The student has been documenting the remains as part of a university project. Photo: Emma Marsh
The student has been documenting the remains for a university project. Photo: Emma Marsh

A chance walk along the beach has led to a fascinating project and international attention for a young archaeology student.

Emma Marsh, 20, has uncovered captivating insights into the history of Liverpool through rubble dumped at the coast following the Blitz.

At the height of the war in May 1941, German bombers tried to destroy the port, part of their wider attempt to hamper Britain’s war effort by flattening key cities.

Other major ports and industrial towns, such as London and Glasgow, were also the target of severe bombings.

As the country’s biggest western port, Liverpool was a centre of supplies for food and other cargoes from the USA and Canada, without which the country would not have survived.

Yet the bombing was often indiscriminate, leading to great loss of life, including the deaths of over 160 people in an air-raid shelter on a single night in late 1940.

Remains of a gravestone lying on Liverpool’s Crosby Beach –  just one of the countless artefacts uncovered by the student.
Remains of a gravestone lying on Liverpool’s Crosby Beach – just one of the countless artefacts uncovered by the student. Photo: Emma Marsh

After the war, a decision was made to transport the rubble from the city to shore up nearby Crosby beach, which was suffering from coastal erosion.

But this was more than just bricks and mortar – gravestones, plaques, and ornate tiling are amongst the sand and rocks. ‘As you walk along the beach you are instantly transported back to the 1940s,’ Emma wrote on her personal blog.

The student’s findings have received international attention, which has made her project of chronicling her discoveries considerably easier. An online community she has set up has allowed her to identify the origins of many artefacts.

‘If I come across something, I will put it online and within minutes experts and Liverpool residents will get in touch. They know these buildings, they know the style of architecture and can be really helpful,’ she told BBC News.

Emma hopes to record larger pieces through a process called photogrammetry – taking pictures from all angles to create digital models.

Conscious that the rubble will not last forever, Emma hopes to record or move everything of interest before the artefacts themselves are eroded by the sea.

You can follow Emma’s project on Twitter @ArchaeoBeach

This article was published in the December 2019 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.



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