have a variety of different uses, some serving as prisons, storage, housing and salvage pontoons. Others remain disused and continue to decay.
Here are some examples of hulks found along England’s coastline and rivers.
Lady Alice Kenlis, Woodbridge, Suffolk
The Lady Alice Kenlis in Woodbridge is a prime example of an abandoned hulk that has been partially dismantled. It lies in the intertidal zone of the River Deben.
Formerly an iron steamship, it was launched in 1869 by Hercules Linton. He was the designer of the internationally renowned Cutty Sark, one the fastest clipper ships of its time.
The remains of this particular ship are referred to as a hulk rather than a shipwreck as there has been no wrecking event.
Harriett barge, River Severn, Gloucestershire
The 19th century Kennett-built barge known as Harriett on the eastern bank of the River Severn, near the hamlet of Purton, has been firmly embedded and hulked, with all of its keel and hull surviving below the ground surface.
The barge was built to serve as a transhipment vessel to carry loads into the Bristol docks from ships too large to pass through to the east of the city.
In 1964, the Harriett was permanently beached as part of an assemblage of other vessels.
SS Cretehawser, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear
The SS Cretehawser in Sunderland was launched in 1919 and was the first of an order for eight steam tugs placed within the Sunderland shipyard by the Ministry of Shipping.
It was designed to tow large concrete barges carrying iron ore from northern Spain to Great Britain.
By 1935, the ship had reached the end of its commercial life and was hulked. The hulk was used as an emergency breakwater until it was holed during an air raid during the Second World War and towed up the river and beached.
HMS Beagle, Paglesham Reach, Essex
Although it remains unconfirmed whether the remains of HMS Beagle are located in the mud dock, it is considered that the lower portions of the ship have settled into the mud.
Paglesham Reach is a rarity, being one of England’s only confirmed mud docks.
Old Brig, Whitstable Bay, Kent
The remnants of Old Brig at Whitstable Bay offer another example of ship remains corresponding with the ‘hulk’ typology.
A ‘brig’ is a fast, manoeuvrable sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts.
The Old Brig was subsequently reused as a store and accommodation following its deliberate beaching for those employed in harvesting and packing oysters.
The identity and the date of the ship is currently unknown. However, the existence of a map dated to 1770 charts a wreck named Old Brig in a position that closely corresponds with this location, indicating the latest possible date of the loss of the vessel.