£73,000 grant to help preserve Peterborough’s Bronze Age log boats

A grant of more than £73,000 will help ensure the conservation and protection of the rare Bronze Age log boats currently housed at Peterborough’s Flag Fen.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 12:00 am
Photos from the Must Farm dig Photo: Cambridge Archaeological Unit

In order to ensure the long-term protection of this important aspect of our national culture, Historic England has stepped in with grant funding for a three-year project to develop the conservation and preservation of the log boats. Match funding of £48,854 has been provided by Peterborough City Council, which is responsible for Flag Fen. The conservation work will be led by York Archaeological Trust.

The remarkable discovery of the eight Bronze Age log boats was made in 2011 by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit at Must Farm on the edge of a working quarry at Whittlesey.

Of international historic importance, the log boats offer an insight into life 3,000 years ago, showing how people moved through the Fens landscape. Detailed analysis has shown not only how the boats were made but also the species of tree that was chosen, how the trees were felled, the composition of woodland they came from and the tools and techniques that were used to craft the boats.

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One of the preserved boats. Photo: Cambridge Archaeological Unit

In 2011-12, full excavation of the log boats was carried out by Cambridge Archaeological Unit, funded by Forterra, the owners of the site. Since their excavation, the eight log boats have been on display in climate-controlled conditions at Flag Fen Visitor Centre. Their conservation involves being constantly sprayed with a wax and water solution.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director of Historic England in the East of England said: “The impact of COVID-19 has been immediate and devastating for many cultural and heritage organisations. In this urgent situation, Historic England stepped in to ensure the protection of these incredibly rare historic artefacts. It is vital that such internationally-significant objects as the Must Farm log boats are protected and conserved so they can tell their story to future generations.”

Councillor Steve Allen, cabinet member for culture at Peterborough City Council, added: “This investment in preserving the log boats supports the ambitious plans that we have for Flag Fen. The boats will have pride of place in the new museum extension, it links Must Farm where they were discovered and Whittlesey Heritage Centre to Flag Fen where they have been housed and the conservation has taken place, to the Peterborough Museum. This will create a must-see UK and international ‘Bronze Age Trail’ tourism trail, boosting the local economy and footfall to the city centre.”

The log boats will continue to be displayed at Flag Fen throughout the conservation work.

Photos from the Must Farm dig Photo: Cambridge Archaeological Unit
Photos from the Must Farm dig Photo: Cambridge Archaeological Unit
Photos from the Must Farm dig Photo: Cambridge Archaeological Unit