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Ian Friel is a historian, writer and consultant with an international reputation in the field of maritime history

With a lifetime’s enthusiasm for history and archaeology, Ian is committed to helping people appreciate how important it is to understand the past as a way of understanding the world. He has many years of research and writing experience, and a specialist knowledge of maritime history that ranges from the Middle Ages to modern times.

Ian also has experience at all levels of the museum profession, from national to local museums, and from researcher to curator and manager. He has worked successfully as a museum consultant since 2007, playing an important role as an interpretation specialist and researcher for projects in London, Southampton, Portsmouth, West Sussex, the Lake District and Poole. He has been involved in successful HLF project bids for over £13.5 million of museum development funding.

Ian works in a range of areas

as a museum and heritage interpretation consultant

as an historical consultant in medieval, Tudor and maritime history

as a speaker or guided tour lecturer for a wide range of historical topics

as a house historian, researching and writing house, property and building histories

as a general historical consultant for print, radio, TV and film projects


2022-2024: Ian has researched and written house histories for private clients in Suffolk, Devon, Buckinghamshire, West Sussex (Chichester), Surrey and Gloucestershire.

In 2022 Ian researched the documentary evidence for another 17th century shipwreck, working in conjunction with a university and a museum. He was able to identify it, and reveal something of its extraordinary backstory – details to be announced in due course!

At the end of August 2020, Pen & Sword published the first of two new books written by Ian, Britain and the Ocean Road – Shipwrecks and People 1297-1825. Based on firsthand research, the books use the stories of various shipwrecks as waypoints in an exploration of Britain’s complex maritime history, and how it impacted the world. The second book, Breaking Seas, Broken Ships – People, Shipwrecks and Britain 1854-2007, was published in 2021, and both books were shortlisted for the Maritime Foundation’s 2021 Mountbatten Award for Best Book.

In early 2020 Ian undertook a research project for the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, looking into the long and fascinating history of the oyster fishery in Chichester Harbour. Free pdfs of his report, entitled Real Natives, can obtained by contacting Ian.

Hoakes Island – A Fiendish Puzzle Adventure: in 2018 Ian created the story for this children’s puzzle and adventure book, devised and illustrated by his daughter, the illustrator Helen Friel (, for Laurence King Publishing. Find out more at: Helen and Ian are currently at work on another children’s book project for LKP, due for publication in 2021.

Ian’s research identified the 17th-century Swash Channel Wreck as the Fame of Hoorn in the Netherlands, lost off Poole in February 1631. See: and

Agent representation: Ian’s writing is now represented by Donald Winchester of Watson, Little Ltd (