Following a year-long halt on construction due to the pandemic, Philip Leech, director of the charity, Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company, shares news that it’s all systems go with the reconstruction of Sutton Hoo’s famous Anglo-Saxon ship, which was buried in the seventh century and reborn in the 21st.
Woodbridge’s maritime history is an important one. Ships drawing up to four metres – about 15 feet in old money – were built here in town and launched into the Deben, which is hard to believe now, with the silt that over the years has been carried up with the tide and deposited.
But our town’s maritime tradition continues in a number of boatyards up and down the waterfront, with pride of place – well, we feel it should have pride of place – going to The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company, based in Longshed in Whisstock’s Place. Our pride is because we – and that means principally volunteers – are recreating the iconic Sutton Hoo king’s burial ship. The full story can be read here.
After what feels like a very long time indeed it’s again an exciting time for our charity.
Like many others our efforts were hampered by the Coronavirus pandemic, but we’re about to re-start the project and resume construction. Work at our second site near Bredfield is meticulously planned out and will be visible in April when we transport the keel blank, prepared from our lovely green oak log, back to the Longshed. Laying the keel marks a true beginning after years of preparation, modelling and training. And we’re looking for more volunteers to train, to work with us, to feel ownership of this lovely ship that’s now ready to take shape. You can make something both beautiful and purposeful at the same time – because creation of the ship has a serious scientific purpose.
We are undertaking a huge experimental archaeology project – probably the biggest in Northern Europe. Very little of the ship remained in the ground when it was excavated. Colleagues from Southampton University used modern technologies (including photogrammetry and digital modelling) to interpret data derived from the rivet positions in the original excavation. They were then able to draw a computerised plan for the build. Their work shed new light on the characteristics and potential performance of the original ship – what it would have looked like and how it might have been crewed and rowed. Building the ship at full-scale from green oak using tools that would have been available in the seventh century, then testing it on the water will increase our understanding of just how capable the early Anglo-Saxons really were.
Our progress depends on getting funding and we continue to try to keep ahead of the game. We are making good progress and have several excellent prospects in the pipeline, as well as the ongoing and much appreciated funding from existing sponsors.
However, we need to widen our reach and to that end we have set up a crowdfunding site. Please visit our crowdfunding page, which includes videos, our background story and who is supporting us.
Once you’ve had a chance to do that, please consider whether you might like to sign up to our newsletter, and/or volunteer. Of course, our main need is for support in the boat shed – and we have a training budget for those keen to get involved, but there’s a thousand other roles we also need your help with, so please get in touch if you’re looking to get involved in something special that will help keep our maritime history alive.
Picture shows left to right: Simon Steel, Joe Startin, Philip Leech and Jacq Barnard