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ShipShape: Newport's Medieval Ship

AHRC Film commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Newport Ship discovery

In 2002 the remains of a medieval ship were discovered during the construction of a theatre and arts centre, on the bank of the river Usk in Newport, South Wales.

Ten years on, The Newport Ship remains the most substantial, and arguably the most important medieval ship found in Britain in modern times. The recovery of the ship in 2002 captured the imagination of Newport and sparked strong local support for its rescue and display, mirrored by widespread academic interest.

An ongoing funding commitment from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in a project led by Nigel Nayling, Associate Professor, University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, has been instrumental in the conservation, reconstruction and display of the ship.

In this short film we hear from Nigel Nayling who gives us a history of the ship’s discovery and tells us how AHRC funding is helping Newport unravel the secrets of this mysterious vessel.

After discovery, the ship was dismantled and the remains were excavated piece-by-piece and stored in large freshwater containers to prevent decay. A total of 1,700 ship timbers and over 600 associated timbers were retrieved and catalogued. With the help of AHRC funding, each individual timber was painstakingly recorded using 3-dimensional recording arms to produce a digital record of the ship's key structural elements.

Each of the waterlogged timbers is now being chemically treated to remove contaminants such as iron and sulphur. Once treated, the timbers are put in a giant freeze dryer to get rid of the water. Drying is scheduled to finish by 2014, and it will take another three years to rebuild the ship.

In the meantime public interest (demonstrated by tens of thousands of visitors to the Newport Ship Centre) has needed to be sustained. This has been achieved through the production of a 1:10 scale model of the ship which was built using pieces modelled from the 3D digital records.

The AHRC also funded an interim exhibition, of which the 3D model formed the centre piece, which addressed some of the most common questions asked by the public such as "What did the ship look like?", "How big was the ship?" and "How much cargo could it carry?".

Feedback from public responses to the exhibition has been used to help develop display concepts for a permanent display of the ship once all the timbers have been treated and dried, and the ship has been reconstructed.

The exhibition, and the AHRC-funded research underpinning it, was achieved through partnerships between the Newport Museum and Heritage Service (keeper of the ship) and the University of Wales, Lampeter, which has provided archaeological consultancy support since the ship’s discovery.

For more information on the Newport Ship please see the University of Wales website (opens in a new window).

Publish date Runtime
24/08/2012 5.53