AN ANCIENT and unusual relic of the late medieval salt production industry is to be restored in York.

York Archaeological Trust conservators have won a contract to conserve a "salt ship" which was found in Cheshire.

The 7.5 metre-long hollowed-out tree trunk, once used to store brine, was found during excavations on a development site in Nantwich. It is the best-preserved "salt ship" ever found.

The ship has just arrived at the York Archaeological Wood Centre, in three sections weighing up to half a tonne each.

It is now undergoing a programme of treatment which will take three years.

Jim Spriggs, head of conservation, said: "The oak wood is so well-preserved that it will take at least two years of immersion in tanks to get the synthetic polymers we use in wood preservation to penetrate.

Then it will take several months to freeze-dry the sections to remove the remaining water, but despite the wait the final result should look excellent."

The Heritage Lottery Fund has provided £104,000 of funding for the ship's preservation.

Once the work is completed, one section of the ship will go on display in an exhibition at Nantwich Museum.

Updated: 10:49 Monday, May 03, 2004