Escape to the…Longshed

We were very lucky to have been remembered by Jules Hudson, from Escape to the Country, as he was filming a potential house move in this area and wanted to record some local places of interest. Where better than an historic project in the making, in the centre of Woodbridge.

During the day Jules captured an interview with Philip Leech, the chair of our board, and did some filming with Jacq Barnard our Project Manager who explained the importance of the models that are being made and provided a practical demonstration of how the ship might have been rowed. Jules was extremely interested and promises to return to a follow up shoot when we are further along.

Below you can see the crew setting things up explaining why so many takes are necessary to put a good short film together. The episode will be televised sometime in the next 6-18 months, so we are looking forward to seeing the final cut.

Anglo Saxon Ship Open Day

The first open day of 2020 saw a steady stream of very interested visitors. Luckily the weather was in our favour for once and the bright sunny afternoon encouraged people to break from their river walk to come and see what all the noise was.

The Crew Members demonstrated how to split willow into blanks ready for making trennails, these are the wooden plugs used to fasten different sections of wood together. Visitors were encouraged to handle the split wood to see how wet it was in its green state compared to some of the completed examples which were much lighter in weight and completely dry. Work also continued on the 1:5 scale model which will eventually be used for taking measurements for the main ship build. Volunteer stewards and Directors escorted small groups along the viewing area explaining how the project is progressing and encouraging people to be part of the history by sponsoring their own rivet (see sponsorship section of website).

Some people visiting the Longshed today were so enthralled that they have already completed a volunteer application to help with the ship build, creating wooden souvenirs from the oak offcuts and to help with some of the back office administration. If you would like to volunteer please complete this simple form and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

The photographs below show volunteers splitting wood, crafting wooden clamps and working on the 1:5 model.

The next Open Day will be on the 11 April  – everyone is welcome!

The Sutton Hoo Ship get donation from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Today a group of Ship’s Co. Volunteer Crew Members travelled over to Sicklesmere near Bury St Edmunds to collect four Ash trees. These four trees are the last available Ash from the Bradfield Woods as the remaining Ash trees have sadly succumbed to Ash dieback.

The Ash trees are lovely and straight making them perfect for oar making.

The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company would like to formally thank The Suffolk Wildlife Trust for their kind donation.

The Anglo-Saxon ship is keeping good company

Make Ship Happen launch

There have been a few questions about why we are called The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company, as we are not a commercial enterprise.

There are of course many meanings of the word company… you can enjoy someone’s company, you can be part of a company have a company policy, you can awkwardly not realise someone had ‘company’ and so on and so on…

Indeed, The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company is far from being a commercial enterprise as we are a charitable organisation that is coordinating like-minded volunteers build an Anglo-Saxon ship.

So, it can be said that we very much enjoy each other’s company and we do have to adhere to a few ‘company’ policies but essentially we are like a theatre company or company of soldiers who rely on their shared resources and skills to reach a common goal. Our goal being the recreation of the Sutton Hoo Ship.

Registered charity 1175474

The Sutton Hoo Ships partners up

We are delighted to have formed a partnership with the Institute for Digital Archaeology, based in Oxford. The Institute  is headed up by Roger Michel who has a particular interest in Anglo-Saxon studies.  As well as financial support (for which we are very grateful), the Institute has huge expertise in digital imaging and visualising ancient artefacts and are helping with our scientific programme, where we are measuring and recording each component of the ship to the nth degree. The Director of Technology at the Institute, Alexy Karenowska is currently supporting our research into the metallurgy of the original iron rivets that held the ship together.

We hope and expect our association to go on until the sea trials.  And we are going to make sure that both Roger and Alexy get an early chance to take part in those trials!

Sutton Hoo Ship Rivet

In the run up to Christmas we had a fantastic response to our sponsor a fixing scheme.  Sponsoring a rivet has been a very popular gift for grandchildren, Mum’s and Dad’s, Brothers and Sister’s, Uncles and Aunt’s and in one case for a ‘Secret Santa’ gift – much better than socks or a selection pack!

We hope that by owning a rivet our sponsors will follow our progress with the ship build and ultimately come to the Longshed to see it being built.

So what is a rivet? It’s a metal nail that will fix one plank to another where the planks overlap. The fixing process takes a lot hammeering, making a repetitive clink clink sound as the hammer hits the nail – and therein lies the reason why clinker built boats are called clinker!

We thank you all for your sponsorship which is raising the much needed funds to finally build a Suton Ship!

