The Brigg Logboat
One of the largest and most impressive exhibits in the Municipal Museum in Albion Street before the Second World War was the Brigg prehistoric logboat. It was discovered in April 1886 by workmen constructing a gasometer on the right bank of the River Ancholme in Lincolnshire. Older and larger than the Hasholme Boat, she was the largest logboat ever discovered in Britain.
The history of the Brigg logboat following her discovery is an eventful one. She was at first the subject of an expensive legal battle between Brigg Gasworks and the Lord of the Manor, Mr. Carey Elwes. After winning his case Mr. Elwes had the boat moved to a specially constructed building, some 60ft long, and for 20 years it was one of the local curiosities, attracting thousands of visitors who paid sixpence admission.
The story of the acquisition of the Brigg logboat for the Archaeology collections of the Municipal Museum in Hull is a another illustration of the first curator's formidable collecting abilities. Thomas Sheppard had long been interested in the boat and asked if he might acquire it for the city of Hull. When the first request was refused, Sheppard waited until the number of visitors to the logboat began to decline and the owner realised he might lose money.
When Sheppard asked again in April 1909, the owner agreed, provided that the removal of the boat did not cost him anything. Tom Sheppard immediately enlisted the services of a breakdown gang and, in no time at all, had the logboat on a ship bound for Hull. Meanwhile the owner, having had second thoughts, wired to Sheppard not to move the boat, but Sheppard wired back, "almost truthfully", that the logboat was already in Hull!
The Brigg logboat was finally displayed suspended from the ceiling of the Municipal Museum. And there it hung for over thirty years until the fateful night of 23rd June 1943 when the Museum was gutted by German incendiaries.
Information Not Lost
Luckily Tom Sheppard had published details of the boat, enabling modern researchers to calculate such details as its draught, speed and manoeuvrability. The boat was made from a single oak log, 14.8m long and 1.4m wide, and the stern was fitted with a two-piece transom. At the bow, remains of a wooden shelf were identified and this has been interpreted as a small deck for a bowman who could steer the boat with a pole. Surviving fragments of the Brigg logboat have been radiocarbon-dated to about 900BC, making it some 600 years older than The Hasholme Boat.
The Brigg logboat would have been capable of relatively high speeds but she was probably difficult to manoeuvre. Like the Hasholme boat, she would have worked the tides in the estuarine inlets at the headwaters of the Humber, carrying heavy cargoes such as grain, wood and perhaps iron ore. It has been estimated that she could have had up to twenty-eight people on board.