Certificate no 2607
Status Replica


Function Cargo Vessel
Subfunction Coastal
Location Bristol
Vessel type Carrack
Current use Commercial Activity
Available to hire Yes
Available for excursions Yes
Info required No
Web address www.matthew.co.uk


Builder Rolt, M, Bristol
Built in 1994
Hull material Wood
Rig Square
Replica definition Operational Hypothesis
Number of decks 3
Number of masts 3
Propulsion Sail
Number of engines 2
Primary engine type Inboard diesel
Boiler type None


Breadth: Beam
20.50 feet (6.25 m)
Air Draft
67.50 feet (20.57 m)
6.00 feet (1.83 m)



THE MATTHEW replica was built to re-enact John Cabot's 1497 voyage across the Atlantic to Newfoundland in 1997.  The only known facts about the original ship are her tonnage, the approximate dates and times of her voyage and the fact that she had a crew of 18 plus Cabot.  From this small amount of information and with a great deal of research, the replica was designed.  The resulting vessel tells a significant story about the history of British ship design - providing a link between the Norman and Elizabethan periods.  Her square rig and hull form were based on generic designs for explorers of the period.

The project was started in February 1994 with the preparation of the site at Redliffe Wharf.  The construction team consisted of a Project Manager, a loftsman and 10 local Shipwrights, one of them being Mark Rolt of the Bristol Classic Boat Company. 

The replica was built on Redcliffe Wharf, Bristol, close to Saint Mary Redliciffe church where John Cabot attended services.  The original MATTHEW would also have been constructed close to this site.

The ship is a full-size replica.  The major constraint in terms of ship size in medieval days was the keel which had to be made from one piece of straight hardwood in Cabot's Bristol oak, or elm might have been used.  In 1995 there was no length of oak straight enough in the country to be used for the keel and so the African hardwood, Opepe, was used instead.

The frames are made from oak that is unseasoned or 'green'.  Much of the oak originally earmarked for THE MATTHEW was eventually used in the rebuilding of Windsor Castle following the fire.  There are 50 frames made from 30 different oak trees.  The stern and stern post are also made from oak.

The vessel was transferred from the ss Great Britain Trust to The Matthew of Bristol Trust on 29 February 2012.  She runs regular harbour tours and is chartered for sailing trips around the British Isles and to Europe.

Update, April 2022: The MATTHEW is celebrating her 25th anniversary in 2022, with a host of plans and events. Read more


Classic Boat: 1,000 Boat Pageant - The Flotilla Boats, June 2012

Key dates

  • 1994 - 1996 Vessel built at Redcliffe Wharf, Bristol
  • 2012 29 February: vessel transferred from ss Great Britain Trust to The Matthew of Bristol Trust

Own this vessel?

If you are the owner of this vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information, please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk

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