School of History, Classics and Archaeology


Historic Seascape Characterisation: The Irish Sea (English Sector)

The project forms part of a programme implementing Historic Seascape Characterisation (HSC) mapping the historic character of the present coastal and marine environment around England. It applies the same principles as Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) to the sea and the coast.

Throughout history, people have had a huge influence on all aspects of the present coastal and marine environment. A common characterisation approach allows the land, coast and sea to be placed in a single framework that can be compared with natural environment datasets.

The project is undertaken in accordance with a robustly tested national methodology. The recent and ongoing HSC projects will cover about 60% of England’s seas and adjacent UK Controlled Waters and are set for completion by March 2011, contributing to an eventual national database. 

HSC mapping will raise public awareness and inform research, management and planning of the marine and coastal environment for the future, in response to increasing pressures on our coasts and seas from sea defences, aggregates extraction, oil and gas exploration, and wind-farm construction amongst many others.

All contribute to, but also impact on, the historic marine environment. HSC will provide a framework and inform marine spatial planning policy following enactment of the Marine and Coastal Access Act in 2009.

The Irish Sea project of the current HSC programme covers the entire coastline and Territorial Sea of the North West region of England, with the adjacent UK Controlled Waters. Its marine boundaries are defined by the national border with Wales in the south, the border between UK and Isle of Man to the west, and the national border with Scotland to the north. 

The coastal and marine environment of North West England has been heavily used and exploited for thousands of years. There is evidence for settlement and exploitation of the coastal and marine resources from early prehistory, and the large inter-tidal area of Morecambe Bay was a vital communication corridor before the advent of railways and modern roads crossed the extensive mosses and uplands of north Lancashire and southern Cumbria.

Many of the ports along the coast developed through trade with Ireland and the New World from the 16th century onwards, and many had links with the slave trade. The growth of the industrial North West is closely linked to its maritime history, and the large towns which mark the region’s coastline are the result of industrial development, the growth of ports and the development of seaside resorts to entertain the north of England’s rapidly growing urban population in the 19th century.

More information can be found on the Archaeology Data Service website.