Deadman’s Island

Related Articles

Related Articles

Located in the Medway estuary near the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, England lies Deadman’s Island, a small uninspiring stretch of land that contains a dark secret.

Over generations, this uninhabited mudbank has inspired tales of supernatural devil dogs, bodies buried without their skulls, and brain-eating ghouls to scare the local children from venturing to close to its lonely shores.

The truth behind the island stems back to the end of the Napoleonic Wars. At the war’s conclusion, some of the naval vessels were repurposed and converted into stationary floating prisons called hulks.

 

Image Credit : Adam Chodzko

The ships were rendered inoperable or unseaworthy, stripped of their mast, rigging and sails. Their gun ports were replaced with steel bars and the gun decks fitted with cells to hold hundreds of convicts, with boys as young as ten who were sentenced to the hulks for petty crimes by the draconian penal laws of the period.

Within the Chatham area of the Medway, historical records note at least 10 prison hulks throughout the late 18th and 19th century that included the HMS Canada, HMS Cumberland (renamed Fortitude), HMS Dolphin (renamed Dolphin), HMS Euryalus, HMS Ganymede, HMS Leven, HMS Leviathan and HMS Edgar (renamed Retribution).

The hulks had squalid filthy conditions and were a festering ground for disease and illness. Outbreaks of cholera were commonplace, caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholera that often resulted in death.

The inmates were denied a proper burial, as the authorities had to legally dispose of the numerous infected corpses and prevent further outbreaks so the bodies were placed in unmarked graves in isolated locations on the Medway mudflats such as Deadman’s Island.

Location of Deadman’s Island

Originally buried in wooden coffins under six feet of mud, coastal erosion and rising sea levels over the past 200 years have washed away the mud on the island to expose hundreds of human remains at times of low tide.

The surface of Deadman’s Island literally lives up to the name, a scene from a macabre horror movie with human skulls, teeth, and vertebrae littering the shoreline and dozens of exposed coffins and bodies. Identification of the remains is impossible and the tides of the Medway continuously redeposit body parts with the ongoing erosion. Eventually, Deadman’s Island and its hundreds of lost souls will be taken by the elements and will succumb to the sea.

Today the island is owned by Natural England and is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with access restricted (only accessible with permission) to protect the nesting and breeding of birds under the Ramsar Convention.

Header Image Credit : Adam Chodzko (www.adamchodzko.com)

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Study Sheds New Light on the Behaviour of the Giant Carnivorous Dinosaur Spinosaurus

New research from Queen Mary University of London and the University of Maryland, has reignited the debate around the behaviour of the giant dinosaur Spinosaurus.

New Skull of Tube-Crested Dinosaur Reveals Evolution of Bizarre Crest

The first new skull of a rare species of the dinosaur Parasaurolophus (recognized by the large hollow tube that grows on its head) discovered in 97 years.

Women Influenced Coevolution of Dogs and Humans

In a cross-cultural analysis, Washington State University researchers found several factors may have played a role in building the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and dogs, including temperature, hunting and surprisingly - gender.

Dinosaur Embryo Helps Crack Baby Tyrannosaur Mystery

They are among the largest predators ever to walk the Earth, but experts have discovered that some baby tyrannosaurs were only the size of a Border Collie dog when they took their first steps.

First People to Enter the Americas Likely Did so With Their Dogs

The first people to settle in the Americas likely brought their own canine companions with them, according to new research which sheds more light on the origin of dogs.

Climate Change in Antiquity: Mass Emigration Due to Water Scarcity

The absence of monsoon rains at the source of the Nile was the cause of migrations and the demise of entire settlements in the late Roman province of Egypt.

Archaeologists Discover Bas-Relief of Golden Eagle at Aztec Templo Mayor

A team of archaeologists from the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) have announced the discovery of a bas-relief depicting an American golden eagle (aquila chrysaetos canadensis).

Lost Alaskan Fort of the Tlingit Discovered

Researchers from Cornell University and the National Park Service have discovered the remnants of a wooden fort in Alaska – the Tlingit people’s last physical bulwark against Russian colonisation forces in 1804.

Popular stories

Exploring the Stonehenge Landscape

The Stonehenge Landscape contains over 400 ancient sites, that includes burial mounds known as barrows, Woodhenge, the Durrington Walls, the Stonehenge Cursus, the Avenue, and surrounds the monument of Stonehenge which is managed by English Heritage.

The Iron Age Tribes of Britain

The British Iron Age is a conventional name to describe the independent Iron Age cultures that inhabited the mainland and smaller islands of present-day Britain.

The Roman Conquest of Wales

The conquest of Wales began in either AD 47 or 48, following the landing of Roman forces in Britannia sent by Emperor Claudius in AD 43.

Vallum Antonini – The Antonine Wall

The Antonine Wall (Vallum Antonini) was a defensive wall built by the Romans in present-day Scotland, that ran for 39 miles between the Firth of Forth, and the Firth of Clyde (west of Edinburgh along the central belt).