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.
It is now going on display for the first time at the city’s library, nearly 200 years after it was unearthed up 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 sold to York Museums Trust.
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 was discovered just a few miles from where it will be displayed, alongside an exhibition exploring life in the district 1,000 years ago.
Visitors will be able to find out who might have used the boat, how it was built, and who by.
Coun Box added: “It’s an interesting part of our district’s history and, along with the other artefacts on display in Wakefield Library and Museum, opens up a window into the past.
“The Council is proud to have secured this important national treasure for the people of the district to admire and find out more about.”
The exhibition, which has been funded by Arts Council England, also features an Anglo-Saxon cross shaft – an ancient carved stone found being used as a doorstep in a shop on Westgate in 1862.
It was originally a preaching cross from the site of Wakefield’s first church.
For more information visit www.wakefield.gov.uk/museums or call 01924 305356.
Boat ‘no ordinary find’
The Stanley Ferry boat was unearthed when workers were digging the foundations for an aqueduct in 1938.
Made of oak and six metres long, it was taken into to York, where it was specially preserved.
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: “It is likely to have seen use as a passenger ferry on the River Calder a thousand years ago.
“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.”