#Day1 of the Sutton Hoo Ship

On Sunday 18 April the volunteer crew took transported the pieces of keel blank that have been fashioned out of the tress from Forestry England ready to start work on Monday.

It was ‘all hands to the pump’ to manoeuvre the enormous pieces of timber onto the waiting trestles where they will be worked into shape using traditional axes.

The Nautical Archaeology Society review #thedig and gives us a mention

Whilst on maternity leave, NAS Education Manager Peta Knott, from the Nautical Archaeology Society, is taking a break from work and enjoying the many archaeological lectures, workshops and most recently – movies – that are currently available online.

Here she reviews ‘The Dig’ 

The Society are keen followers of our project and we thank them for their continued support.


The true story behind The Dig by the National Trust

The Dig, released on 29 January, is a new film by Netflix exploring the story of the excavation of the Great Ship Burial at Sutton Hoo in 1939. The film is based on a novel, also titled The Dig, written by John Preston. Many of the events and characters depicted in both the film and the novel are inspired by real events and real people. Read on to discover the incredible true story, and meet some of the characters involved with, one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

This National Trust article called ‘Digging the dirt the true story behind the dig’ exposes the truth about the story and characters.

Why this famed Anglo-Saxon ship burial was likely the last of its kind

In this article written by Erin Blakemore for the National Geographic, the author explores whether or not the Sutton Hoo Ship was the last of its kind…

‘Archaeologists can be a careful bunch. They hedge their bets, question the data at every turn, and tend to spurn any hint of sensationalism. But bring up the ancient burial mounds of Sutton Hoo in southeast England, and even the most circumspect scholar will spout superlatives. Magnificent! Monumental! Unparalleled! .. read on

BBC Culture feature ‘The Dig’

The BBC has put together an interesting culture article called The buried ship found on an English estate that pieces together the archeological dig, the burial site, and the new Netflix film, The Dig.

Towards the end of the article they write ‘And what exactly was the nature of the vessel? Was it a warship or more of a ship of state – a 7th-century Britannia? We may be in a better position to judge when a project to build a working full-size replica of the ship comes to fruition. It will give us a far better idea, for example, of exactly how it handles on the water. The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company aims to have its vessel built and ready to begin trials in three years, and hopes that The Dig will generate more interest in its undertaking.’ 

Read the full article and let us know what you think contact@saxonship.org

Hail to THE DIG from the Ship’s Company

We are building a full size version of the ship dug up by Basil Brown, Mrs Edith Pretty and Charles Phillips during the excavation celebrated in John Preston’s book and now in the Netflix film THE DIG.

THE DIG took place just across the river Deben from where our ship is taking shape. From our long shed we can see the ridge that carries the Sutton Hoo mounds and the house where Mrs Pretty lived and kept an eye on the dig through her bow window.   It is a beautiful piece of Suffolk landscape now owned by the National Trust and of course visitable by the public – Covid permitting.  The mounds can still be seen nestling behind Top Hat Wood with its pine trees, where the 1939 team parked its Hillman and its shepherd’s hut on wheels that acted as their HQ. Here the great line of the ship lay open to the sky – 27m long and picked out by a pattern of iron rivets that had held its planks together.  Here Mrs Pretty and her visitors sat in wicker chairs observing the dig through opera glasses. Here the team brewed their tea on an open fire of pine cones. And in the shadow of those trees the finds were laid out on planks and in wooden boxes among the pine needles, the precious gold objects of the buried king packed in woodland moss in tobacco tins. The work went on all through the hot summer of 1939, when an invasion was expected from the north west European continent, the same place that had launched the Anglo-Saxons in their timber ships towards Suffolk, 15 centuries before.

These ships were pointed at both ends, with a flat keel and curving planks of oak. Our ship is authentic, based on the one found and recorded by Basil Brown, Stuart Piggot, and Commander Hutchinson. The pattern of rivets in the sand gave the basic shape of the hull as found, albeit squashed under thousands of tons of sandy mound.  The rivets were the first clue that a ship lay hidden under the mound and Basil, recognising what they were, went carefully from rusty mark to rusty mark with his pastry brush revealing the lines. The planks were mostly gone leaving a thin carpet of black dust, but in the centre was a mass of woody remains – the burial chamber where the king’s coffin lay with treasure stacked around him.

Our ship is based on those records, measurements and plans and photographs and a bit of film made at the time, together with the results of another 80 years of archaeological research, on the site, in the British Museum and in the laboratories. The ship was the greatest artefact produced by the dig, and the greatest vehicle of its time – it’s an iconic vessel we want to know more about. There is still much experimental work to do before the ship can be recreated as it once was; the right oak, correctly split into planks, the right keel straight and true, the correct rivets – our aim is to do what the English shipwrights did a thousand years ago: walk the woods looking for suitable trees, craft the timber into a hull, test its seaworthiness and eventually – yes – row and sail it down the river and out to sea.

In 2019 a new team came to Sutton Hoo – not a digging crew or a ship’s crew but a film crew, with Suffolk born Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan in the lead.

Their re-enactment of the 1939 dig will speak for itself and make many new friends for the great discovery that changed the story of England. But it will speak for all of us long-term researchers too.  We are delighted that Ralph Fiennes is supporting our project; he said

” Working on the film The Dig has given me a compelling insight into the history of Sutton Hoo.  I am very excited that a team of volunteers at The Sutton Hoo  Ship’s Company are actually recreating King Raedwald’s famous vessel.  I believe it will prove a remarkable aide in bringing this part of our history to life.  I know a huge amount of diligence and expertise is being devoted to the project.  I can’t wait to see it when it is finished.  I wish everyone involved all success in this great project.”

One day our ship will be the star. Come and see us or lend a hand as soon as you can —-  it is your interest and support that will push the ship ever nearer the slipway.

Contact us at contact@saxonship.org

The Dig

THE DIG starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes is being released at the end of this month on Netflix. The film, inspired by the book written by John Preston, captures the period of the Sutton Hoo Ship discovery. Once you have seen the film you can begin to imagine what our replica ship will look like and the impact it will make.

Watch the trailer here….


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 four Suffolk Wildlife Trust oak trees, felled and ready to be taken away
The four Suffolk Wildlife Trust oak trees, felled and ready to be taken away
The four Suffolk Wildlife Trust oak trees, felled and ready to be taken away
Measuring up to 6m lengths ready for transporting
Measuring up to 6m lengths ready for transporting
Measuring up to 6m lengths ready for transporting
Loading the Ash trees onto the flat bed trailer
Loading the Ash trees onto the flat bed trailer
Loading the Ash trees onto the flat bed trailer
Securing the load before hitting the road
Securing the load before hitting the road
Securing the load before hitting the road
It took many Crew Members to maneuver the Ash trees into the Longshed ready to be split
It took many Crew Members to maneuver the Ash trees into the Longshed ready to be split
It took many Crew Members to maneuver the Ash trees into the Longshed ready to be split