Britain and the Ocean Road – Shipwrecks and People 1297 – 1825

Pen & Sword Ltd, Barnsley, 2020

Britain and the Ocean Road charts a course through British maritime history from the 1200s to the 1820s through the stories of eight shipwrecks and the people that they affected. Each narrative has a powerful human story at its heart, and has something to say about Britain, the sea and the wider world at different times in the country’s past. Readers will encounter an extraordinary range of people, ships and events, from the 13th-century Great Yarmouth sailors butchered by their fellow countrymen in a forgotten maritime civil war, the 17th-century American teenager who stepped from one ship to another, and into a life of piracy, the British warship that fought at Trafalgar – on the French side – and the floating hell of a Liverpool slave-ship in the year before the slave trade was abolished. This book is the first of two, written with the aim of introducing a general audience to the remarkable, gripping, unexpected and sometimes horrifying story of Britain, its people and the sea. Each book is based on original documentary research, and historians and archaeologists will also find them of interest. The second book, Breaking Seas, Broken Ships, will take the story from the age of steam to the 21st century, and will appear in 2021.

Henry V’s Navy – The Sea-Road to Agincourt and Conquest 1413-1422
The History Press, Stroud 2015

‘The book is written in a colloquial style which will make it attractive to a general audience… It should have an appeal to those interested in the past who may not have a strong background in maritime history… His study does rest on academic foundations as witnessed by the endnotes and bibliography. This rare blend of academic knowledge and accessibility no doubt stems from the author’s long career in maritime research, museum work, and outreach to the general public.

‘Ian Friel’s Henry V’s Navy: The Sea-Road to Agincourt and Conquest 1413-1422 makes for an engaging read… The author argues that the place of Henry’s sea wars has been understudied and needs to reach a wider audience. Hopefully, this brief but absorbing treatment of the role, the men and the ships in Henry’s navy will find the appreciative popular audience it deserves’.
Professor Cheryl Fury, University of New Brunswick (review in Mariner’s Mirror, 2016)

The British Museum Maritime History of Britain and Ireland c 400-2001
British Museum Press, London 2003

“Lucid and concise; it is both an essential work of reference and a splendidly enjoyable read.”
Roy Clare, Director of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (review in Waterstone’s Books Quarterly, 2003)

“…the first successful attempt to cover so vast a topic in so brief a space… a short, handy and reliable encyclopaedia… an excellent introduction to a subject of undying fascination and importance.”
Professor Geoffrey Scammell, Pembroke College, Cambridge (review in Mariner’s Mirror, 2004)

The Good Ship. Ships, Shipbuilding and Technology in England 1200-1520
British Museum Press, London and Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1995

“This is a first-class work of history… necessary reading, I suggest, not only for the medievalists but also for all those whose work is concerned with the development of shipping.”
Basil Greenhill, formerly Director of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (review in Mariner’s Mirror, 1996)

“A most important contribution to a neglected subject.”
N A M Rodger, The Safeguard of the Sea (1997)

Co-author with Rebecca Fardell, Littlehampton
The Archive Photographs Series Chalford, Glos. 1998

Co-editor (with M J Rodriguez-Salgado and others), Armada 1588-1988, Official Catalogue of the National Maritime Museum Exhibition,
Penguin, London 1988 (also a major contributor, including sections on the English fleet and army, the course of the campaign and many catalogue entries).

Shipwreck/Maritime Research Studies

The Plaster Fleet. A Report on the Graffiti discovered on the North Wall of Room 19, Tudor House Museum, Southampton
Report on a very significant group of 16th/17th century maritime graffiti (for Southampton City Museums, 2011)

The Mercy of the Sea – Identifying the Swash Channel Wreck
Study and identification of a major 17th century wreck off Poole (for Bournemouth University, 2013)

Four First World Oil Tankers
Study of the construction, service histories and losses of four British tankers sunk in the Great War (for Wessex Archaeology and an external client, 2015)

Possible Holy Ghost shipwreck site press, October 2015
The press release for this was issued by Historic England and the story was featured in most UK newspapers, including the Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Independent and the Daily Mail, as well as BBC TV (main news and South), ITV and Sky, BBC Radio Today Programme and Radio 4 news, Radio 5 Live, and nine BBC local radio channels.
The piece was also picked up by an extensive range of print media, radio and TV abroad, including mainland Europe, India, Japan, Australia and the USA.

