s The Discovery of the Ferriby Boats - Hull Museums Collections

The Discovery of the Ferriby Boats

ferriby boat being moved

The Discovery

In 1930 the sudden movement of the deep water channel from the south to the north side of the Humber scoured away recent silting on its northern bank. The result of this was the exposure and discovery of ancient peat and silts, especially at Melton and North Ferriby (East Yorkshire).

Two local teenagers Christopher and Edward (Ted) Wright watched this development with interest. Together they kept watch on this area of the Humber foreshore for a decade. Their discovery was so significant and important in advancing archaeological study of early seafaring.

In 1937 erosion revealed the first boat found by local teenager Ted Wright at North Ferriby, near Hull. This find turned out to be of great importance. These boat builders had used technology that made no use of metal parts. At this time there was no dating technique.


The survival of moss and yew withy ties holding the planks together demonstrated the excellent preservation of the burial due to the anaerobic water logged conditions. Anaerobic conditions means without air, like waterlogged sites there is insufficient oxygen for bacteria and fungal growth, the normal rotting process does not take place so remain preserved.

1940 Ted Wright discovered the keel plank of a second boat and in 1946 the remaining parts of the Ferriby boat one and two were excavated and recorded. The two boats were similar in design and boat two had Bronze Age axes tool marks. In 1963 the discovery of the third boat similar in build to the previous two but earlier.

With the help of Hull Museums, the East Riding Archaeological Society and of Hull engineers Priestman Brothers Limited was invoked to accomplish its successful recovery. Ferriby Boat three was cradled in steel, dragged from the Humber, and transported to water filled holding tank at Hull Museum, Albion Street.

Sutton Hoo's Excavator

In 1946 with the support of C W Philips one of the excavators of the Sutton Hoo ship burial helped the local businessmen and individuals remove and excavate the first two boats, lifted and transported to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. Detailed recording in some measurements took place which was very useful as a number of pieces did not survive the conservation techniques of the 1940s.