A massive 15th-century sailing ship found during construction in Wales is set to be restored after 20 years of painstaking work
- The Newport ship was discovered in 2002 and is being carefully restored
- Rebuilding can now begin once a permanent home is found
A massive 15th-century ship, preserved in the mud for centuries, is set to be restored after years of painstaking work.
The Newport ship was discovered by archaeologists in the South Wales city in 2002 during the construction of an orchestra pit for an arts centre.
The ship was surprisingly well preserved, having been submerged in a thick layer of mud under the Usk River for around 500 years.
It was built in 1440 during the War of the Roses, making it one of the earliest examples of shipbuilding discovered.
It even predates Henry VIII’s famous warship The Mary Rose, built in 1511 and partially preserved in a Portsmouth museum.
The ship was surprisingly well preserved, having been submerged in a thick layer of mud under the Usk River for around 500 years
More than 1,000 objects have been recovered from the remains of the ship, giving archaeologists clues as to its origins
After 19 years of painstaking salvaging and restoring the remains of the Newport ship, it was finally readied for a full restoration last month, The Mirror reported.
Each section of wood harvested was dried by hanging the pieces in huge wax tanks.
The pieces were taken to the Mary Rose shipyard or York where they could be freeze dried.
The ship parts have now been moved to a warehouse in Newport until a permanent home can be found.
curator dr Toby Jones has already spent years carefully preserving the Newport ship’s fragile oak tree, and he said it could be a decade before it’s finally finished.
He said: “Having been working on the project for 19 years now, we still have five to ten years before it is exhibited.”
dr Jones added: “Every now and then I shudder with fire. This thing was going to explode in a second.
“But everything falls apart and decays.
“Our job is to slow it down to hopefully imperceptible levels so that it lasts as long as possible.”
Physical and digital models of what the ship is believed to have been like were constructed to guide restorers.
The ship and its cargo were surprisingly well preserved, having been immersed in a thick layer of mud
The ship was built in 1440, making it even older than the famous Mary Rose. Pictured: Artist’s impression of the ship Newport
Artifacts found at the site indicate that the merchant ship operated from Portugal
One suggested idea is that the ship would be housed in an empty department store, but no plan has been finalized.
Analyzes show that the wood used to build the ship came from the Basque Country, while barrels on board suggest it was a wine trading vessel.
More than 1,000 artifacts found at the dig site, including coins, suggest it was operated from Portugal.
How it came to rest in Newport is unknown, but the theory has been that it was confiscated in 1469 by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.
dr Jones said: “We have a letter from Warwick in 1469 which said, ‘Repair my ship at Newport.’
“So it’s a circumstance, but Warwick was quite a fuss.
“We’ll leave that to the historians. Our job is just to try to extract and share all the information.”
Among the items found were a brass helm rim inlaid with Bible verses and a coin embedded in the ship’s keel as part of a sailing superstition.
dr Jones and his team must now figure out how each of the salvaged pieces fit together so that once a place for the Newport ship is found, rebuilding can begin.