A Question of Identity – Historical Sources and the Alderney Wreck, 2019                        Research report for the Aderney Maritime Trust – an extensive investigation into the documentary sources for late-16th/early 17th-century English armed ships, and the contemporary history of armed conflict in the English Channel.

Real Natives’ – A Study of the History of the Oyster Fishery in Chichester Harbour, 2020   Research report for the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority. The report looked into issues such as oyster yields, but also uncovered stories of oyster ‘piracy’ (by fishermen from East Coast, not buccaneering oysters), failed land reclamation projects by greedy landowners, environmental damage, along with class-conflict and a bitter 16-month strike by fishermen in late-Victorian Bosham. Not quite the conventional picture of Chichester Harbour…

Online Lectures

Gresham College, London, 31 October 2013
1295: the Year of the Galleys
By November 2016, this had been viewed on YouTube nearly 10,000 times.

Gresham College Lecture, London, 29 September 2009
Elizabethan Merchant Ships and Shipbuilding
(both available as downloadable text transcript, audio or video:

Creative Writing

Children’s book (with Helen Friel, title currently under wraps)
Text of a puzzle and story book for children, with concept and illustrations by Helen Friel (for Laurence King Publishing, due for publication in 2017)

Billy Bow – The Musical.
Writer of the book, co-writer (with Andrew Fisher) of the lyrics (music by Andrew Fisher).     Performed as a workshop production with a cast of professional actors and students at the Studio in the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, July 2010 and also by the Curve Young Company, Curve Theatre, Leicester, May 2015. The show is currently still under development. Kate Weston, of the Janet Fillingham Agency, represents all of my Billy Bow-related work.

Tusks and other strange stories
A collection of short stories, in progress.  Some are available on:

House Histories

These are self-published works undertaken for private clients and identified by their village or town.
Stedham, Chichester 2016

A 19th-century rural cottage in West Sussex and its people
Cutmill, Chichester 2014

A 1920s house built near Chichester for a celebrated writer
White Chapel, Chichester 2013

An 18th-century coaching inn in the west Midlands
West Malvern, Chichester 2012

A former Victorian laundry in Worcestershire
Reigate, Chichester 2012

A late Victorian villa in Surrey
Charlton, Chichester 2010

A Downland cottage traced back to the early 17th century
East Dean, Chichester 2010

Georgian house and farm set in a former medieval deer park 
Finchdean, Hampshire: A Sourcebook, Chichester 2009

Georgian village cottage, once the home of a manorial carpenter 
Rose Green, Chichester 2009

17th-century or earlier husbandman’s house, later redeveloped by a Georgian ‘property developer’
Littlehampton, Chichester 2008

18th-century shipbuilder’s house with a very varied history

House History press

The Independent, 6 January 2010

Chichester Observer, 18 October 2012


Co-editor, with Janine Lovatt, A Littlehampton Chronology 1945-1970,
Littlehampton Museum Publications, New Series, No 2, Littlehampton 1995

Rationed Recipes.   Recipes from the Age of Austerity
Littlehampton Museum Publications, New Series, No 1, Littlehampton 1995

The Mary Rose and 16th-Century History
National Curriculum History handbook for schools, Mary Rose Trust, Portsmouth 1991

The Company.   Shipboard Life in the Time of Henry VIII,
History/drama project for schools, Mary Rose Trust, Portsmouth 1991

Maths, Science and the Mary Rose,
National Curriculum Maths and Science handbook for schools, Mary Rose Trust, Portsmouth 1991

Papers and other contributions

‘ ‘One and no more’ – Henry V’s Holy Ghost’ Scuttlebutt magazine, No 53, 2016, pp 44-47, National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth

‘Royal shipbuilding on the Thames 1509-1547’ in C Ellmers et al eds, Proceedings of the Sixth Thames Shipbuilding Symposium (forthcoming).

