Monday, 27 Mar 2023

15th-century wine-trading ship to be restored 20 years after discovery

After 20 years of painstaking restoration, archaeologists have started to reassemble the wreck of a 15th-century ship found in a south Wales riverbank.

With almost 2,500 pieces, measuring 30 metres and weighing 25 tonnes, the Newport Ship conservation project is the world’s largest attempt to put an archaeological ship back together.

Specialists have been working on it since the discovery of the shipwreck in 2002.

Remains of the former wine-trading ship along with 1,000 medieval artefacts were found on the banks of the River Usk.

‘We have a massive, flat-pack ship that we need to reassemble and there are no instructions,’ the project’s curator Toby Jones, told the BBC.

‘There is going to be a lot of fitting, checking and disassembling and fitting again and again,’

The Newport Ship would be the first and only archaeological ship on display from the 15th-century.

In 1982, 437 years after she sank, the remains of the Mary Rose, 16th-century English warship was conserved and is now displayed in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Last month, all of the Newport Ship’s 550-year-old timber was finally dried out and restored to go on display. The process costed about £8 million which included freeze-drying the wood at the Mary Rose museum in Portsmouth.

Historians hope to put the wreckage back together and have it on display within the next five years.

‘The Newport Ship tells us a bunch of things that the Mary Rose can’t,’ TV historian Dan Snow told the BBC.

‘The Mary Rose was a Tudor vessel, it feels like an early modern vessel, while the Newport Ship is a trading ship operating at the beginning of a revolution in European shipbuilding,’

The Newport Ship is thought to symbolise the birth of an era of European exploration, just a generation before Christopher Columbus set out across the Atlantic.

‘The Newport ship is one of the most interesting and important shipwrecks found in British waters in a generation,’

The ship’s wood came from northern Spain and it carried wine from France.

The preserved boat is expected to attract up to 150,000 visitors a year, making it one of Wales’ most popular tourist attractions, adding £7 million a year to the economy of south Wales.

It’s still unclear where the ship would be housed but an empty department store could be a possibility.

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