Recent news of Henry VIII’s warship the Mary Rose being restored at Portsmouth illuminates an interesting maritime discovery in the Fens.
In the 1800s a couple of Manea farm workers checking a recently drained field, spotted a couple of wooden posts protruding above the surface of the tacky land.
The men reported their discovery to the farmer, who told them to check the field again in a few months time. This they did and found the land had shrunk considerably and more posts were exposed.
Beautifully carved in the shape of a horses head, one post formed the prow of a Viking boat, the other formed the tail. Between the posts could be made out remains of the vessel’s sides. The workers informed the farmer the land was ready to cultivate and he ordered them to chop up the boat but save the horse’s head. It was nailed to the entrance of the farm house. Exposed to the air, it rapidly crumbled away.
Through ignorance Manea lost forever its Viking longboat. It could have been as famous as the funerary vessel discovered at Sutton Hoo, The war-like Scandinavians were everywhere in the Fens looking for abbeys to ransack. Probably through navigational error the longboat came to grief in the marsh.