Skeleton of sailor who died in shipwreck 200 years ago washes up on British beach

A skeleton understood to be of a 200-year-old suspected shipwreck victim have been found washed up on a beach in Cornwall.

The remains of a human thought to be from an early 18th century sailor, were discovered on a footpath on the north Cornish coast.

The bones were found earlier this month by a member of the public near Trevone, Cornwall, overlooking Newtrain Bay.

Detectives and forensic officers attended the scene and determined the remains were historic and therefore the area was not considered a crime scene.

After obtaining a license to excavate, a bone specialist from the Cornwall Archeological Unit carefully removed the bones with the help of the person who originally found them and officers from Cornwall Council.

Ann Reynolds, Senior Officer for the Rural Historic Environment at Cornwall Council, said: “Initial investigation has shown that the remains were of an adult, cut off just above the knees, potentially by the construction of an adjacent hedge.

“Two bones have shown heavy wear patterns, suggesting an exceptionally well-developed upper body muscle mass. This may indicate a life of hard labour, pulling, pushing and lifting.

“Given the location of the remains on the cliff and near the notoriously dangerous approach to Padstow Harbour, it is possible that they are of a shipwrecked sailor,

“And if so, potentially date to before 1808, after which the Grylls Act decreed that drowned remains washed ashore should be buried in consecrated ground.”

This means that bodies like this one, that washed ashore before the act, were buried unceremoniously on the nearest cliff.

Whilst it is not unusual to find such remains along the Cornish coast, in this case the skeleton was only discovered due to constant wear on the popular footpath.

Ms Reynolds continued: “The remains were located beside an area that is popular for memorial benches and floral tributes and were clearly visible within the coastal path.

“It was important to act swiftly, first to determine that they were archaeological in nature and then to carefully remove the remains, showing dignity to the deceased and to avoid any distress to visitors to the spot.”

Once further analysis has taken place on the remains, reburial plans will go ahead for the lost sailor.

Councillor Martyn Alvey, portfolio holder for Environment and Climate Change at Cornwall Council, added: “I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in this excavation and shown such care while carrying out their work.

“I hope that we can discover more about this individual before they are laid to rest once more.”