Dutch Schooner the Fenna

Dutch Schooner Fenna lost 11th March 1881. Video footage courtesy of New Forest National Park Authority.

With thanks to the Maritime Archaeology Trust (formerly The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology) for the use of their archive footage.

Site plan of The Fenna © Maritime Archaeology Trust
Site plan of The Fenna © Maritime Archaeology Trust

The Fenna was a two-masted Dutch schooner of 172 tons constructed of timber in 1863. En route to Italy from the Netherlands, severe weather conditions caused the 18 year old vessel to leak badly. The crew abandoned ship just 30 minutes before she foundered and sank – not to be seen again for over 100 years.

The wreck today has almost gone, but a large percentage of her 230 ton cargo remains intact. Piled on the remains of her wooden deck is an enormous 2.5m pile of what can only be described as neatly stacked ‘railway tracks’. There are also a large quantity of glass sheets, encrusted in the original packing case layout. There are also the remains of nail barrels spread around the wreck. Only a very small number of objects have been raised from the site and declared to the Receiver of Wreck.


The Fenna is a Dutch schooner that was lost in March 1881, some two and a half miles south-west of the Needles on the south coast of England.

At the time of its sinking, the ship was sailing from Antwerp to Messina and then onto Trieste in the Mediterranean. It was loaded with a cargo of iron bars, sheets of glass packed up in wooden boxes and barrels of iron nails – possibly for the construction of a pre-fabricated iron and glass building – a bit like the one at Crystal palace in London at the same time.

The vessel sailed into a storm and one of the plank on the outer hull of the vessel sprang away from the hull and he ship began to leak.

The crew were eventually forced to abandon ship some twenty miles off-shore. They get into their rowing boat and then they rowed a long, long way to Bournemouth and then onto Poole.

The wreck is remarkable because although the sides of the ship have long since disappeared, the cargo, as you can see here, is still stacked exactly as it was originally packed in Antwerp, back in 1881.

The site sticks up proud of the seabed (which is otherwise very, very flat) and provides a great haven for marine life as well as providing us with some very, very interesting archaeological remains.

Here you can see some of the last vestiges of the ship surviving – just the bottoms of the frames and the forward part of the vessel. This areas, as you can see from the site-plan here created by the maritime Archaeology Trust, has a large void compared to the other cargo elements, so it’s possible that this was originally the location of some kind of organic cargo on the vessel that has long since degrade away.

The site has also recently been worked on by the New Forest National Park Association, who are responsible for this video.

And here you can see the sheets of glass, exactly packed as they were in Antwerp but without the boxes they were originally held in whose wooden material has long since gone.

The Fenna is really, really interesting because of the well-preserved cargo remains – here we can see the boxes of iron nails – but it’s a very, very ordinary ship. It’s not a transatlantic trading ship, or a big, glamorous warship or anything liek that. It’s really just representative of the normal, ordinary, everyday human activity and trading that was happening in the English Channel, the Bay of Biscay and The Mediterranean at this time.

Further reading about the Fenna

Vessel history and other detailed information

The Fenna site assessment

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