The Grace Dieu – a medieval warship!
The History of The Grace Dieu
The Grace Dieu was King Henry Vs Flagship and the wreckage lies in The River Hamble. From the pontoon in Manor Farm Country Park you can see the nautical wreck marker – a yellow cross – that shows where the wreckage lies. The Grace Dieu was built between 1416 and 1418 and at that time it was the largest ship built in England. She was constructed in Southampton and was a clinker built boat made from timber. She weighed 1400 tons! No other ship this big was built for another 200 years!
Sadly the Grace Dieu was never used in battle and only ever made one journey! During this first voyage in 1420 her crew mutinied and they only made it as far as the Isle of Wight. This has led to theories that she was incredibly difficult to sail. After her doomed maiden voyage, she was laid to rest on Southampton Water and never sailed on the sea again. In 1434 she was towed upstream to a mud berth in The River Hamble, where her wreckage still remains.
In 1439 she was set ablaze when she was struck by a bolt of lightning and the ship was burnt to the waterline. Or was she? There is a local rumour that the shipkeeper looking after the ship had plundered and sold off so many materials from her that he set fire to the ship himself, blaming a bolt of lightening as a cover up…
Discovering the wreckage
The wreckage was first excavated by the Victorians who believed it was a Viking ship because of the clinker built hull. It was genuinely examined and identified as The Grace Dieu in the 1930s. The wreck was then purchased by the University of Southampton in 1970 and is now designated as a protected wreck site. The ship has been investigated many times including by the Archaeological Research Centre, the National Maritime Museum, the Centre for Maritime Archaeology (CMA) at the University of Southampton and even by Channel 4s Time Team in 2004.
The Grace Dieu Play Trail
Sculptor Richard Janes has especially designed and created natural play areas at Barnfield inspired by The Grace Dieu, by working with local groups including children from Freeground Junior School in Hedge End, The Hamble Sea Scout Cubs, and a local Brownies group. Volunteers from TCV and Manor Farm Country Park helped with the installation of the works.
The Barnfield signs at the pedestrian entrances to Barnfield were also created by Richard Janes. The three overlapping planks are inspired from the triple clinker hull of The Grace Dieu. The translucent green strips are inspired from the Horse Tail plants that you can find around the entrance. Hidden on the Grace Dieu play area, there are some crab carvings. Can you find them?
Sketches of playtrail © courtesy of Richard Janes