A hollowed, blackened tree log resting on a line of sand bags with a measuring stick alongside.
Must Farm Log Boat © Cambridge Archaeological Unit
Must Farm Log Boat © Cambridge Archaeological Unit

Grant Funding to Protect Rare Bronze Age Log Boats at Flag Fen in Peterborough

Historic England has awarded a grant of £73,261 to ensure the conservation and protection of rare Bronze Age log boats at Flag Fen in Cambridgeshire.

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. The conservation work will be led by York Archaeological Trust.

A remarkable discovery

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, near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire.

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.

Conservation and protection

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.

In 2020, the impact of COVID-19 resulted in the demise of the organisation that had previously managed Flag Fen on behalf of Peterborough City Council. Having reviewed the best conservation strategy for the log boats, Historic England has awarded this grant to develop their conservation and protection.

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

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.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director Historic England (East of England)