‘The rise and fall of the big ship’, in E Jones and R Stone (eds), The World of the Newport Ship (forthcoming).

‘A matter of interpretation: historical research, museums and heritage’, Sea Lines of Communication Conference Proceedings, Southampton Marine and Maritime Studies Institute Postgraduate Group, Southampton 2014, pp. 6-24

‘Medieval English ships and shipping’, 2014 paper for the Océanides international maritime history project, Paris (Boydell and Brewer 2017, in press)

‘How much did the sea matter in medieval England?’, in Medieval Seas, ed. R.C.Gorski, Boydell Press (2012)

Medieval Ships and Seafaring, bibliographical article for Oxford Bibliographies Online, Oxford University Press, New York, 2011 (

‘ ‘…ignorant of nautical matters’: ship iconography and Mariner’s Mirror’, Mariner’s Mirror (Journal of the Society for Nautical Research), Vol. 96, 2011, pp. 77-96.

‘Guns, Gales & God: Elizabeth I’s Merchant Navy’, History Today, January 2010, pp. 45-51

Contributor to the catalogue of the Unpacked Exhibition, Chichester District Museum/Artel, Chichester 2003

 Review article of three works on maritime archaeology, ‘Watercraft: new field, endangered resource’ in Antiquity, Vol. 78, 2004, pp. 210-13

 ‘Oars, Sails and Guns: the English and War at Sea, c 1200-c 1500’, in J B Hattendorf and R W Unger (eds)., War at Sea in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge 2003, pp. 69-79

Frobisher’s Ships: the ships of the North-Western Atlantic voyages 1576-1578’, in T H B Symons (ed)., Meta Incognita: A Discourse of Discovery. Martin Frobisher’s Arctic Expeditions, 1576-1578, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa 1999, pp. 299-352

Review of Francis Drake: The Lives of a Hero, by John Cummins, Times Higher Education Supplement, 12 July 1996

‘Spanish and English shipping in the Middle Ages’, in C M Gerrard et al. (eds)., Spanish Medieval Ceramics in Spain and the British Isles, BAR International Series 610, Oxford 1995

‘The carrack: the advent of the full-rigged ship’, in R W Unger (ed)., Cogs, Caravels and Galleons.   The Sailing Ship 1000-1650, Conway’s History of the Ship, London 1994, pp. 77-90

‘Winds of Change? Ships and the Hundred Years War’, in A Curry and M Hughes (eds)., Arms, Armies and Fortifications in the Hundred Years War, Boydell and Brewer, Woodbridge 1994, pp 83-93

‘Henry V’s Grace Dieu and the wreck in the R Hamble near Bursledon, Hampshire’, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Vol 22, 1993, pp. 3-19

Contributor on ‘Ships’ to The Guinness Book of Records 1492, Guinness Publishing, London 1992

‘The nombre of shippes…’, Strategies education magazine, Vol 2, March 1992, pp. 22-25

‘The building of the Lyme Galley, 1294-1296’, Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, Vol 108, 1986, pp. 41-44

‘The three-masted ship and Atlantic voyages’, in J Youings (ed)., Raleigh in Exeter, Exeter 1985, pp. 21-37

‘Documentary sources and the medieval ship’, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Vol 12, 1983, pp. 41-62

‘The regio of the Hicce’, Hertfordshire’s Past, Autumn 1982, pp. 2-13

English Naval Forces from Henry IV to Henry VIII, Mary Rose Society Occasional Paper No 5, Portsmouth 1982

‘England and the advent of the three-masted ship’, International Congress of Maritime Museums, 4th Conference Proceedings, Paris 1981, pp. 130-38

Book Reviews

Ian has written numerous book reviews over the years, for publications including the International Journal of Maritime History, the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and the Times Higher Education Supplement.