The Sutton Hoo’s Ship Company was formed in 2016 with the sole purpose of creating a permanent and authentic replica of the Anglo-Saxon ship.
Buried in the 7th century within the Sutton Hoo royal burial grounds and discovered in 1939, the ship was a mere shadow of its former awe-inspiring glory.
The Ship’s Company team is made up of professionals, volunteers and enthusiasts who are working together to fully understand the dimensions and construction methods.
The ship will be built in the newly opened, Longshed, a purpose-built unit gifted to the town and dedicated to the maritime history and education.
The team will build the Saxon ship using authentic ship-building methods with the help of marine archaeologists, ship architects, shipwrights and experts in green wood working. Together with strong academic support from the Universities of York and Southampton the team will ensure detailed records are kept at every stage of the build. Along with professional shipwrights overseeing critical parts of the build, the team will engage with apprentices and students from the International Boatbuilding Training College at Lowestoft to benefit from learning on the build.
During the build a comprehensive, informative and entertaining public engagement programme will aim to increase understanding and appreciation of Anglo-Saxon life and culture.
The rebuild will provide the best possible means of testing and understanding how the ship could have been used under a range of different conditions. This will be achieved:
- using modern technologies and a range of professional skills to interpret data from records of the 1939 and 1967 excavations including information about the impact of the burial process and passage of time to develop a design brief for a ship resembling the ship that was built and subsequently buried in Mound 1
- using the design brief to build a ship based on current understanding of the materials and building methods that would have been used by Anglo-Saxon shipbuilders
- to carry out sea-trials to test hypotheses regarding how the boat was propelled (by oars and/or sail), what it could have been used for, what it may have carried, under what conditions was it safe and therefore where it might have been sailed
- to provide a comprehensible, informative and entertaining means of engaging the public and increasing understanding and appreciation of Anglo-Saxon life and culture
- to achieve these objectives in a way that enables local people of Woodbridge to engage in all stages of the project either through active participation in the build process or ancillary activities e.g. recording, interpretation, guiding.
Find out more
You can read more about the project, view drawings, and find out how to support the Sutton Hoo team at www.saxonship.org.
On October 6 The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company held an international Symposium in the Longshed, where experts in ancient ships and boatbuilding (including from the Viking museum at Roskilde, Denmark) gathered to consider academic and other papers, to hear about the work on hull shape, the construction methods and materials.
The original ship was built in green oak; the replica will be built in green oak. The original ship had the planks cleft from logs - the Anglo-Saxons had no saws - and the planks will be cleft in the same way. The original ship had over 3000 iron rivets to hold it together - the new ship must have something that at least replicates the properties of this older material.
There are still many mysteries in the build, not least that there was no source of ancient iron - bog iron - in Suffolk. So, where did it come from? Or where did the original ship come from? From the repairs it had there was evidence of a long and useful life before it was interred, so there is still much to learn, not least from the exciting prospect of sea trials when finally the ship glides into the River Deben in a spectacular launch.
One of the fascinations of working with green oak is how soft it is and. How easy to work. Pat Tanner, an expert In digital modelling but also a shipwright of twenty years said at the Symposium, “When I work with green oak, I only need to sharpen my tools once a week; when I use seasoned oak I have to sharpen them twice a day”. That sets the time frame for the build; oak will only stay green, unseasoned, for a certain time, even if it is kept in the river when it isn’t being worked on so The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company must get it’s financial and other ducks in a row before felling the first oak to form the keel of this historic reconstruction.
Go to www.Saxonship.org to find out more and to donate!