Human skeleton belonging to 18th century shipwrecked sailor found near Cornwall coastal path

Cornwall Council
The remains were found near the notoriously dangerous approach to Padstow Harbour Credit: Cornwall Council

A human skeleton found on a footpath in Cornwall could be that of an 18th-century shipwrecked sailor.

The remains were found near Trevone, overlooking Newtrain Bay near Padstow in north Cornwall, by a member of the public.

Devon and Cornwall Police sent forensic officers to the scene who determined the bones were historic.

The bones were then removed by Cornwall Archaeological Unit, officers from Cornwall Council and the person who originally discovered them.

It is thought the bones could date back more than 200 years.

Senior officer for the rural historic environment at Cornwall Council, Ann Reynolds, said: “Initial investigation has shown that the remains were of an adult, cut off just above the knees, potentially by the construction of an adjacent hedge.

"Two bones have shown heavy wear patterns, suggesting an exceptionally well-developed upper body muscle mass. This may indicate a life of hard labour, pulling, pushing and lifting.

“Given the location of the remains on the cliff and near the notoriously dangerous approach to Padstow Harbour, it is possible that they are of a shipwrecked sailor and, if so, potentially date to before 1808, after which the Grylls Act decreed that drowned remains washed ashore should be buried in consecrated ground.”

The remains are thought to be more than 200 years old Credit: Cornwall Council

The council says it is not unusual to find such remains along the Cornish coast, particularly on the north coast following stormy weather and cliff falls. In this case, the remains had been exposed from constant wear on the footpath.

Ann added: “The remains were located beside an area that is popular for memorial benches and floral tributes and were clearly visible within the coastal path.

"It was important to act swiftly, first to determine that they were archaeological in nature and then to carefully remove the remains, showing dignity to the deceased and to avoid any distress to visitors to the spot.”

Councillor Martyn Alvey, portfolio holder for environment and climate change at Cornwall Council, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in this excavation and shown such care while carrying out their work. I hope that we can discover more about this individual before they are laid to rest once more.”

Further analysis of the remains will take place before an appropriate reburial.

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