Build the Sutton Hoo Ship

by Annie Leech in Woodbridge, England, United Kingdom

Build the Sutton Hoo Ship
We did it
On 25th April 2021 we successfully raised £20,050 ( + est. £4170.25 Gift Aid ) with 322 supporters in 41 days

With your help we will recreate the 27metre Sutton Hoo Ship from green oak.

by Annie Leech in Woodbridge, England, United Kingdom

We rarely get a chance in our lives to make history and build a legacy for future generations. The extraordinary tale of uncovering an immense Anglo-Saxon King’s burial ship and its golden treasure at Sutton Hoo is a story for all ages, recounted in the Netflix film “The Dig”. The treasures from within the buried hull are in a special gallery in the British Museum.  

The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company is recreating the ship and needs your help! 

We have been able to start the journey because people who hear what we’re doing are excited about 1614849945_shsc-press-release-photo.jpgthe project’s huge potential. Since we embarked on the actual build project in 2019 thousands have made donations, large and small, or sponsored metal fixings. Volunteers have put hundreds of hours of time and energy into organising, research and building models to test our plan.

So why do we need to raise funds now?

Much time has been lost since March 2020 because of restrictions resulting from the Covid19 pandemic. The oak for our ship’s keel was felled last autumn and the 12.8 metre (42 ft) log arrived in Suffolk in January 2021.  Now the build team needs to move quickly so that the wood can be used while it is still green and easily worked. 

We are running against the clock. The carefully planned schedule of work has had to be rewritten more than once. We need to move ahead with critical tasks, to capitalise on the progress made to date and make use of the timber we have whilst it is in peak condition. 

This campaign will help pay for the critical next stage of the project - laying the keel this Spring and planking up a water-tight hull by Spring 2022.   We will then be back on target to trial our ship on the water in 2023.

Who are the Sutton Hoo Ship's Company?

We are volunteers with a shared passion. In 2016 we set up the Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company - a charity with the objective of reconstructing the 7th century Anglo-Saxon King’s burial ship and testing it on the water, using records from when it was first uncovered in 1939.

We are carrying out what is probably the biggest experimental archaeology project in the whole of Europe. Whilst it is embedded in our local community in Suffolk, the findings will be of significant national and international importance.  

The burial mounds at Sutton Hoo were originally excavated by Basil Brown, an 1614792761_lotd_sh_twds_river.jpegamateur archaeologist who worked for Mrs Pretty, the widowed owner of the estate.The retelling of their story in the Netflix film ‘The Dig’, is capturing peoples’ imagination all over the world. The first hurried excavation at Sutton Hoo was in 1939 on the cusp of the second World War. Since then, we have learned a lot about the treasures that were found.  But over eighty years on there is still a lot to learn about the ship that the treasure was buried in.

"Working on the film The Dig has given me a compelling insight into the history of Sutton Hoo. I a1614792903_c469f674-aef0-443d-9951-2667972877dd.jpegm very excited that a team of volunteers at the Sutton Hoo Ship's Company are actually recreating King Raedwald's famous vessel.... I can't wait to see it when it is finished.  I wish everyone involved all success in this great project!" Ralph Fiennes

Why are we building the Ship, and how are we going about it?

We set off on this huge endeavour because this ship is unique, a national treasure; building it and seeing what it can do links us to the people who buried it in the seventh century.  How did they create such a huge ship, and what did they use it for?  

When the burial mound was excavated all that remained of the ship was an imprint in the 1614783552_admin-ajax.php.jpegsand where wood had been and the rusty remains of thousands of iron rivets that had fixed the planks together.  Three years of research, based on the archaeological records, and modelling using the latest digital technologies means that we now have accurate plans to rebuild a ship as near as possible to the one that the Anglo-Saxons buried.


The Longshed where we are building the ship, is directly oppos1614851411_img_0752.jpegite Sutton Hoo on the bank of the River Deben.  Working on this site carries on a long tradition of boat building in Woodbridge. Like the original, our ship will be a vast 27metres in length - that’s over 88 feet (almost the length of two and half London buses), and beautiful as well with a serious scientific purpose.  

Our ship will take a dozen or more good-size oaks, about 4000 nails, and many thousands of hours of labour to complete.

Volunteers from all walks of life, ranging in age from their early 20’s to over 80 are taking part in the build, under the guidance of our professional shipwright, and other experts. 


With help from archaeologists, historians, expert shipwrights, and academic support from the Universities of York, Southampton and the Institute for Digital Archaeology in Oxford, the team are using tools and materials as close as possible to the ones that would have been available to the craftsmen who built the Sutton Hoo ship in the 7th century.

