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Winchelsea Nef 1274 A.D. by Louie da fly - 1:75


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I've found that since I finished my dromon and was left with only the Great Harry, concentrating on a single build I sometimes get a bit stale, so I've decided to start another one. When I get tired of working on one, I can go to the other with a fresh viewpoint. It's also good while I'm waiting for the glue to dry.

 

I've always been enchanted by the "longships" with castles (often described as "nefs" - the Mediaeval French word for ship) shown on the seals of port cities from the end of the 13th century. Though I originally thought of these as Crusader ships, by the time they start appearing, the main Crusades were all but over. 

 

The first of these had castles separate from the hull - many with a castle at each end, but some with only one, at the stern. Here are a few examples, out of quite a large number I've managed to collect while researching these vessels.

 

image.png.693750a329e79fd3cdc4059b00768962.png   image.png.a9e14cc65245a01d10c9bb525bc807e4.png              image.png.09cff594166fd3705f2582520f295455.png

 

             Seal of Sandwich - 1238                                               Seal of Melcombe Regis - 1290-1305                         Seal of San Sebastian, Spain - 1297

 

but over time they were incorporated somewhat, with the castles extending over the stem and sternposts.

 

image.png.e2e7775f55c4e6c9204cadc1931d8429.png     image.png.8003cf97c219416c956224b1ff4b4cf1.png    image.png.672ae007ecd5a39dbd3458c86136cf35.png

 

Seal of Dover - 1284                                                          Seal of Kingston-on-Hull - 1348                                 Seal of Faversham - Date unknown

 

I like the earlier ones better - they're much more attractive in my view. And the most beautiful of all is the ship from the seal of Winchelsea, dating to 1274.

 

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I spent quite a lot of time thinking about the form the hull would take - were they long and sleek like the Viking longships (Gokstad, Skuldelev etc)? It is usually assumed the representations on the seals are shown shorter than the reality, to squeeze them into the circular shape of the seal, but on the other hand, though these would certainly serve as warships, I believe their main function would be as merchant vessels and would have to be wide and deep enough to carry cargo.

 

Getting a bit speculative here, bit I decided to take mine as following the tradition of the  knarr, the cargo ship used by the Vikings. So I'm basing the hull shape on the largest knarr found, Haithabu/Hedeby 3. From the website https://www2.rgzm.de/navis/ships/ship009/ship009engl.htm "According to the reconstruction the ship had a total length of 22.08 m [72 feet], a width of 6.2 m [20 feet] and a height of 2.52 m [8.26 feet]. The cargo capacity would have been about 60 tons."

 

Using information from the above website, I managed to get diagrams of the ship as reconstructed - from above, from the side, and a midships section.

 

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There is more information out there to help with the shape of the hull. One thing I will change, however, is the shape at the bow and stern. The stem and sternposts of knarrs curve backwards into the body of the ship, but in a nef they curve outwards. In fact, the shape of stem and sternpost in these vessels seems to be characteristic throughout the type, always wider at the top, with the outside of the curve following the line of the hull, with the inner surface of the stem/sternpost curving inboard somewhat.

 

 image.png.47f062a4db50da16c1ec36913bba11cc.png 

 

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I'll be building this ship on a plug - rather than work out frames on paper, I decided to make a shape that looked right, using the midships section and other information I've collected (from other knarrs) to give an idea of the bow and stern sections.

 

And it'll be clinker built - I'm going to try just overlapping adjoining strakes on a smooth plug and see how that works.

 

So, here we go: The plug is made of 4 relatively thin strips of wood each side, which are temporarily screwed together and then shaped.

 

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 Note: I stuffed up a bit with the 2nd inner strip - made it a little too short - so I had to add a bit to pack it out, then sand it to fit the rest of the hull.

 

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And now the other side:

 

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Marking out the hull shape.

 

Next step is to smooth off this side of the hull to follow the pencil marks, then pull the two halves apart and line up the strips of the second half with those of the first half, and shape them so they are mirror images of each other.

 

More to come.

 

Steven

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Very interesting, Chapman. Unfortunately, ich spreche nicht Deutsch . . .

 

But it would be interesting to see how Zimmerman interpreted the available evidence - mostly it's just what we see on the seals, plus three manuscript illustrations (as far as I've been able to discover so far) - plus a lot of speculation based on such things as Haithabu 3 and Skuldelev 1 (if I'm right in thinking nefs were a development from ships like the knarr, which is by no means certain).

 

Thanks for your interest.

 

Popcorn's on the table as you enter . . . :D 

 

Steven 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I've just been doing some research to find out how thick I should be making the planking on the nef, based on the knarr finds which are the only near equivalents to a nef for which archaeological evidence exists.

 

The planking on the knarr Skuldelev 1 was 1" (25mm) thick on the bottom, but on the sides it was as much as 2.5" (62.5mm), much thicker than the planking on the Gokstad (long) ship, which was 25mm (1") at its thickest, tapering down to even less. 

