четверг, 30 января 2020 г.

Large 15th century merchant vessel being put back together piece by piece


"Reassembling a 600-year-old ship from its original timbers is like doing a 3D jigsaw puzzle with 2,500 pieces, without the picture on the box" - that's how Bob Evans, chairman of the Friends of the Newport Ship, describes the work being carried out on a fascinating historical find. The ship is the best example of its kind in the world.

Large 15th century merchant vessel being put back together piece by piece
Newport Ship during excavation in 2002 [Credit: Rob Norman/WalesOnline]


It is the best preserved large 15th century ship found anywhere in the world and is currently hidden away in an industrial unit on the south side of Newport.

It's a unique piece of history; 60 years older than the Mary Rose and about three quarters of her size, she was a merchant ship of about 400 tons displacement and over 30 metres in length. Clearly it's impressive, but it's more than that - it's an amazing piece of history.

"In her time the Newport Ship was one of the biggest vessels afloat," explained Mr Evans. "She was a merchant vessel, not a warship and she is an important part of Newport’s heritage as an historic port and maritime centre.

Large 15th century merchant vessel being put back together piece by piece
The ship was found in the banks of the Usk in 2002
[Credit: Friends of the Newport Ship]


"It is important to remember that the ship was saved by actions of the local Newport community and there is nothing like her anywhere else in the world. There are no other surviving vessels from the early 15th century; a time when ship design was developing rapidly and we have much to learn from the way in which she was built and how she would have sailed".

Mr Evans added: "We know nothing of her history but everything we have learned from our research suggests that our ship traded with Portugal and the Iberian peninsula and was engaged in the wine trade. She could carry up to 200 tonnes of wine in one voyage – that’s 50,000 gallons or around 200,000 bottles - truly a 15th century wine supertanker." 

It's thought the ship was probably built in the Basque country around 1449 and sailed the North Atlantic until about 1469 when she entered an inlet on the river Usk in Newport and never emerged.

Large 15th century merchant vessel being put back together piece by piece
Newport Ship hull in situ [Credit: Friends of the Newport Ship]


The ship was discovered in 2002 during the building of the Riverfront Theatre and was recovered piece by piece. Around 2,000 timbers were recovered and the last 15 years have been spent preserving and freeze drying timbers.

Since then, the idea of the ship has become something of an inspiration for the people of Newport; Monusk Tapas say their menus draw on the food eaten along the ship's route, while local brewery Anglo-Oregon Brewing have produced a stout called Newport Ship.

The timbers and associated artefacts are currently undergoing conservation and study at the Ship Centre in Queensway Meadows, Newport. But it's no easy task, the efforts to recreate the impressive vessel are painstaking and Mr Evans stresses that it's a slow process.

Large 15th century merchant vessel being put back together piece by piece
Dried ship timbers [Credit: Friends of the Newport Ship]


"We have received two further shipments of dried timbers during the year so that we now have around three quarters of the recovered timbers preserved and ready for reassembly," explained Mr Evans.

"We aim to have the remaining timbers back at the Newport Ship Centre by the end of 2020. The latest shipment includes some of the big framing timbers which are very impressive in terms of their size and the high standard of carpentry they exhibit. We intend to have some of them on display when we reopen the centre for 2020."

The information displays at the site have been completely redesigned too, with new museum-standard display boards and a new set of posters and images. It will include a specially commissioned set of images by a prominent young designer showing the ship under construction.

Large 15th century merchant vessel being put back together piece by piece
Timbers undergoing conservation [Credit: Friends of the Newport Ship]
"In the meantime," Mr Evans adds, "we are preparing for the reassembly phase, even though we only have some 40% of the hull remaining, the timbers in total weigh over 25 tons and will require a sophisticated and high technology cradle to support them. We are working with Swansea University, who are acknowledged experts in this type of structural engineering, to design a suitable structure and specify the right materials for the job. Reassembling a 600 year old ship from its original timbers is like doing a 3D jigsaw puzzle with 2,500 pieces, without the picture on the box."


He added: "We do not want to put it together in the wrong way or have to take it apart again, so we must be certain that we know exactly how each timber fits together before we start. Work continues on finding a building in the Newport area which is big enough to house the Ship and we hope to make an announcement on this in a few months’ time."

The centre is due to reopen in spring 2020, and it's usually open on Fridays, Saturdays and Bank Holiday Mondays. Admission is free.

Author: Joshua Knapman | Source: Wales Online [January 20, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

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