An ancient Nordic style boat at Meols and a Viking battle that may place Wirral at the heart of the history of Britain - find out more at West Kirby lecture

  Posted: 12.10.21 at 11:12 by Mark Gorton

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Professor Steve Harding, Wallasey born Viking expert - and Professor of Biochemistry at the Universities of Nottingham and Oslo - will give what promises to be a fascinating talk in West Kirby on Thursday.

Steve recently outlined Wirral’s Viking heritage here on Heswall Nub News.

On Thursday October 14, starting at 7.30, in the Small Hall of West Kirby United Reform Church, Steve will cover the topic in more detail as he gives the first lecture in the 117th season of the Deeside Lecture Society.

On the agenda is the latest news of the ancient clinker boat believed to be buried beneath the car park of the Railway Inn pub in Meols..

A clinker boat – a style originating in Scandinavia - is one with a hull made from overlapping planks, and this particular vessel was unearthed during building work in the late 1930s, and promptly covered up due to fears its discovery would slow down construction and cost money.

Ground penetrating radar has revealed what may well be a structure located where the original find was made - now a large, flagged patio area - and although it’s unknown how the boat made its way so far inland - and so deep under the ground - there is every likelihood it is well preserved because of the nature of the clay in which it is buried.

A sketch of the clinker boat's location, made years later by one of the builders who unearthed it

In collaboration with Wirral Archaeology, an application is about to be submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in the hope that the boat can be exposed, assessed and dated next year.

Steve will be leading the Scientific team – including experts from Norway and the Mary Rose Trust - who will work alongside the archaeologists.

On Thursday, Steve will also bring us up to speed with the scientific tests he and colleagues are carrying out on a large number of iron objects discovered in Bebington by Wirral Archeology - along with Viking age artefacts found in Meols, Fulford in Yorkshire, Torksey in Lincolnshire, and Scandinavia.

Says Steve: “These objects may well solve the mystery of the Battle of Brunanburh. It’s long been known that this great battle was fought in 937 when Aethelstan, the leader of an Anglo-Saxon alliance supported by Viking mercenaries from Iceland, engaged a Northern Alliance of forces commanded by the Viking King of Dublin, Olaf Guthfrithson, and Constantine II, King of Scotland, along with fighters from Cumbria."

“However, its location has been the subject of conjecture for centuries. Various theories then began to identify a site near Bromborough, based largely around the fact that Brunanburh was its former name - until the 18th century - and then, in 2004, I suggested that the mystery name 'Dingesmere' in the old poem describing the battle comes from ‘Things-mere’, referring to wetland or marshland overlooked or controlled by the old Viking Assembly or 'Thing' at Thingwall.

Objects of interest discovered at Meols - inset: Steve Harding

“This made a Wirral location even more likely. The objects subsequently unearthed by the painstaking efforts of Wirral Archaeology over the last few years are lending more and more support to the idea that Wirral was the scene of one of the most important and bloody encounters in British history.

“Although Aethelstan ended up victorious, the resistance of the Northern Alliance proved decisive in what was to follow, with Britain continuing to remain as separate discrete entities rather than one imperial power."

Steve will also give an update on a recent published study with colleagues at Leicester University which appears to support the findings of an earlier genetic study indicating a large proportion of Scandinavian blood in the population of people from old Wirral families.

If you’d like to hear more about all this recent research into our Viking past – and present - tickets (limited due to COVID) for Steve Harding’s lecture cost £3 and can be obtained from the Vice Chair and Secretary of the Deeside Lecture Society, Tony Storey.

Simply email Tony at [email protected]

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