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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Ancient ship in 3.5m rescue
The ship's outline is clearly visible
The ship is expected to stay in Newport
A medieval ship older than the Mary Rose is to be saved and put on permanent display in south Wales.

The Welsh Assembly has promised up to 3m for the 15th century ship to be lifted from its resting place in mud on the river front in Newport, south Wales and preserved as an historic tourist attraction.

archaeologist at work
Archaelogists can continue work on site

On Friday, ministers pledged 1m from this year's assembly budget and promised the remainder of the cash over the next three years.

They will also ask the Heritage Lottery Fund to help towards the cost of treating and conserving the ship's timbers.

The whole project to save the ship - which was found on the banks of the River Usk - is expected to cost 3,465,000.

The timbers from the 65ft unnamed ocean-going vessel were found during the construction of a theatre and arts centre in June and were unveiled last month.


The ship will be a fitting symbol of the vibrant history and the culture of our newest city and Wales as a maritime nation

Finance Minister Edwina Hart

A six-week excavation by Gwent and Glamorgan Archaeological Trust is due to end on 27 August. The site was due to be filled in for building work to continue.

The ship has been tree-ring dated, and experts say it was made from from an oak tree felled between September 1465 and April 1466.

Local campaigners had demanded that the ship be reconstructed and put on display.

But Newport City initially said it did not have the money to undertake the project.

Mary Rose, black and white picture
Historians say it may be more important than the Mary Rose

Now plans are being drawn up for a 280 sq metre basement will now be built under the ground floor gallery and main foyer of the new arts centre.

Visitors will be able to view it through a glass floor, and there will also be a viewing gallery on the lower level.

Touring the site on Friday, Welsh Finance Minister Edwina Hart said: "The discovery of this rare national treasure has brought Newport to the forefront of national and international interest.

Mrs Hart said the assembly was keen to do all it could to save the vessel.

old ship found
The hull remains largely intact, pierced by concrete piles

Considerable work needed to be done on the detail of the project, and final decisions on the display of the ship within the theatre would only be reached only after an archaeological evaluation had taken place.

"The ship will be a fitting symbol of the vibrant history and the culture of our newest city and Wales as a maritime nation," she added.

Local council leader Sir Harry Jones said : "This is an historic day for Newport. Since the discovery, the city council has acted responsibly and proactively throughout to safeguard the future of the medieval ship."

The exact costs of the project have not yet been finalised but it is expected to cost 1.3m for the construction of the site and 131,000 to raise the ship.

Backing

A further 470,000 is thought to be needed for analysis once excavation is completed and 1.5m to treat the timbers.

The campaign to save the ship won considerable local support and the backing of politicians.

Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to intervene.

Locals had feared the ship would be destroyed and held a round-the-clock vigil to save it.

Earlier this week supporters sailed up the river in a flotilla of small ships to draw attention to the campaign.

sections of ship's hull
Timbers could be stored in a freshwater lake
The Mary Rose Trust said on Friday it warmly welcome the assembly's decision to support the conservation and display of the Newport ship.

The trust said it has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Save our Ship campaign and recognised the significance of the vessel to the archaeological and wider community.

The trust has been providing advice on storage and conservation issues.

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 ON THIS STORY
Finance minister Edwina Hart
"There's such a groundswell of pride in Newport about having this ship."
See also:

23 May 02 | Wales
15 Aug 02 | Wales
14 Aug 02 | Wales
09 Aug 02 | Wales
22 Oct 01 | England
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