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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Medieval ship parts 'destroyed'
Medieval ship discovered in Newport
The ship is being dismantled timber by timber
Marine archaeologists have confirmed they will not be able to recover key parts of a unique 15th Century trading ship found in Newport.

Previous building work and other disturbance at the site of a new arts centre by the river means the bow and stern of the ship are missing or destroyed.

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

But Gwent and Glamorgan Archaeological Trust say that an estimated 98% of the Tudor ship can be recovered.

On Thursday, Newport councillors were looking at whether all the money for the excavation - in excess of 3.5m - could be found.

Andrew Marvell, deputy director of the Glamorgan Gwent Archeological Trust, said the project team was able to excavate 98% of the vessel, which is thought to be a century older than Henry VIII's flagship, the Mary Rose.

Newport council curator Ron Ingles said the loss of parts of the vessel had to be accepted as an act of fate.

"It is one of these things, an accident of survival. If someone had told us a few weeks ago that we would have most of a 15th century ship, we would have been very pleased."

Hull of 15th century ship, Newport
Excavation work at the site will continue

But Save Our Ships campaigner Charles Ferris said he was pleased that archaeologists would make one last sweep for the missing sections of ship.

"I think it would be a tragedy if the possibility was not explored. There would always be that question mark. Would the public accepted it if we had not given it our best shot."

A 3.5m Welsh Assembly Government grant to preserve the craft was pledged in August after a high-profile campaign mounted by archaeologists.

But it has emerged that cash refers only to restoration of the main hull.

Newport councillors meet on Thursday to examine whether the money will extend to the rest of the ship.

sections of ship's hull
Timbers could be stored in a freshwater lake

Activists believe the ship to be of national significance and older than the Tudor ship, Mary Rose.

Thousands of people flocked to the bank of the Usk during the summer as contractors made way for archaeologists' attempts to lift the boat.

Many locals have found an affinity with Newport's new discovery at a time when the city is finding its feet as Wales' third metropolis.

The bow and the stern are still buried at the site.

Museum ship

Timbers are being stored in water tanks at Corus' nearby Llanwern steelworks - preventing erosion by air - until a decision on their eventual fate is made.

The remains of the ship will be displayed at their planned resting place in Newport's new arts centre, scheduled for a 2004 opening.

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

But unless councillors can find a way to raise yet more money, the prized relic could be without its bow and stern.

The value ascribed by historians to the vessel could then be lost forever.

Charles Ferris, Save Our Ship
"The people of Newport want as much of the ship preserved as possible"

More from south east Wales
See also:

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