NEWPORT’s medievaal ship is a find that has captured the imagination of people in the city and around the world, and has the potential to be a massive tourist attraction.

While building work for the Riverfront Theatre was going on in 2002, remains of what may have been part of a quay were unearthed. Near the top of the pit, archaeologists discovered what looked like a timber drain and a cobbled floor underneath some large timbers.

Upon further digging, it was revealed that these were part of a large ship lying in an inlet. The timbers were removed, and underneath were found parts of a large vessel.

Initially, there was no intention to preserve the ship, but it sparked a campaign which saw thousands of people demanding that the remains of the vessel be saved.

Efforts paid off and later in 2002, the Welsh Government committed £3.5million to the excavation, conservation and display of the ship, on the condition that Newport City Council would provide any additional funds to complete the project.

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The excavation taking place in 2002. Credit: Newport Museums and Heritage Service

Following the announcement of the funding, activists formed the Friends of the Newport Ship.

Eighteen years later, a contingent of people who were part of the campaign then, still work as guides, showing visitors around the visitor centre where they ship is being preserved.

Dr Toby Jones, project curator, said the ship is “one of the most important archaeological finds in Wales in the last 120 years” and that since its discovery archaeologists and conservators have been carefully cleaning, recording and conserving ship timbers and artefacts.

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Dr Toby Jones curator at Newport Medieval Ship. Picture:

Each component of the excavated ship was recorded using a cutting edge contact digitiser to create a 3D model. This was used to create a 1:10 plastic scale replica of the surviving part of the ship, ready to serve as a blueprint for the ship’s reconstruction.

Cleaned and recorded, the timbers were then soaked in a wax-like substance called polyethylene glycol - or PEG - that preserves their cellular structure.

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The Newport Medieval Ship

Once treated, the timbers were put in a giant freeze dryer to get rid of the water.

“With over 75 per cent of the hull timber and all of the artefacts now conserved, the project has begun to develop plans for re-assembly and display of the vessel, and associated finds”, added Mr Jones.


“With construction of the vessel pinpointed to the Basque country of Northern Spain and extensive evidence of trade with Portugal, the Newport Ship is truly an international treasure.

“Archaeologists plan to reassemble the original ship timbers to create an impressive attraction, which has the potential to bring over 100,000 visitors to Newport annually.

“Such a unique piece of heritage will help in the economic regeneration of Newport for decades to come”.

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David Jordan's artwork titled 'Final Resting Place'. Credit: Newport Museums and Heritage Service

Newport’s medieval ship has now been worked on for approaching 18 years, and it is estimated that it will be another two years until the process is complete.

Afterwards, the ship will be put on display, but a location has not been chosen as a huge space is required to display it - around 15 metres by 30 metres for the vessel alone.

For more information on events and talks about the ship, head to