Recreating the town of Scarborough, Yorkshire: Post 6: The Port - Cogs, Knarrs, Cobels and Yenikapi

13th Century Cog in a drift of snow flakes at the Port of Scarborough

Medieval Scarborough:  Compline - Moonrise 15 August 1264 10:50pm (astronomical) 

Approaching the port, Keep and St Marys in distance, note beacon tower near Keep aids navigation

Approaching Scarborough from York, port to distance right

Approaching Scarborough from north Yorkshire, port to distance right

Navigation/warning beacon on largest curtain tower

The beacon tower on the largest curtain tower, was an important navigational aid to traffic in the bay and at sea. Orientation between the beacon and the keep would have allowed safe entry to the port. It may also have been an important signal point with the various town gates. 

The above images give a quick overview of the cinematic state of set: 

- accurate astronomical star and moon positions

- castle beacon tower now lit

- early-high medieval port complete with various trading cogs, coastal boats and herring boats.

As with housing assets, there are few accurate representations of the flat-bottomed early-high medieval trading ships. These were sometimes called cogs or cogges or nefs and could be beached on a seashore (my De-Havilland yacht allows me to completely retract the keel and run my boat up onto the beach in roughly the same manner).

Building a prototype cog proceeded as though it were being constructed in wood by the method described by the wooden model builder Harold A Underhill in his superb book on Plank-on-frame models (Glasgow 1960).  

First, a keel is laid and, then, the frame is built around it, using measurements obtained from cog wrecks/recoveries. In reality, with clinker built boats, the internal frame was added to the hull at a later stage in construction - the approach here is convenient for modelling purposes.

At this stage I wrapped a single sided plane around the frame and then distorted it to meet each part of the frame to simulate the exterior clinker-built planking. (Some 3D modelling tools like Blender allow a form of 'shrink wrapping' to expedite this process.) 

From historical sources, I then created a variety of different superstructures and sizes (in the below completed images, I have simplified the deck structure, removing some deck detail to emphasize the shape of the ship). 

Once we tested the basic model on set, we started working on creating detailed textures for the set. First, the outer skin of the boat is reworked in Photoshop to warp the shape of the hull wood. Adobe Substance was then used to create the associated 3D materials to give the hull shape and depth. Below is an early example of an atlas created for the hull, and a still from a lighting test where that early-production skin has been applied, The goal here was to emphasize the clinker build of the original hull - but the results were sketchy :/

Ultimately, the best way to build a clinker built hull, is to actually lay down the planks over each other.

Using the shape as a template, planks were warped over the structure. As in early-high medieval times, the internal frames were then shrunk and fitted to the new skin.

The new skin will now be taken back in to photoshop and detailed. Finally, associated 3D files (normal, roughness, and specular maps) will be created to build additional surface detail, cloth sails will be crafted (these will see a second-life as drying sails, and nets, on the piers) and the ships differentiated by dirt and color masks.

1264 is a little early to bring Hanse traders explicitly onto the set, but their ship of preference, the Cog, had been around for some time (mentioned in 948 AD, in Muiden). The Cinque Cog is said to be a development of the Norse Knarr - which was probably the workhorse of traders of this time. While southern cogs probably visited Scarborough, the northern ports may have relied on modified, armored Knarr - as perhaps shown on the Borough's seal. I may also bring onto the set the Nordland (Nordlandsb├ąt) (which may have been involved in an earlier diplomatic incident between the men of Scarborough and the Norse) and the smaller river boats of Yorkshire. 

Records of legal disputes from the time suggest that cogs, sometimes travelling in large numbers, visited the Scarborough port ("The merchants of Almaine ... Andrew de Camp and John de Catlonde state that they have twelve cogs with their merchandise in the port of Scarborough, and that the Bailiffs of Scarborough have forced them to unload their goods and are demanding outrageous tolls from them; and they will not cease even for the King's letters..." ). 

The Cog is often found on seals of port cities (particularly the Cinque Ports) - but is also emblematic of the disruption, civil strife and war that followed in the footsteps of trade. The conflicts of this time would draw in the King, the Barons, Simon de Monfort and Richard, King of the Germans. 

A deeper dive into the possible maritime environment of the thirteenth century, suggests that the Knarr rather than one of the many variants of Cogs  would have been just as likely encountered in Scarborough. Indeed, some suggest that the cog/nef of the Cinque Ports used the Knarr structure on which to build the distinctive castles that now only survive on seals. The Borough seal of Scarborough looks a bit like a Knarr with a defensive tower on the mast. More northern seals (Robert of Wolverston) also looks a bit like the knarr.

More recently, i have brought the Knarr onto the set, and may rebuild local-built cogs using the Knarr frame as a base. The cogs demonstrated here will be also modified to better reflect the Cinque Cogs from the southern ports. Below is a shot from a 1254 set (ten years before the events in the present film) showing the old pier at the mouth of the Damyot - and demonstrating some of the differences between the northern knarr and the southern cog.

I have also been unable to resist the urge to bring the more exotic Byzantine Yenikapi onto the set - as an example of a small, fast ocean-going trader specialising in high value goods. Finally, I have used the local Cobel as an exemplar of local fishing fleet.

Index of posts in the series "Recreating the town of Scarborough, Yorkshire, 1264"


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