Newport Ship

– Saved after Campaign

The Newport Ship was found in the summer of 2002. After an intense campaign to save the ship, the Newport City Council decided to save it and finally display it to the public. The investigation and conservation will take years and cost an estimated 3.5 million pounds.

The Council for British Archaeology and CBA Wales/Cymru, the archaeology umbrella bodies for Britain and Wales, supported the Save Our Ship campaign for the medieval Newport Ship. The campaigns helped persuading Newport Council and national heritage bodies to save the finest medieval ship ever found in Britain.

BackgroundNewport Ship

  1. The ship was found in 2002 during foundation works for the orchestra pit of a new Theatre and Arts Centre. The Welsh Assembly and Cadw have so far made over £350,000 available to suspend construction and enable the recording work to take place, but there is currently no plan to save more than a small sample of key timbers.
  2. The Newport Ship has been described as a cross between a cog and a Viking longship, tree-ring dated to the winter of 1465/6 and apparently recently returned from Portugal, with loads of Portuguese pottery and large lumps of cork. Unique in northern Europe, she is the only extant example of a merchantman of this period.
  3. Following recording and sampling, the majority of the ship was due to be bulldozed over the 26/27 August public holiday in 2002.

The Council for British Archaeology

The Council for British Archaeology is an educational charity that promotes knowledge, appreciation and care of the historic environment for present and future generations on a UK-wide basis, with a membership of over 500 heritage organisations and c.10,000 subscribing individuals of all ages. CBA Wales/Cymru undertakes this role in Wales.

Francis Pryor, President of the CBA said:

'Culture and history go hand-in-hand. You can't have one without the other. People want to see the real past, not some virtual reality model. It would be vandalism to found a cultural centre on the remains of a treasure of national and international importance like this without making the effort to save it.'

Jenny Britnell, Secretary of CBA Wales/Cymru said:

'This find is very special to Wales: it is not the first medieval boat to be found in the area – but it is by far the most impressive. The others were worth lifting and preserving – this one is twenty times more so. This could really bring the origins of Newport and Wales's medieval dealings with Europe alive for future generations. This is a European cultural catalyst for Wales's newest City'

George Lambrick, Director of the CBA said:

Let's not scupper the chance of turning this fantastic find into a real asset for Newport. The key thing is to lift the timbers scientifically and get them into temporary storage tanks so that the possibility of long-term preservation can be explored without further holding up the work. Deciding only to make a record and keep a sample is not good enough – it immediately closes down a whole range of options for the future, which need careful assessment and planning.

Further reading

original text by Alex Hunt, Council for British Archaeology, rewritten by Per Åkesson

Photo by Joe Flatman, looking obliquely towards the port bow from above the starboard quarter. Site drawing courtesy Friends of the Newport Ship.
Article published on Nordic Underwater Archaeology Aug '02, rev jul '12

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