Skulls, ribs and jawbones found on Deadman’s Island in Kent reveal its grim history as prison colony


HISTORIANS have been left open-mouthed as they continue to uncover skulls, ribs and jawbones on the muddy site of a former prison colony.

Extraordinary footage shows dozens of human remains scaled in barnacles and littering the sludgy banks of Deadman’s Island in Kent.

Jaws with still intact human teeth have been discovered at Deadman’s Island in Kent
Facebook/Simon Bourne
The remains at the mouth of the River Swale are littered all over the muddy banks at low tide
Facebook/Simon Bourne
The bones are from boys and men who died from disease while on prison hulks, floating jails from the 19th century
Facebook/Simon Bourne
The ghoulish finds have emerged due to erosion and rising water levels
Facebook/Simon Bourne
Wooden coffins buried underground are now surfacing due to rising sea levels

The small river island was used as a burial place for prisoners who perished from disease in the 19th century, with coffins buried six feet below the mud.

Holding up a human jaw with barnacles stuck to the sides, amateur historians were filmed gasping in astonishment.


“It literally is a bone graveyard,” one can be heard saying.

“That is incredible, still with the teeth left in it, can’t believe I’m touching a human jawbone.

“Can’t imagine what this person has seen or been through, it beggars belief.”

That is incredible, still with the teeth left in it, can’t believe I’m touching a human jawbone.

Amateur historian

In 2016 the remains of more than 200 humans were found on the island, believed to belong to men and boys who died on board floating jails known as prison hulks, moored in the area more than 200 years ago.

For many years the grim finds remained invisible to the human eye.

But rising sea levels and coastal erosion have begun to slowly wash away their final resting place, leaving wooden coffins and skeletal remains poking out of the mud.

They are now being washed out into the sea, making them difficult to rebury.

The bones derive from inmates who died on board prison hulks, floating prisons
Hulton Archive – Getty
More than 200 human remains were discovered on the site in 2016
The remains are slowly but surely being washed out to sea
BBC Press Handout
Astonishingly teeth are still intact in skulls found poking out of the mud
Facebook/Simon Bourne

The uninhabited mudbank on the estuary of the River Medway is owned by Natural England, who lease it to two people.

Visitors are actually banned from the island, though camera crews are sometimes permitted.

As well as a graveyard of bones, the protected wetland also serves as an important breeding and nesting site for birds.

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