Level 3 Blacksmithing Students from Holme Lacy College recently embarked on an amazing journey to the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark.

Their skills and talents were put to the test in a collaborative effort to construct a replica anchor for the Skudelev 5 vessel, excavated in Roskilde Fjord in 1962, which is currently being recreated at the Museum’s Shipyard.

The museum places a strong emphasis on experimental archaeology, recreating ships using techniques that are traditional to the original makers. 

The initial task for the tutors was to complete research into a period-accurate anchor.

They chose the Ladby anchor, discovered in a ship-burial 120km away from Roskilde, and made within 100 years of the Skuldelev V vessel.

Using x-rays alongside excavation reports, finds reports and a knowledge of traditional techniques, the team were able to create accurate drawings and technical plans for the anchor.

The students were split into four teams, with each team focused on forging one component for the anchor, with the components then being fire welded together.

The students were outside of their comfort zone for a large part of this experimental archaeology project. In some cases, the students were working with materials and traditional techniques that they were not familiar with.

Topp and Co donated wrought iron from three Victorian anchor chain links to the project – a material that many of the students are not used to handling within their educational practices, as well as having to adapt to using coal instead of the more familiar coke.

Indeed, students are more used to controlled conditions within their workshop at the College and therefore faced a number of challenges when completing a large project, using unfamiliar materials and fuels in a tent in Denmark. 

Clare and Kyle, two of the group leaders, explained that they had a wonderful time and that they really valued the efforts of their tutors to organise this trip. Clare mentioned that the opportunity to work in a professional team was a great experience and a real learning curve, making for an invaluable experience. 

The anchor is currently in transit on the way to the College so that students can complete the finishing touches before returning it to the museum. From there, the rest of the ship will be reconstructed, and the museum will be able to gain a better perspective and understanding of the archaeological history of the boat and the different trades involved in its construction and use.

The tutors and students expressed that this connection with the museum has been an amazing opportunity for them, and one that will be strengthened by the next cohort of students as plans are already in the making to return in following years to work on the chain for the anchor.

The students would like to thank Triona and Silas from the Viking Ship Museum, and everyone involved in the organisation of this trip. This project had wide coverage, having so far appeared on TV news in Denmark and France, and online news in Spain, Iceland, Denmark, China, Uruguayand New Zealand!

There is a real buzz amongst the students upon their return to the College, and a resounding sense of pride to have been involved in such a unique and exciting project.