1614852699_61231c3e-d693-4037-8e26-1008af55af3e_3.jpgWill you join us on the next step of the journey?  Now that the end of the severe Covid restrictions is in sight, we are keen to power ahead towards the goal of launching the ship ready for sea trials in 2023. Our existing build team are impatient to get back to work and new volunteers are queueing up for training.  Everyone who donates to this campaign is helping get the project back on target and in doing so contributing to the continuing story of a magnificent ship built for a King in the 7th century.  

We have got some fantastic rewards on offer: 

specially designed canvas bags, leather aprons , limited edition postcards and prints, a signed copy of Professor Martin Carver's book about the Sutton Hoo burial mounds, opportunities to hear about the project direct from members of the team, join us in the Longshed, or sponsor your own oar for the ship. 


Seeing at first hand the scale and challenges of turning raw timber into a great ship puts the skills of 7th century craftsmen into perspective. 

We are excited that 1614854470_img_0726_(1).jpegas restrictions ease, we will once again be able to welcome visitors to the Longshed to show off what we are doing.  For those of you who can’t make it to Woodbridge, we will document and share every step of the build through videos, online media, regular news bulletins and live discussion.  We sincerely hope that in time you will also come and see our ship in the water.

Here are comments from some of our best known supporters:

"Imagine how excited I was to learn that this ship is being recon1615225584_alice-roberts.jpgstructed.... It will be amazing to see that 1300-year-old ship "in the flesh"- but the archaeologists will also learn an enormous amount through the construction - and even more perhaps when she sets sail.  Good luck to the team  - and I can't wait to see the result!"  Professor Alice Roberts

"I have stood on that Sutton Hoo hill and gazed at the site of the ship-burial trying to imagine the vessel when it was interred.  I've stood in Room 41 at1615225715_frank-skinner-scaled.jpg the British Museum and had similarly piecemeal visions.  How amazing that the ship is coming to life again. Seeing it will, I'm sure, fix my faulty imagination and Sutton Hoo will seem more real, more exciting, than ever" Frank Skinner 


This project offers rewards in return for your donation

£20 or more

6 Original design postcards

We will send you a pack of original design postcards with 6 different images relating to the ship build. Please select option 2 if you live outside the UK.

£5 or more

Choose how much want to donate

We will add your email address to our online newsletter mailing list so you can keep in touch with what is going on. You can unsubscribe at any time or choose not to receive the newsletter by picking option 2.

£10 or more

A pin badge to show your support

We will send you a special Sutton Hoo Ship's Company sponsor enamel pin badge. Please select option 2 if you live outside the UK.

£25 or more

48 of 250 claimed

A big canvas tote bag with a special design

We will send you one of the natural canvas tote bags that have been specially designed with our SHSC motif. This is a roomy bag 36 x 41 cm with over the shoulder handles and a gusset. Please select option 2 if you live outside the UK.

£50 or more

11 of 200 claimed

Limited edition A3 print £50, or £75 for a pair

A limited edition A3 (297mm x 420mm) numbered print of plans used for reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo Ship. 100 each of the midship section exterior (option 1) and interior view (option 2). If you would like the pair please select option 3 .

£100 or more

11 of 100 claimed

A Limited edition A2 print

A limited edition A2 (420mm x 594mm) numbered print of plans used for reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo Ship. Please select option 2 if you live outside the UK

£200 or more

7 of 20 claimed

A very special leather apron

Leather aprons with the SHSC logo have been specially designed for us by the company who make protective aprons for our shipbuild team. These aprons are lighter weight than the ones we use for axe work and are suitable for cooking (indoors or out), gardening, or in the workshop. Please select option 2 if you live outside the UK

£250 or more

0 of 20 claimed

Hear at first hand about the project

Join one of our Directors and our Shipwright in an online discussion about the ship build, how we got to where we are, what we're doing and the challenges of a project like this. We will contact you to arrange a date and time to suit you (and up to 10 other people).

£500 or more

3 of 20 claimed

Visit us in the Longshed

Join one of our Directors and members of the build team in Woodbridge for a personal tour of our workshop in the Longshed followed by burgers (vegetarian available) at the Boathouse Kitchen and Bar for up to 6 people. We will contact you to arrange a date.

£1,000 or more

5 of 25 claimed

An oar for the Ship with your name or dedication

Our ship will need several sets of oars made from different type of wood - each oar has an exclusive number. We will contact you to assign a number which will be included on a special certificate that we will send you together with two limited edition pin badges. We will also invite you to add a name or dedication on the shaft of your oar, and book two free places on a half-day practical workshop in the Longshed (dates to be arranged).

£40 or more

40 of 40 claimed

A signed copy of "The Sutton Hoo Story"

A signed copy of "The Sutton Hoo Story - encounters with early England". Professor Martin Carver recounts the dramatic story of the Dark Age burial ground at Sutton Hoo and its exploration over half a century. Martin is a Trustee and inspiration to the Sutton Hoo Ship's Company. Please select option 2 if you live outside the UK.

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