 

So if this (admittedly rather small) sample is to be believed, the knarr was much more strongly built than the longship, sacrificing seaworthiness for strength, as befits a cargo vessel which carries a load of 15 tons. On the other hand, it has been calculated the ship I'm basing my model on,  Haithabu 3, could have carried 60 tons, so it was probably even more strongly built.

 

At 1:75 scale, that means the bottom planking will be  0.3 mm thick, while the sides should be 0.83mm - but I'll probably make it somewhat thicker because the ship I'm building carries four times the load of the knarr from which I got my figures.

 

Worth knowing.

 

Steven 

Edited by Louie da fly
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Thanks, AnobiumPunctatumChapman has already alerted me to this book. However, the fact that it's in German (which I can't read) and it was written in 1984, before the knarr finds, means that it would probably only be of incidental interest. However, I'd be interested in seeing the shape Zimmerman proposed for his reconstruction.

 

I have Landström's book, and I'm taking  a lot of his ideas on board.

 

Steven

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Steven,

 

    I am pulling up a chair.  I am considering that model as well.  It was going to be after my cog, but I stalled on the cog and another project interceded.

 

    I have the book as well.  I do not read or speak German but the plans are pretty good and there are some fine diagrams.  It covers the nef and another that resembles a longboat, but was used by William the Conqueror...after all, Normans WERE Viking descendants.  The plans yielded the following model which can be found on the internet.  I can send the link.  There are multiple angles and interior shots

2104432761_Nefmodelmodelships_de.jpg.49ffb338192f2a44361eccd80ba74e89.jpg.19046e1520cc3a1b74d5561c3817b2ee.jpg

 

    I had not chosen NOT to name my log (when I make one) Winchelsea Nef because everybody will be opening it expecting a frigate.   😄However, if you look at the transom of Chuck P's WINCHELSEA model, you will find the nef.

 

Edited by Chuck Seiler
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Ah, yes. I know this one. I have admired it for quite a while. Mine will look very similar, but some of the details will be different - closer to the details on the city seal. For example there will be no bowsprit, the castles will be "tapered rectangles" rather than triangles, and some of the detail of the castles and their supports will be different.

 

The hull shape and the mast and sail will be very similar.

 

Steven

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Marked the wooden strips that make up the second half of the plug, so they match the first half:

 

20210718_144116.thumb.jpg.8ac74dc478dc1c8e2e6d0bf0407609f7.jpg

 

Then I noticed that the strips were somewhat the wrong shape - the ends should either slope inwards as they go lower on the hull (towards the ends of the ship), or at midships they should be vertical - otherwise the ship will have a tumble-home - effectively it would be wider than the extreme breadth as taken from the drawings I was working from. So I re-shaped them somewhat, and have also cut the outlines of the second half's strips to match them.

 

20210720_145826.thumb.jpg.5854be28ef7cc25fefb19d05eceea396.jpg

 

Next step is to fully shape the second half.

 

Steven

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On 7/18/2021 at 8:30 AM, Louie da fly said:

[...] and it was written in 1984, before the knarr finds, means that it would probably only be of incidental interest.

 

 

Sorry to say, but this is definitly wrong. Suldelev I and III were found in the beginning of the sixtieth and the drawings of these ships were available.

Also if you can not read the book, the drawings are very well researched.

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3 hours ago, druxey said:

Were the through beams really above deck level?

    I am not really sure what the model is based on (yet) so I am not really sure.  The knarrs Christian referred to had above deck beams that served as thwarts/seats for rowers.  They were lower and not thru-deck, but served the same purpose of structural support. 

 

    The nef deck is not that far above the keel.  I do not have the full plans in front of me, but I estimate the height of the beam to be knee to mid thigh level. 

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12 hours ago, AnobiumPunctatum said:

Suldelev I and III were found in the beginning of the sixtieth and the drawings of these ships were available.

 

Yes, I found that out after I'd posted. And if I recall correctly,  Haithabu 3 (which is what I'm mainly working from) was found in the 1970's.

 

12 hours ago, AnobiumPunctatum said:

Also if you can not read the book, the drawings are very well researched.

 

Yes, but assuming the model above is built from those drawings, based on my own investigations I already disagree with two details - the triangular castles (where the shape of the castles can be determined in contemporary pictures they are never shown triangular - that shape didn't come into use until the rise of the carrack in the 15th century) -  and the through-beams above deck (I agree with Druxey about them being an obstacle course if they're done that way - I believe they are in fact deck-beams).

 

As I can't read the German to check what Zimmerman based his conclusions on, I find going back to the original evidence (contemporary representations, plus whatever archaeological evidence exists) works well for me.

 

Steven

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Posted (edited)
On 7/18/2021 at 7:52 PM, Louie da fly said:

Mine will look very similar, but some of the details will be different - closer to the details on the city seal. For example there will be no bowsprit, the castles will be "tapered rectangles" rather than triangles, and some of the detail of the castles and their supports will be different.

Steven,

 

    Will you be following the lines you posted in your post #1?  (See below)

1933784613_louiesnef.png.738daf58b1eb35a994ad67d813d4f7ec.png

 

    You mentioned you would not be including a bowsprit, but a bowsprit is in the plan.  How tapered do you anticipate the castles to be?

