Thursday, December 16, 2004


Replica of Bronze Age boat ready to set sail on a 4,000-year-old journey


Yorkshire Post
Alexandra Wood
December 15, 2004

A REPLICA of a 4,000-year-old Bronze Age boat found near Hull will set sail on the Humber in the new year – close to where the original was discovered.

The plank boat, the oldest of its kind found in western Europe, was one of three discovered at North Ferriby by Hull amateur archaeologist, Ted Wright, between 1937 and 1963.

Yesterday a half-scale replica, named Ferriby I, was unveiled at the Streetlife Museum, in Hull, where it will be used as a local focus for SeaBritain 2005, a celebration of the UK's maritime heritage.

The boat, built in Southampton, has been trialled successfully on the Solent, despite being only half the size of the original.

And it should be launched from the Humber foreshore in January to see how it fares on the perilous waters of a river, where its ancestor ferried people and cargoes in ancient times.There are high hopes that a full-size replica of the boat can be built, possibly at Dunstan's Shipyard in Hessle, near Hull, where sail training ship Sir Winston Churchill was built in 1966.

One of the three shipwrights involved in the construction, Jeff Bird, was at yesterday's launch. He said: "Up to when Ted Wright found the boat we thought they were dugouts but this boat has been made sophisticatedly and complicatedly."

John Davis, former chairman of the local Sail Training Association, worked with Andrew Marr, of Hessle-based Andrew Marr International, to bring the replica to Hull. He said there was already interest from a TV consortium in filming the building of a new full-size boat, adding: "It was always Ted Wright's wish to see a full-scale reconstruction of the ship. The awareness created by the replica and SeaBritain 2005 could yet see this happen."

The half-scale replica was funded by engineer Edwin Gifford, the naval architect who founded the international firm of consulting engineers which bears his name; naval architect John Coates; and Mr Wright's family, following his death three years ago.Mr Marr said: "What we have here is the product of some of the greatest talent in the land." We have brought it here as a practical tool to continue Edwin Gifford's research, but it is by its nature also an icon."

We see it above all as an inspiration and hope it will generate new awareness and a desire to discover more about this fascinating event in our maritime history."

Built in early Bronze Age Britain around 2030 BC, the 16-metre boat used sophisticated techniques and carpentry skills that experts believe would be difficult to match today.The replica's planks are fixed together with polyester rope, rather than the yew stitches – or withies – used to sew the oak timbers on the original.

It is hoped more research can be done on the withies in partnership with the Water's Edge Country Park, at Barton-Upon-Humber.

There are also plans to do more research on the vessel's steering.

The replica boat has carried as many as 10 people, but the original had room for a crew of 70, or a load of 11 tonnes, possibly cattle.It could even have been used to bring over settlers from Holland.

Intriguingly, a boat of the Ferriby type may have been used to transport stones to build Stonehenge, and it may help explain how jewellery from the Mediterranean and coral decorations from the Middle East turned up in the recent Iron Age chariot burial excavations in East Yorkshire. A series of events for SeaBritain are taking place in Whitby, including the arrival in the port of five tall ships from July 19 onwards, who are taking part in the July 25 Tall Ships Race from Newcastle to Frederikstad.

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