Blow to campaign to protect the hulks
A MARITIME historian has accused English Heritage of failing to preserve important nautical relics.
Paul Barnett, who has campaigned for almost 10 years to get the Purton Hulks proper archaeological recognition, said: “English Heritage continues to fiddle while Purton burns.”
Mr Barnett’s comments come after English Heritage said it would take a further two years before it can decide whether or not the hulks deserve any formal protection.
The hulks are the remains of 80 vessels left on the River Severn to protect its banks almost 100 years ago.
They are the largest collection of historic vessels surviving in Britain and are considered to be of great archaeological significance.
Mr Barnett has already collected 1,000 signatures on a petition to be presented to Andy Barnham, Secretary of State for Media Sport and Culture, asking for protection for the hulks.
His campaign also recently won the support of Dr Mark Horton, an archaeology lecturer at the University of Bristol and presenter of BBC series Coast and Time Team regular.
However, English Heritage’s announcement comes as a blow to Mr Barnett who believes time is running out for the hulks.
He said: “At present the site can be destroyed. Earlier this month there was more vandalism when a 15ft chunk was sawn off one of the wrecks and this keeps happening.
“If the site gets listed by English Heritage then it becomes a criminal offence to damage it.”
English Heritage said it applauded Mr Barnett’s achievements and hard work with the Purton Hulks, but said any listing would not protect the vessels against erosion.
English Heritage also said it still needed to establish how important the hulks were in comparison to hundreds of other wrecked boats surviving in inter-tidal waters.
A spokesman for English Heritage said: “These boats have not had the benefit of the systematic recording which Mr Barnett has done at Purton, but we must assess all of them before we can establish the significance of the Purton ones.”
Update on The Attic : Purton Hulks