The remains of a rare 19th century dock, built to accommodate HMS Beagle when it was serving as a Coastguard Watch Vessel in Essex, is now protected as a nationally important site.
The submerged mud berth on the River Roach near Paglesham has been designated as a scheduled monument by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.
HMS Beagle was first launched in May 1820 from Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames and is most famous for being the vessel on which Charles Darwin made the observations necessary to develop his theory of natural selection.
Following three exploratory voyages the Beagle was refitted as a static watch vessel for the Essex Coastguard in 1845 serving to curb smuggling until it was sold for scrap in 1870.
In 2019, Historic England commissioned Wessex Archaeology to investigate the Paglesham mudflats in Rochford thought to be the last resting place of the Beagle, ahead of the bicentenary of the vessel’s launch in May 2020.
Maritime archaeologists confirmed the location of the mud dock and a brick slope or ‘hard’ using geophysical surveys and an aerial survey by drone.
The Rochford mud dock - a specifically cut mooring place in which a vessel rests on the bottom at low tide - was constructed sometime after 1847.
Its outline, location and size matches the indentation of the riverbank recorded on early Ordnance Survey maps.
Despite what was probably once a common feature on England’s major waterways, particularly in the absence of designed dockyards, the locations of purpose built mud docks are not well known. Only five mud docks are recorded in England.
Documentary evidence tells us the Beagle was in the Rochford dock in 1870 when it was sold. It was likely dismantled here, and lots of the material would have been taken and repurposed elsewhere.
Remains of the Beagle may survive within the dock, though no more archaeological work is currently planned.
NigelHuddleston, Heritage Minister, said:
Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, said:
Rochford District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Enterprise, Councillor Simon Wootton, said: