The end of the beginning and a giant leap forward
21 April saw the culmination of years of effort to create community boatbuilding on the site of the old Whisstocks boatyard. After 14 years, much talking and then even more doing, the new Longshed building was declared open by Woodbridge Mayor, Clare Perkins.
Whilst not yet fitted out, when finished it will be used for boat building, education and exhibitions to be enjoyed by the people of East Suffolk and beyond.
The Longshed is impressive; at just over 100 feet (30 metres) long, and with a mezzanine gallery, it will soon be hosting The Ship’s Company – a group of people from Woodbridge Riverside Trust and renowned maritime archaeological and shipbuilding experts from further afield – who have come together to build an authentic reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon King’s ship that was excavated at Sutton Hoo. Some of the people who were involved in the later excavation in 1969 are also lending their expertise to the project. The Longshed was designed to accommodate the Anglo-Saxon ship and there is a full-size banner of the ship on the inside wall.
Everyone (including experts from Sutton Hoo) is impressed by just how big it looks close up. There is a timeline showing plans for the next stages of the project in the Longshed.
Saturday was a very jolly occasion with music and the Deben looking at its best in the sunshine. Hundreds of people – passers-by, enthusiasts and supporters (and their dogs)
came by to see inside the building, talk to the WRT team and volunteers (including warriors) and see Sae Wylfing the half-length replica of the Anglo-Saxon King’s ship.
There were also examples of green oak working using traditional tools, fitting out work, and a complete St Ayles 4-oar rowing skiff model and full-size (brought especially from Blakeney for the occasion) together with the kit to make the first of what might be a small fleet of Woodbridge-built rowing skiffs on the Deben.
The Blakeney skiff was launched down the rebuilt slip at Whisstocks and local volunteers joined the Blakeney team to row it on the river. There will soon be opportunities to join a new Woodbridge Coastal Rowing Club.
The Longshed will be open regularly as soon as fitting out is complete but it is a shell building and needs a lot of finishing work. The whole programme will cost about £85,000. It’s a big challenge but we have already raised nearly half of the amount needed so the first elements of fit out work can start straight away – information about what’s involved is on the Home page . You can find out how to help or join our Friends of the Longshed scheme. The sooner we raise the money the sooner we can make the most of this fantastic building.
We are very grateful for the photos taken by Robin and Sue Garrod of Woodbridge Camera Club .