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The ship
The wreck
Merchant life

Conservation and study of the Gresham Ship wreck is an ongoing process. Action must be taken to preserve material as soon as it has been excavated. The ship's hull is being stored underwater at Horsea Lake, near Portsmouth. The smaller finds are undergoing treatment at UCL, Institute of Archaeology and Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth.


The remains of the ship's structure are currently lying in Horsea Lake. Keeping the ship underwater is the most effective way to ensure its survival.

Wood can be submerged in water for hundreds of years and still survive.

Before the ship's excavation, low oxygen levels in the sediments of the Thames estuary helped to keep the ship in a good state of preservation.

Wreck moved to Horsea Lake

Once remains are excavated it is vital that they are not exposed to conditions that speed up their deterioration.

When wood is submerged, its cells fill with water causing it to expand.

If wood from a shipwreck is left in the air to dry out it is likely to be damaged through shrinking, cracking and warping.

Conservation treatments for waterlogged wood involve removing the salt water and replacing it with a water soluble material, followed by gentle drying.

This process can be very expensive so not all archaeological wood is conserved and kept.

"Keeping the ship underwater is the most effective way to ensure its survival"


In the lab

Conservators at UCL are working hard to identify the intriguing objects recovered from the Gresham Ship wreck. This is an exciting process as many finds are concealed by hard mass formations, called concretions.

These are made up of sand, shells and marine organisms which are bound together to form a concrete like material. By hiding the objects inside, concretions provide a physical barrier around objects to protect them from oxygen and seawater.

Concreted rope
Conservator at work

In the laboratory, many concretions are x-rayed to allow archaeologists and conservators to identify the objects concealed inside. They can learn how big the objects are as well as their location and material.

To carry out this work conservators must receive training about the properties, deterioration and conservation techniques of objects.

Pewter candlestick