NEWPORT’s famous Medieval Ship was discovered 20 years ago and the Friends of Newport Ship and Newport City Council organized a Medieval Day on Saturday 30th July to celebrate.
The day started at 10 am at the Ship Center and consisted of lots of fun and educational activities.
Re-enactors were present in full costume and showed their extensive knowledge of the period, particularly the 15th century – which matches the age of the ship.
The Friends of Newport Ship gave tours and told visitors about the history of the ship while the timber that made up the ship was on display.
Sian King, a member of Friends of Newport Ship, said: “Newport has this amazing thing, it’s of international importance.
“It is the only existing ship of 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 around 1450 in the Basque region of Spain.
Built almost entirely of oak, although some parts are of beech, the ship would have been enormous for its time and had three masts.
It was built using the lapstrake or “clinker” method popularized by the Vikings.
Planks overlapped and tied together
This means that the boards overlap and are attached to each other, unlike the carvel method which sees the boards lined up next to each other to form a smooth shell.
The clinker method was eventually overtaken by the carvel technique as ships built using the carvel style had greater capacity.
Measuring up to around 30 meters in length, the ship could carry around 200 tons of cargo.
The ship probably operated along the trade route from Lisbon to Bristol and would have had men-at-arms on the ship to protect it from raiders.
Some materials from the men-at-arms, such as a helmet decoration, have been found.
Some of the artifacts found on the ship
The ship is believed to have crossed the Bay of Biscay on its way to Newport, carrying a large quantity of wine.
The Bay of Biscay is notorious for rough seas and violent storms, so it’s no surprise that along the way the ship was damaged and had to stop in Newport for repairs.
The results of these repairs baffled archaeologists for a short time, as the ship’s timber was found to have come from the Forest of Dean.
This convinced some that the ship was of English manufacture instead of Basque, but tests of the rest of the ship showed that the timber used for most of the ship had been cut in 1449.
This is significant because the parts of the ship that have English timber date from 1469.
This part was made with wood from the Forest of Dean
Another find that helped date the ship was a coin that had been deliberately placed in the keel.
Coins were placed in vessels 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 this type were only minted over a period of three months, helping to date the time the ship was built.
Despite attempts to repair the ship never left Newport.
It is believed that in its pill, the cradle supporting the ship collapsed and the hull was flooded.
The original stands that collapsed are kept in the same air-conditioned storage room that holds the remains of the ship.
This could be due to the sheer size of the vessel and the fact that the Newport docks were not used to handling such large vessels.
The ship was then salvaged and every usable part was salvaged for reuse.
Although a remarkable recycling, it has been difficult for archaeologists and historians to piece together the remaining parts of the ship.
It took many laborious years to put together what is essentially a gigantic and complex puzzle.
However, after 20 years of study, historians believe they know what the ship would have looked like in its heyday.
A model of what historians believe the hull looked like
Using this knowledge, the plan is to rebuild the ship and put it on display.
The ship’s current home in the Queensway Meadows Industrial Estate is large enough to accommodate a rebuilt ship, although modifications to the building will need to be made.
However, Ms King believes more can be done with the ship, especially given its international significance.
“We want a ship museum in Newport,” Ms King said.
“There is more than one boat that can be used, there was a Roman boat found.
“In levels and mud, there’s probably a lot more stuff down there.”