Abandoned 19th century ship in Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, gets protected status

Anglia 080823 The Lady Alice Kenlis hulk. credit Historic England
The remains of the Lady Alice Kenlis steamship in Sutton Hoo estate, in Suffolk. Credit: Historic England

The 'ghostly' remains of a 19th century ship - designed by one of the most notable shipwrights of the time - has been abandoned by a river for decades.

Once a massive iron steamship, the Lady Alice Kenlis has now been recognised by Historic England as "an important part of our seafaring history".

The ship lies in an isolated area of the River Deben, in Sutton Hoo estate, Suffolk - inaccessible to most due to its location.

It was designed in 1867 by the man who also created the famous Cutty Sark two years later - Hercules Linton.

The Lady Alice Kenlis hulk abondoned by the River Deben Credit: Historic England

The ship was named after the daughter of the Earl of Hillsborough, who become Lady Alice Kenlis in 1867 when she married Lord Kenlis, a politician in Ireland.

The hull was heavily built in comparison to other iron ships of the time, to allow it to be more easily loaded and unloaded in shallow waters.

It served as a cargo ship in 1868, carrying cattle, goods and passengers between Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.

It was briefly used as a ferry and then converted into a suction dredger in 1913.

The vessel continued as a dredger until it was partially dismantled in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

The inside of The Lady Alice Kenlis hulk in Sutton Hoo Credit: Historic England

The sister of the Cutty Sark has been granted protection by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Experts say it is important in our understanding of early iron ships and offers an insight into Linton’s evolution of thought.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: "Whilst only the rather ghostly remains of the Lady Alice Kenlis survive, it deserves protection as an important part of our seafaring history.

"Being able to see the hulk of the ship itself emerging from the intertidal zone of the River Deben is striking and unusual.”

The Lady Alice Kenlis hulk in Sutton Hoo - sister of the Cutty Sark Credit: Historic England

Angus Wainwright, archaeologist at the National Trust, which manages the Sutton Hoo estate, said: “Although we knew that the Lady Alice Kenlis was an interesting ship, we didn’t appreciate just how historically important she was.

"This is now our second scheduled ship at Sutton Hoo, as we also look after the site where the famous Anglo-Saxon burial ship was excavated in 1939.

"What’s interesting to me, is that the Sutton Hoo ship was nearly as long as its Victorian descendant, the Lady Alice Kenlis.”

Hercules Linton, the designer of the Lady Alice Kenlis and the Cutty Sark Credit: Royal Museums Greenwich

Hercules Linton was a Scottish shipwright who was a surveyor, specialising on iron vessels.

He went on to form his shipbuilding company Scott and Linton, before going bankrupt in 1871.

The Sutton Hoo estate is the site of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground, famous for a much older ship, dating to the early 7th century, before 'England' existed.

The 'Sutton Hoo ship' is believed to be part of a king's burial.

The timbers from the original ship had rotted away over more than 1,300 years before being found in 1939, leaving just an imprint.

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