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Newport’s Medieval Ship

today24 April 2024 7

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Wait….Newport Has A Ship?

During the construction of the Riverfront Theatre in 2002, on the banks of the river Usk, the remains of a 15th century ship was found. 

A team of archaeologists excavated and lifted the ship from the ground, timber by timber. The ship was probab;y built around the area of France and Spain around 1449. The ship was a three-masted, merchant vessel. It was over 30 metres in length and capable of carrying around 200 tons of cargo. The cargo of the ship was most likely wine casks. 

Research into the ship shows that along with the things found on board, we can likely assume that the ship sailed the Lisbon-Bristol trade route. In 1469, the ship made its way to Newport where it was to undergo some repairs but instead was deconstructed. This would have given the ship a 20 year life. The organisation, Friends of the Newport Ship suggests that whilst in Newport, the cradle supporting the ship in its pill collapsed. The hull was flooded and the majority of the ship was then taken apart, leaving only the lower hull that we have today.

Also found during the excavation was a fragment of a metal helmet. This would suggest that the ship had guards protecting it from pirates or any other would-be boarders. 

But what about Newport? What was so special about us during the 15th centurythat a ship like that would need to make port?

 Well, because of where Newport is situated, it made a great location for trade between Bristol and the inland port of Bridgwater. Industries in Newport at that time included leather tanning, soap making, and starch making. There were also the same craftsmen found in any town such as bakers, butchers, brewers, carpenters, and blacksmiths. Newport would have been a very popular place for trade and a strategical location for anyone looking to control the trade within the area. 

In 1402 Owain Glendower and his men burned the town of Newport and because most of the buildings in the town were made of wood with thatched roofs, the fire spread pretty quickly. However, they could be easily rebuilt and the town soon recovered from the disaster.

 Even by the 16thcentury, Newport was still a very small town and in 1538 Henry VIII closed the friary in Newport and confiscated its property. 

But it is easy to see why a ship like the one found on the banks of the river Usk in2002 would have ended up in Newport. The route from Lisbon would have taken several weeks and during that time, the ship could have taken any amount of damage. As soon as it had reached Britain, Newport would have been its port of call due to the facilities the town would have had at the time to repair the ship.

Today, you can visit what is left of the ship at the site of the Friends of the Newport Ship at Unit 20, Estuary Road, Queensway Meadows Industrial Estate and I would like to thank the Friends of the Newport Ship for helping me with this article today .

To find out more about Newport’s Medieval Ship, plan a visit or get involved, go to https://www.newportship.org/

By Adam L Davies

Written by: Kym Frederick

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