New clues tell of where timber for Newport’s medieval ship was felled

NEW CLUES: The Newport Ship is recovered from the bank of the River Usk

NEW CLUES: The Newport Ship is recovered from the bank of the River Usk

First published in Gwent news South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

MARITIME historians are a step closer to solving the mystery of the Newport Ship after learning the ports where she may have been built.

Charles Ferris, of the Friends of the Newport Ship, reached a new breakthrough during his pilgrimage to Spain, as the team of archaeologists who determined the provenance of her wood revealed the 100ft vessel may have made her maiden voyage in the dynamic medieval port of Deba or the port of Hondarribia on the French border.

A Dendrochronology probe (the study of tree age) of the shipwreck found in Newport in 2002 showed her timber came from the Basque region of Spain.

But an archeologist at Fundacion Arkeolan in Irun, which dated the wood, this week pinpointed two locations where it was likely to have been felled.

The archeologist, Mercedes Urteaga, said latest studies showed it came from the town of Bergara, 15 miles off the coast of Spain or further east in the town of Doneztebe about 30 miles inland.

She said that if it came from Bergara, shipwrights were likely to have transported the wood downstream on the river Deba to reach the "dynamic" 15th century port Deba.

Or if it came from Doneztebe they would have travelled on the river Bidassoa bordering France and Spain to reach the port of Hondarribia.

The new breakthrough fits with data already available indicating the 1450 merchant vessel found in Newport would have imported iron and wine from the Basque Country.

A barrel fragment from the wreck of the Newport hip bears the mark of the Bristol sea merchant Robert Baron, who is known to have imported iron ore and wine from Spain in the 1460s.

In addition, a French coin minted between 1445 and 1456 was found concealed in the keel of the ship, perhaps as a token of good fortune, indicating the merchants traded in France.

Ms Urtega suggested that if the Newport Ship imported wine her crew were likely to have bought the alcohol in the ports of Bayonne or Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the wine region of Aquitaine in south west France.

Mr Ferris met Ms Urteaga on Tuesday at the Fundacion Arkeolan in Irun, northern Spain, which has one of four facilities to carry out tree-ring dating or dendrochronology in the country. Mr Ferris, 61, of Fields Park Avenue, Newport, said: "It's fascinating though Mercedes did say the ship could have been built anywhere on the Basque coast.

"It all helps to build the picture.

"Unfortunately with these, the picture you have in your mind has got to be disposed of because of new evidence.

"You have to quash the theory you have already built or you are arriving at but all information is relevant and should be equally collected."

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