November 2019

Anglo Saxon enthusiasts urged to ‘stick an oar in’ to back ship build

A raft of opportunities for Anglo Saxon history enthusiasts to back a unique shipbuild has launched with the chance to sponsor one of 84 oars.

Benefactors are being sought by the team reconstructing the Saxon ship which was buried at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk for more than 13 centuries. And the oars, which are being made to row the vessel once it is completed, are being offered up to history, archaeology and maritime enthusiasts for £1,000 each in exchange for having their name burnt into the wood.

Philip Leech, chairman and director of the Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company, which is responsible for the build, said: “This is a hugely exciting project which will see archaeologists, historians, experts in shipbuilding and volunteers come together to raise a ghost ship.

“We hope there will be lots of people out there who would like to ‘own’ part of this adventure and see their name emblazoned on an oar. But it’s a limited number that can sponsor an oar so it will be first come first served. The 90ft ship is being built in the Longshed, Woodbridge, Suffolk leased by Woodbridge Riverside Trust. The release of the oars is the second phase of a crowdfunder programme – Make Ship Happen – which hopes to raise £1 million towards the project.

Along with the oars, larger sponsorship packages are available including funding the keel, the planks and the stem and stern. In August, more than 3,500 numbered metal rivets that will hold the ship together were offered to the public for £20 each. Mr Leech said: “We have had such an incredible response from people wanting to be a part of this. “Now we need big backers to put their oar in and help us move forward.”

The ship will be built over a two-year period by a number of volunteers who have been taught traditional building methods. Once finished, it will be tested at sea with a full crew. If it looks possible, the team will erect a mast and see how well it sails.

Mr Leech added: “The build is a serious scientific endeavour and an example of experimental archaeology which is carried out by replicating or approximating the feasibility of ancient cultures. “This is done by employing a number of methods, techniques, analysis and approaches based upon archaeological source material – in this instance raising a ghost ship based on the indent left by the original vessel. “Everything will be carefully recorded so we can learn from the construction.”
All that was left of the ship, buried beneath the sand of Sutton Hoo in the 7th century was an impression of the rotted-away ship’s timbers.

Plans for the shipbuild have been produced digitally from the measurements taken at the excavation back in 1939 which revealed an early medieval burial ground that included the grave of Raedwald, an Anglo-Saxon king.

To sponsor a rivet or an oar email

For more information on the project visit