Matthew (ship)

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The Mathew cruising Cardiff Bay (2799993543).jpg
A replica of The Matthew in Cardiff Bay
NameThe Matthew
BuilderStorms'l Services
Laid down1994
General characteristics
Typereplica caravel
Tons burthen50
LengthLength overall: 78 ft (24 m)
Beam20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)
Height72.5 ft 6 in (22.25 m)
Draught7 ft 6 in (2.29 m)
Installed power200hp Caterpillar 3116
Propulsionsail, engine
Sail plancaravel

Matthew was a caravel sailed by John Cabot in 1497 from Bristol to Newfoundland, North America. There are two modern replicas – one in Bristol, England (built 1994–1996) and one in Bonavista, Newfoundland (built 1997–1998).

Cabot's original voyages[edit]

The captain of the Matthew was an Italian explorer named Giovanni Caboto who is better known as John Cabot.[1] After a voyage which had got no further than Iceland, Cabot left again with only one vessel, the Matthew, a small ship (50 tons), but fast and able. The crew consisted of only 18 men. The Matthew departed 2 May 1497.[2] He sailed to Dursey Head (latitude 51°36N), Ireland, from where he sailed due west, expecting to reach Asia. However, landfall was reached in North America on 24 June 1497. His precise landing place is a matter of much controversy, with Cape Bonavista or St. John's in Newfoundland the most likely sites. There is a statue of John Cabot located on the Cape of Bonavista, Newfoundland in his honour.

Cabot went ashore to take possession of the land, and explored the coast for some time, probably departing on 20 July. On the homeward voyage his sailors incorrectly thought they were going too far north, so Cabot sailed a more southerly course, reaching Brittany instead of England. On 6 August he arrived back in Bristol.

Historic information[edit]

Lack of clear documentation has been a problem in studying the history of Matthew. Even its name has been questioned, with some authors suggesting that it was actually named Mattea after Cabot's wife.[3] Until the 1950s, all that was known about its size is that it was a small ship carrying about 18 men, but the discovery of a letter from a Bristol merchant named John Day written in 1497 saying that "in his voyage he had only one ship of fifty 'toneles' and twenty men and food for seven or eight months" provided more certainty about its size.[4] The age of the ship is also uncertain. The name Matthew does not appear in the 1492/3 customs accounts, so it was either fairly new or an older ship renamed or a foreign ship. It has been suggested that it probably was an ordinary Bristol merchant ship hired for the occasion. The name Matthew appears in documents in 1503/04 and 1510/11 but in a 1513 survey there is reference to a 'new Matthew' and references to this ship afterward leave out the 'new' suggesting that Cabot's Matthew no longer existed.[4]

Bristol replica[edit]

Matthew replica moored in Bristol

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Cabot's voyage, a replica of Matthew was built in Bristol by Storms'l Services, a precursor of the Bristol Classic Boat Company. The design was by naval architect Colin Mudie. It took two years to complete the replica and cost $3.8 million. She was dedicated in a ceremony during the first International Festival of the Sea, held in Bristol's Floating Harbour in 1996. The next year, she reconstructed Cabot's original journey on the 500th anniversary of the landmark voyage. On 24 June 1997 the replica of Matthew was welcomed into port at Bonavista by Queen Elizabeth II. The Matthew is owned by Bristol Trust, which is a registered charity and all money raised goes towards maintaining the ship and her legacy. [5]

The full-size replica[6] is 78 ft (24 m) in length overall with a beam of 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m) with a draft of 7 ft (2.1 m) and 2,360 sq ft (219 m2) of sail.[7] This replica is made from oak and Douglas fir and has a diesel engine and a ship radio that would not have been available in the medieval times. [8]

On 29 February 2012 Matthew's ownership was transferred to The Matthew of Bristol Trust, and he was relocated to his new home outside Bristol's M Shed museum.[9]

In June 2012 she took part in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee pageant on the River Thames.[10]

Bonavista replica[edit]

The Bonavista replica (48°39′3.69″N 53°6′55.46″W / 48.6510250°N 53.1154056°W / 48.6510250; -53.1154056) was built in 1997-98 by a team of seven shipwrights and four local carpenters. The second replica was paid for by the provincial government and so was an interpretation centre for the 500th anniversary. Currently the vessel is undergoing repairs so she can sail again. [11] There are tours for this replica that take place at the Bonavista harbour where individuals can learn more about Cabot's voyage and see the inside of the replica ship. [12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "start your voyage of discovery – VISIT THE BONAVISTA MATTHEW". Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  2. ^ Weare, G. E. (George Edward) (1897). Cabot's discovery of North America. Robarts - University of Toronto. London : John MacQueen.
  3. ^ Wilson, Ian John Cabot and the Matthew Breakwater Books 2001 ISBN 978-1-55081-131-5 p.22 [1]
  4. ^ a b 'Jones, Evan "The Matthew of Bristol and the financiers of John Cabot’s 1497 Voyage to North America" English Historical Review Vol. CXXI No. 492 (2006)'
  5. ^ "The Modern Matthew | Matthew". Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  6. ^ "Building the Matthew". The Matthew of Bristol. Archived from the original on 7 August 2008. Retrieved 26 October 2008.
  7. ^ "The Matthew Statistics". The Matthew of Bristol. Archived from the original on 12 January 2006. Retrieved 20 August 2006.
  8. ^ "The Modern Matthew | Matthew". Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  9. ^ "New trust takes the helm of replica Matthew". Bristol Evening Post. 29 February 2012. Archived from the original on 2 March 2012. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  10. ^ "Bristol celebrates Queen's Diamond Jubilee". BBC News. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  11. ^ "The Ship – start your voyage of discovery". Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Plan Your Visit – start your voyage of discovery". Retrieved 2 March 2021.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°26′51.46″N 2°35′57.93″W / 51.4476278°N 2.5994250°W / 51.4476278; -2.5994250