NEWPORT'S famous medieval ship was discovered 20 years ago and the Friends of Newport Ship and Newport City Council held a medieval day on Saturday, July 30, to celebrate.

The day began at 10am at the Ship Centre and consisted of plenty of fun and educational activities.

Reenactors were present in full costume and showed off their extensive knowledge of the period, particularly the 15th century - which is the period the ship dates back to.

Friends of Newport Ship gave tours and educated visitors on the history of the ship while the timber that made up the ship was on display.

Sian King, member of Friends of Newport Ship said: "Newport has this amazing thing, it is of international significance.

"It is the only existing ship from the time."

The ship was first discovered in 2002 when work was undertaken to build the Riverfront Arts Centre.

Advanced techniques have determined that the ship was built in about 1450 in the Basque region of Spain.

Almost entirely made of oak, though some parts are made of beech, the ship would have been enormous for the time and had three masts.

It was built using the lapstrake or ‘clinker' method popularised by the Vikings.

The National Wales:

The planks overlapped and were fastened together

This means that planks overlap and are fastened to each other, as opposed to the carvel method which sees the planks line up next to each other to form a smooth hull.

The clinker method was eventually overtaken by the carvel technique as ships built using the carvel style had a greater capacity.

Measuring up to around 30 metres in length, the ship was able to transport around 200 tonnes of cargo.

The ship likely operated along the Lisbon to Bristol trade route and would have had men-at-arms on the ship to protect it from raiders.

Some material from the men-at-arms, such as a helmet decoration, were found.

The National Wales:

Some of the artefacts found from the ship

It is thought that the ship travelled through the Bay of Biscay to get to Newport, transporting a large amount of wine.

The Bay of Biscay is known for rough seas and violent storms, so it should be little surprise that on the way the ship was damaged and had to stop off in Newport for repairs.

The results of these repairs confused archaeologists for a short time, as wood from the ship was found to have been from the Forest of Dean.

This convinced some that the ship was English-made instead of Basque, but testing of the rest of the ship showed that the wood used for most of the ship was cut down in 1449.

This is significant as the parts of the ship that have English wood is dated from 1469.

The National Wales:

This part was made using wood from the Forest of Dean

Another find that helped to date the ship was a coin that had deliberately been placed in the keel.

Coins were placed in ships as a sign of good luck in a tradition that continues to this day.

The coin that was found was unique in that coins of its type were only minted over a three month period, helping to date the time that the ship was built.

Despite attempts at repair, the ship never left Newport.

It is thought that while in its pill, the cradle supporting the ship collapsed and the hull was flooded.

The original supports that collapsed are held in the same climate controlled storage room that hold the remains of the ship.

This could be because of the ship’s sheer size and that the docks in Newport were not used to dealing with ships that big.

The ship was then salvaged with every useable part being taken for reuse.

Although this was a remarkable bit of recycling, it has made it difficult for archaeologists and historians to piece together the remaining parts of the ship.

It took many painstaking years of assembling what is essentially a gigantic, complex jigsaw puzzle.

However, after 20 years of study historians believe they know what the ship would have looked like in its prime.

The National Wales:

A model of what historians think the hull looked like

Using that knowledge, the plan is to reconstruct the ship and put it on display.

The current home of the ship, in Queensway Meadows Industrial Estate, is large enough to accommodate a reconstructed ship, though modifications to the building will have to be made.


However, Ms King thinks that more can be done with the ship especially considering its international importance.

“We want a ship museum in Newport,” said Ms King.

“There is more than one boat that can be used, there was a Roman boat found.

“In the Levels and the mud there’s probably loads more stuff under there.”

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