 

    A model of the Hedeby 3 https://www.icelandknarr.com/the-hedeby-3-knarr.html   shows the beams to be fairly high up and certainly an obstacle, although not through-beams.

Edited by Chuck Seiler
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Chuck Seiler said:

Will you be following the lines you posted in your post #1?  (See below)

 

Yes, as closely as possible. I chose the Winchelsea nef because the castles are so beautifully decorated compared with other examples. Note where the deck level is (as estimated from the ends of the through-beams shown on the city seal) and the little man standing on the deck. This would give the ship a fairly good amount of depth for the hold.

 

2 hours ago, Chuck Seiler said:

You mentioned you would not be including a bowsprit, but a bowsprit is in the plan. 

 

Correct. But the Winchelsea seal doesn't show one, though most seals do (as can be seen on 4 out of the 5 other seals in my first post). Now I have to decide whether the seal-maker just forgot to put it in, or whether the ship actually didn't have one.

 

I've just been through my pics and of the nefs with one or more castles shown, (I haven't included in the list pictures of nef-type ships that don't have castles).

 

The following have bowsprits:

 

The seals of Poole, San Sebastian, Sandwich, Dover, Yarmouth, Melcombe Regis, Faversham, and Haversham West. Two illustrations from the Bodley Bestiary, two illustrations from BL Egerton MS 3028, plus another manuscript illustration of a sea battle which has what might be interpreted as a bowsprit. [Nope: looking back again, it's a spear held by someone on the opposing ship, stabbing someone on this ship]. A small number of representations show a green leafy branch at the end of the bowsprit or on the top of the stem and/or sternpost. 

 

Without bowsprits:

 

The seals of Hythe, Hastings, New Shoreham, Dunwich, and of course Winchelsea, plus five illustrations from  BL Egerton MS 3028 (though in some the bowsprit may be obscured rather than missing).

 

It appears that the bowsprit may have been a development that was fairly new and not used by all vessels. Landström interprets them as light booms to take the bowlines, and his reconstruction shows one on each side of the stempost. I'm not sure I agree about there being two - there is no firm evidence to back this up, and it could simply be a single spar running alongside the stempost, rather like the offset bowsprit in early carracks. 

 

Anyway, after looking at the evidence above, I think rather than cobble several nefs together I'll stay faithful to the Winchelsea one. Which means no fighting top on the mast, either.

 

The crossbeams on Hedeby/Haithabu 3 could be used as a sort of deckbeam to support removable panels of decking, to allow access to belowdecks for cargo storage. That's perhaps the way I'll approach things. If not, I'll make them proper deckbeams, but with one removeable deck panel for the hatch.

 

 

 

Steven

 

 

 

Edited by Louie da fly
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Hi Steven,

 

the model, you show the picture, is not build following the drawings from Zimmermann. The sources for this model are from Jochen v. Fricks "Normannenschiffe", Delius Klasing Verlag. The original book was first published in the GDR but I don't have information when.

Here is a link to the website, where the model was published and where I found the Information about the source.

 

If I remember right, Zimmermann shows an other castle. In the weekend I will have a look if I can scan you two fotos from the model Zimmermann has built.

 

I am really interested to yee your progress.

 

 

 

 

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I stand corrected, the above models is not from the Zimmerman book, it is from "Normannenschiffe: Die normannischen Bayeux-Langschiffe und die frühmittelalterliche Nef der Cinque Ports (German Edition) Hardcover – January 1, 1986. German Edition by. Jochen von Fircks "  The nef from the Zimmerman book looks more like the one you envision.  A picture of the model can be found at:

https://theropetokyo-en.jimdofree.com/gallery/35th-exhibiton-2010/

 

Another book I will have to purchase (and German lessons).

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Hi Chuck,

 

yes it has. The drawings are in scale 1/50. You're welcome to learn a little bit German. A few years ago I had to learn Netherlands for my job. Now I am really happy, that I can read Netherlands books about historic ships. There is a really nice book about the Ijssel Kogge form the 15 th century.

 

 

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4 hours ago, AnobiumPunctatum said:

If I remember right, Zimmermann shows an other castle. In the weekend I will have a look if I can scan you two fotos from the model Zimmermann has built.

 

That would be very good, Christian. I'd like to see what Zimmerman's conclusions were, (and how they compare to my own).

 

In the meantime, here is some more progress on the plug:

 

 

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I'm pretty happy that I've got both sides the same (at least as much the same as I'm able to do!) Next I need to put in the groove to take the keel and the stem and sternposts.

 

And here's Landström's take on the Winchelsea and Sandwich ships. He does do very seaworthy-looking reconstructions, unlike some I've seen. It looks like he has the idea of removeable panels of planking for access to the hold. And you can see his idea of the "bowsprit", which he is calling a beitass as in Viking ships, though with rather a different application.

 

20210721_142426.thumb.jpg.e40edece2f41131aaeea4a15d68dde2c.jpg

 

Should I be adding a boat? I think that just because the Winchelsea seal doesn't show it doesn't mean the ship was without one . . . 

 

Steven

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