Anglo-Saxon secret hits the media

The Ship’s Company Directors woke up on Monday to find our website kept crashing, but why? It turned out that the Times newspaper ran a page 3 spread about our reconstruction project which was copied by the Mail on-line – the interest it has all provoked has been incredible.

We are very pleased to raise our profile for lots of reasons. Principally because the Shipbuild is a community project, and our definition of community is a pretty wide one.  Secondly, this Shipbuild is probably the biggest venture in experimental archaeology in Europe to date and people need to know about it. Thirdly, the more people know about us and get interested, the more likely it is we will achieve the significant levels of funding that we need to complete the build and trials.

So why did the website crash? Well, because this latest publicity advertised the fact that anyone can be part of this project by sponsoring one of the many fixings. Given that Christmas is next week hundreds of people have seen this as an opportunity to sponsor rivets for their loved ones who will always know that that they have a small stake in this amazing Anglo-Saxon vessel.

So, is there a downside?  Just a little one! For us, apart from having to very quickly upgrade our website server, a number of us are spending quite a lot of time stuffing envelopes with sponsor badges and certificates!  A small price for us to pay for a giant boost to a project that we are very, very proud of and maybe time to apologise to all of our own friends and family who won’t be getting a Christmas Card this year as the thought of sticking any more stamps on envelopes is just one small step too far…

5th Woodbridge Sea Scouts identify their 5th rivet

Last Friday we had a number of young people visit us from the 5th Woodbridge Sea Scouts. During the evening they listened to Paul Constantine tell them about the history of the ship and how it was excavated back in the 1930’s.

The group had a tour of the longshed and looked at the plans developed by Pat Tanner and Julian Whitewright using the excavation documentation found in the famous Vol 1.

The highlight was being shown exactly where their sponsored rivet is going to be on the ship and we hope that they will pop back regularly to see how we are getting on.

Sutton Hoo Ship links with Rendlesham finds

Rendlesham is more famous for UFOs than Anglo-Saxons. But steady work over recent years has seen the area around St Gregory’s Church and Naunton Hall rise through the rankings to become a nationally significant Anglo-Saxon site.
About twenty years ago, holes started being surreptitiously dug there at night. It got worse, and the place was presumably being looted by rogue detectorists. The Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service were notified and they became actively involved. They gained much assistance from ‘white hat’ detectorists working within the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

About 4 miles up the river from Woodbridge and Sutton Hoo, Rendlesham would have been the highest point vessels of a certain size would think to go. The changes to the navigability of the upper Deben have been argued about inconclusively for some time. The conventional wisdom is that things were much the same then as they are now. With no ballast, and no load, our ship will draw about 13 inches. The original ship would have struggled to make Rendlesham during a dry summer. But this would be no obstacle to foreign trade in small, high-value goods.

A royal country-seat existed at Rendlesham in the mid-7th century, according to Bede [Historia Eccesiastica, Book III, Chapter 22]. The settlement was functioning earlier than that, so it could well have been King Rædwald’s vicus regius too. The community supported a marketplace, metal working, and highly-skilled craftsmen producing decorative items.

None of the finds is so big it couldn’t fit into a matchbox, but the way that they have accumulated is impressive. The choicest items are on display at Ipswich Museum. They can only have been lost by VIPs.

Bede mentions that [around AD 604] Rædwald visited King Æthelberht of Kent. He returned as a baptised Christian, but there was local antipathy, and he did not follow through whole-heartedly. In his shrine he set up an altar to the Christian god, but next to it there was also a small altar to the pagan gods [Historia Ecclesiastica, Book II, Chapter 14.] Maybe that shrine was at Rendlesham.

Further information is well presented here, and the successive links.

Why is the Sutton Hoo Ship fixed with rivets?

Some of the earliest boats known were made from hollowed out logs. As technologies developed these hollowed out logs were extended by adding planks, or strakes, sewn to the upper edges of the log to give more freeboard (the height of the side of the boat which sticks up above the water).
Eventually boats and then ships were made entirely of strakes of planking. To join these planks together a variety of methods were employed. Our Saxon shipwrights decided to overlap the plank edges and nail them together. This entailed the use of an iron nail and a diamond-shaped iron “rove” – simply a piece of iron with a hole punched through it. The nail was passed through both pieces of planking and the rove, most of the excess length was then cut off. The protruding section of nail was then hammered over the rove to secure the joint. To ensure the joint was watertight, a spun strand of fibre, in our case wool, was laid between the two layers of planking in a compound of pine tar. The distinctive “clink, clink, clink” of the nail being hammered over the rove gives us the name for this type of construction – Clinker!