Viking boat goes on display 200 years after it was unearthed in Wakefield

DURING the reign of Erik Bloodaxe more than 1,000 years ago, this Viking boat was used to ferry passengers over the River Calder in Wakefield.

Council Leader Peter Box with the remains of the Viking boat

It is now going on display in the city for the first time, nearly 200 years after it was unearthed by workers digging the foundations of Stanley Ferry Aqueduct in 1838.

Back then, Wakefield did not have a museum, so the six-metre long artefact, carbon-dated to 1,000AD, was taken into the care of York Museums Trust.

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It is the only boat of its kind from the Viking era in Britain, and is thought to have been used like a gondola to transport people across the river.

Wakefield Council leader Coun Peter Box said: “When Yorkshire people think of Vikings they think of York, but there was a very important battle at Castleford at around the same time this boat was in use, when Erik Bloodaxe, Viking King of York, defeated Eadred of Wessex’s army, forcing them to retreat back down south.”

He said the council was delighted to “welcome home” the boat, which will be displayed alongside an exhibition exploring life in the district 1,000 years ago at Wakefield One.

Adam Parker, collections facilitator, archaeology at York Museums Trust said the boat was one of the earliest known to have fitted ribs, increasing its stability.

He said: “Preserving wood in this way requires very specific conditions beneath the ground; its certainly not an everyday find. It’s great to see the boat back on display, and following an excellent programme of conservation by York Archaeological Trust.”

The exhibition also features an Anglo-Saxon cross shaft from the site of Wakefield’s first church.