A national fundraising campaign has been launched to raise £1 million to build a full-size reconstruction of a ship – part of the UK’s most important archaeological discovery of all time. Here Jacq Barnard, one of the directors of the project and the woman who will eventually lead a team of rowers to launch the vessel, explains why the mission is so valuable. She also highlights how you can get involved in the largest experimental archaeology project in the UK.
During my career I have held many different positions and worked in a number of fields but in the last few years I have been able to concentrate on some of the things which make me truly happy and one of those is rowing.
As a coach educator for British Rowing and club and coach coordinator for the Eastern Region Rowing Council I work with the in-land sliding seat and coastal fixed-seat rowing clubs and I captain the Deben Rowing Club in Woodbridge.
I have also recently started the Woodbridge Coastal Rowing Club and will be attempting to row the Atlantic in 2021 in a sea faring rowing boat.
But my work in this field has also led me to be part of a project which is truly unique and will see me training, coxing and rowing a ship which has no modern equivalent.
We are currently building this vessel which is a full-size reconstruction of the 7th century Sutton Hoo ship which was buried for 13 centuries beneath the sand.
The project has brought together archaeologists, historians, experts in shipbuilding and construction as well as many other skilled volunteers to help convert the digitally produced plans into reality.
The plans were created using information gleaned from the original dig in 1939 which unearthed the final resting place of King Raedwald, an Anglo-Saxon king.
During the excavation, a hoard of treasure including coins, weapons and a jewel-encrusted helmet were discovered and now reside in the British Museum.
But also found was the imprint of a huge ship which had been used as a glamorous burial chamber.
All that was left of this magnificent vessel were markings in the sand through which we are able to build a fairly accurate picture of what this ship should look like.
What we don’t know however, is how it operated. And that will be part of my role.
Our hope is that at the end of our build, we will all know much more about Anglo-Saxon skills, trade and seamanship. We will also find out – through river and sea trials – how it was rowed and manoeuvred. If it looks possible, the team will also erect a mast and see how well it sails.
After the trials, we will ensure that it is widely available for people to experience.
This is why it is such an important project to be involved in. Everything that we do over the next few years, from design through to the build and onto the trials, forms part of a serious scientific programme to learn more about our past.
While this is the first time a full-size reconstruction has been built, this isn’t the first-time people have explored what the ship might have looked like in reality. In fact, I have been lucky enough to cox Sae Wylfing, a half-length Anglo-Saxon replica, up and down the river Deben for the very successful local film and book, Life on the Deben.
That replica was a private project, but we very much feel that the full-size reconstruction is a project that will belong to us all.
In fact, we want people to feel like they can actually “own” a piece of it.
To do that we have launched ‘Make Ship Happen’ – a crowdfunder that hopes to raise £1 million to pay for the build, community engagement and scientific research.
The first phase of the donation programme has invited people to sponsor one or more of the 3,500 numbered metal rivets that will hold the ship together.
Thanks to people’s donations so far, we have raised enough money to contract a master shipwright to oversee the build.
But we now need to push forward with the next phase of its development.
With this in mind we have now released the oars for sponsorship. The ship will be rowed by up to 40 people at once, but we will need to experiment with oars made from different materials. Anyone who sponsors an oar for £1,000 will have their name engaged on it and be offered other unique opportunities to get involved.
We have also released different parts of the ship – the keel, the planks and the stem and stern – for sponsorship to help pay for the rest of the build.
We believe people want to be a part of this project which is the largest experimental archaeology project in the UK and focuses on a part of our history that is extremely important.
And with this in mind, we want to allow as many people as possible to volunteer on the build which is taking place inside the Longshed on the site of the former Whisstocks boatyard in Woodbridge – or to help us fund it.
What this project can do is give people a tangible link to the past and we need to get everyone, young and old, involved to make this possible.
To sponsor one of the rivets, for yourself or as a gift, for just £20 visit www.makeshiphappen.co.uk. In return we will send you a limited-edition sponsors pin badge and a certificate to keep in your purse or wallet for when you come and see it being built.
Would you like to get involved in the largest experimental archaeology project in the UK?