Shoes to mines, 20,000 items recovered during dredging of Portsmouth Harbour

Millions of metres of mud have been cleared from Portsmouth Harbour ready for the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Specialist dredging vessels have removed 3,200,000 cubic metres of mud – the equivalent to 12,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

More than 20,000 items were recovered, from shoes to mines, many dating back several centuries.

The wealth of artefacts uncovered include eight cannon, an aircraft engine, 36 anchors and a human skull, which was passed to the local police.

There was an arsenal of old ordnance, ranging from bullets and cannonballs to a British torpedo. A German sea mine and five large bombs were found, before being made safe by the Royal Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.

The dredging was the culmination of 12 years’ work monitoring the seabed environment around the harbour and unearthed a huge array of items, some of which may be historically significant, and underlines again Portsmouth’s long maritime history

Captain Iain Greenlees, Head of Infrastructure at HM Naval Base Portsmouth

Elsewhere the dredging uncovered bottles, plates, ceramics and shoes which probably belonged to sailors. They have been passed to the project’s archaeologists at Wessex Archaeology for study.

Captain Iain Greenlees, Head of Infrastructure at HM Naval Base Portsmouth, said: “The dredging was the culmination of 12 years’ work monitoring the seabed environment around the harbour and unearthed a huge array of items, some of which may be historically significant, and underlines again Portsmouth’s long maritime history.”

Although the main dredging work has now completed there will be an on-going need to remove new material that naturally settles in the channel over time.  This will be achieved by maintenance dredging on a yearly basis.