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.
Since we returned to operations in the Longshed at the beginning of August we have continued training and preparation to begin the actual build of the ship. Covid has restricted numbers working but we have been able to plank the lower half of the midships model on the port side, using oak from the ‘twisted’ log that we took delivery of in autumn 2019. Jo Wood, David Turner and Dave Rowley completed the work, including testing two caulking methods – both known to have been used in Anglo-Saxon and Viking period ships. Both methods worked equally well, providing us with something of a conundrum as to which to apply in the ship.
A different team will complete the planking in order to broaden the skill-base within the Ship’s Crew.
The starboard side has been completed in mock-up by Mike Pratt and David Steptoe, using plywood and softwoods. We are getting on with that so that we can begin the experimental part of the project – investigating the bio-mechanics of rowing the ship. Nothing is known of the internal structure and the rowing positions will have to be derived from various technical procedures. Jacq Barnard is involving specialists from British Rowing to advise on this aspect of the build.
We now have one (prototype) oar, made using modern techniques from the ash received last spring from Suffolk Wildlife Trust. We had to use power tools to shape this oar because the wood had seasoned, and hardened, during the lockdown. Still, it is a work of art – thank you Simon Charlesworth. Brian Hunt is constructing a second oar.
Keel and strakes
We have laid a false floor in the Longshed to rest the 12 metre keel log on, in preparation for working it and subsequent cleaving of the garboard strakes (the first planks of the hull). We will work on the second, curved, log for the stem and stern and keel ends at a new site located at Hoo House Farm (a few miles from Woodbridge). We have temporary use of a barn similar in size to the Longshed and much of the initial cutting and cleaving of logs will be done there. We will bring the semi-finished components into to the Longshed for final finishing and assembly.
This model is really important as a source of practical information for the full-size build. John Cannon and Clive Cartmel have completed battening-out of the planking. Doing so has raised issues with the layout of the planking – that’s one of the next problems to be solved. But its much better to identify issues like that now than when we are working on the shipbuild with hefty full-size planks five times as big.
Research continues; very little information exists about Saxon-era anchors and mooring systems. Vicky Fleming has written a very stimulating research paper on the subject. Joe Startin continues to lead on our research and has gleaned nuggets of information from the folk at Nydam in Denmark. I am excited to be writing the dissertation for my degree on the development of the side-rudder, with particular reference of the Sutton Hoo Ship.
The next stages of the build will focus on the conversion of the keel and its extensions (the ‘underlouts’), lofting of the sections of the ship and making the moulds to check the accuracy of the shape as we build.
Many thanks to all those involved and we hope that as we go forward we will again be able to involve more people in the build team. Apologies to anyone whose contribution has not been acknowledged – I really value all the contributions that you make.
I was talking to Pete Clay the other day.As well as being a Director of the Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company AND Woodbridge Riverside Trust, he’s the doyen of the skiff builders in the Longshed. For readers who are just focused on the Sutton Hoo Shipbuild, skiff building is one of the other things going on in the Longshed and is the polar opposite in terms of build techniques and materials from “our” ship.It’s constructed from laser cut ply frames and glued together, not riveted with iron nails. It will be painted and polished. And the St Ayle’s skiff is a lovely thing when it is rowed.
What all that means to Pete you will have to ask him, but in our chat he was speculating what would happen to one of the St Ayle’s skiffs if it was buried at Sutton Hoo.What would the archaeology be like a thousand or more years later? What impression would the excavators have got of 21st century civilisation? What would their speculations turn into?
Well, it depends, doesn’t it?Would it be buried as a grave ship, and if so what would the grave goods be to go with it?What are the things that are highly valued. Instead of beautiful brooches there might be Apple watches and 3D printed bracelets. Instead of iron side axes there could be chainsaws. Instead of a lyre there could be an electric guitar. Then, what would be left of them after all that time?Some oxides of metals and some glass.
And what of the skiff?Plywood is mostly a natural material – wood – but it is bonded with synthetic resins, as the planks are then bonded to the ribs and the hull.So, knowing how slowly plastics degrade, you could be fairly sure of finding that message from our times.
Ah well, they might say, not sure we can do a recreation of that skiff.It would be lovely to do but…. I’ve got a message to go through the ages to them.YES YOU CAN!
On Saturday 6th October, experts from all over the world met at The Longshed in Woodbridge, Suffolk to exchange views on the ‘Phase 1’ plans for building the 29m Anglo-Saxon Ship that was buried at Sutton Hoo in the seventh Century. Whilst many parts of the plan are already reliable hypotheses, a number of questions remain. Delegates focuses on these different aspects of the project including the size and shape of the hull, the materials that it was and will be built with, how it would have moved and been navigated and what was its original purpose prior to becoming King Raedwald’s resting place.
The day generated a great deal of discussion and debate which will now be documented as part of the projects academic rigour. The following eight weeks have been earmarked for additional consultation before finalising the way forward on December 1st 2018.
Photographs courtesy of Robin and Sue Garrod, Woodbridge Camera Club