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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Size of Norman medieval ships? Reply to topic
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 6:19 pm    Post subject: Size of Norman medieval ships?         Reply with quote

Does anyone have factual knowledge of the types of ships that were taken across the sea to the battle of Hastings?

I am aware of at least 3 larger types of known and documented ships that are roughly appropriate to Norman medieval period.

http://ina.tamu.edu/SerceLimani.htm
http://www2.rgzm.de/navis/ships/ship002/Ship002Engl.htm
http://ina.tamu.edu/yassiada7.htm

These shipwrecks bracket the styles and types that should have been used for transport near the time of the Battle of Hastings. Hulls are pretty shallow and would limit below deck cargo of livestock. Period accounts leading up to the battle of Hastings state that 5000 men were placed on 700 "small sailing vessels". Modern articles seem to add 3000 horses to the inventory. The total displacement (represents maximum mass that can be put in such that one more drop of water would sink it on perfectly calm water) of any representative vessel of the period is 200 to 300 cubic meters. This equates to around 400,000 to 600,000 lbs maximum (one fourth that figure is more like it for stability over relatively calm waves, say 125,000 lb stable capacity.) The larger ships are generally described as capable of carrying 60 men (say 15,000 lbs plus some cargo which is typically more than weight of passengers.)

According to popular accounts, 600 to 700 small ships carried 5,000 men plus 3000 horses across the sea to Hastings. This is completely believable based on displacement and period accounts of 60 men per ship (could have transported 10s of thousands.) Men plus horses would represent a rough cargo weight of 5 million pounds. This is well within stability range (might argue possibility of loading up to 80 million lbs top deck if 1/4 displacement rule is followed.)

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 7:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My guess would be that they would be close in appearance to Viking trading ships the Knorr that look a lot like their war ships but are wider and higher out of the water by a few feet and don't use many oars relying mostly on its' sail. Some slimmer warships as well, I would think the leadership and warriors would prefer using warships even if only for the
" dignity "of it.

From my reference book at the moment 75 to 100 foot long would be normal with maybe a 125 / 175 feet for a Long Dragon flag ship.

THE SHIP, an illustrate history, Bjorn Landstrom © 1961 by Bokforlaget Forum AB, Stockholm.
Library of congress # 61-14718 Doubleday & Company, inc.

I'm not sure but I think that small fore and aft primitive castles were starting to be used similar to the ones used earlier on Roman galley: Sort of small freestanding towers like small watch towers for use by a few archers

One masted ships in all probability.

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 7:21 pm    Post subject: the Knorr         Reply with quote

The Knorr appears more than adequate, assumming 600 to 700 of them.
http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/lgship.htm

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 4:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The 13th century norwegians still used longship-style ships. They where rated by the number of "seats". A Seat was a basically a pair of oars. They might have been separated by walls. A seat was divided into two "half seats", one on either side of the boat.

When Håkon Håkonson goes of to campaign in Scotland in 1263 his ship has 28(? dont have the book here...) seats, with a staded average of three or four people in each half-seat. This would give a crew of 84-112 people.
This, of course, is a big ship, loaded for war.

Also, its a lot longer from norway to scotland than from Normandy to England. You could pack people in tighter, because they don't need to sleep onboard the ships for days...

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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 6:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
My guess would be that they would be close in appearance to Viking trading ships the Knorr that look a lot like their war ships but are wider and higher out of the water by a few feet and don't use many oars relying mostly on its' sail. Some slimmer warships as well, I would think the leadership and warriors would prefer using warships even if only for the
" dignity "of it.

From my reference book at the moment 75 to 100 foot long would be normal with maybe a 125 / 175 feet for a Long Dragon flag ship.

THE SHIP, an illustrate history, Bjorn Landstrom © 1961 by Bokforlaget Forum AB, Stockholm.
Library of congress # 61-14718 Doubleday & Company, inc.

I'm not sure but I think that small fore and aft primitive castles were starting to be used similar to the ones used earlier on Roman galley: Sort of small freestanding towers like small watch towers for use by a few archers

One masted ships in all probability.


I think the Long Dragon was rather the exception rather then the rule though wasn't it? I think most other viking warships ships have been found to be between 60 and 90 feet in length?

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 7:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ;

Oh, yes my book does state that the Long dragon was a ship for a king and was twice the size of the average longship.

So in the entire fleet there might be only one and at most a handful of ship close to this size. The majority ships would be 60 to 90 as you mentioned.

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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Russ;

Oh, yes my book does state that the Long dragon was a ship for a king and was twice the size of the average longship.

So in the entire fleet there might be only one and at most a handful of ship close to this size. The majority ships would be 60 to 90 as you mentioned.


Seems like that King ended up dying in battle aboard that ship too... wonder what happened to the ship...

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