Ships and Boats: Prehistory to Present

Selection Guide

Historic England’s selection guides help to define which historic assets are likely to meet the relevant tests for national designation and be included on the National Heritage List for England. The 2002 National Heritage Act expressly gave Historic England new responsibilities for the preservation of monuments in, on or under the seabed. The Council of Europe’s 1992 European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (known as the Valetta Convention of 1992, and ratified by the UK in 2001) makes no distinction between land and sea in terms of the location of archaeological assets.

Protecting wreck sites is part of our duty to preserve this aspect of the marine historic resource. The existing arrangements are complex, so one of the principal aims of this selection guide is to set out current approaches and provide extra clarity as to our designation approaches.

This guide applies to all vessels, irrespective of the original environment they navigated, covering those used on inland waters, coastal waters and the open sea. It also includes vessels that are now buried under the ground, where reclamation or some other process has caused a former waterway to be covered by dry land: many of the most significant early boats and ships have been discovered on land rather than at sea. It also deals with vessels that are no longer afloat, and which have become permanently settled (either on land, in an inter-tidal location, or within English territorial waters, which extend up to 12 nautical miles from the coast), and which meet the legal test of forming a vessel or its remains.


  • Introduction
  • Historical summary
  • Special considerations
  • Where to get advice
  • Select bibliography
  • Acknowledgements

Additional Information

  • Series: Guidance
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: 28
  • Product Code: HEAG143


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