Centaur wins Heritage Lottery funding

Sailing barge SB Centaur

We’re delighted to learn that the Thames Sailing Barge Trust has won a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for restoration work on Centaur – and I gather that the work is to be done at Oare Creek by Tim Goldsack.

The spritsail barge is to receive £100,000 to pay for restoring the wooden planking on Centaur’s bottom to its original thickness after nearly 118 years of sailing in the Thames Estuary and East Coast rivers.

Sailing barges are built with two layers of planking on their flat bottoms – a 2in inner layer and a 1in outer layer that is designed to be sacrificial – that is, it protects the inner layer of the hull planking from the wear that occurs in the course of normal activity when the barge settles on a beach or river bank.

After 118 years, Centaur’s sacrificial planking has worn thin, and it is this work that the grant is to pay for.

The repair work begins in August and the project is planned for completion by early 2014. The project will allow some trainee shipbuilders to extend their skills to larger wooden vessels.

This project will allow the TSBT to continue to operate her for the use of local groups and members of the general public, and will also provide opportunities for volunteers, youth organisations and schools to research or explore Centaur’s early history.

SB Centaur was built in 1895 at Harwich, Essex, and is one of the oldest surviving wooden barges. She carried bulk cargoes on the Thames Estuary and the rivers of Essex, Suffolk and Kent for over sixty years.

Bid to restore Portsmouth Dockyard Boathouse and open Portsmouth branch of the IBTC gets initial approval

Photo: Peter Facey, via Wikimedia Commons

Heritage Lottery Fund officials have announced that a bid to develop Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Boathouse no 4 to include a traditional boat building training centre run by the International Boatbuilding Training College has successfully passed the first stage of its application for funding.

If the bid is successful, Boathouse no 4, which was constructed during the massive 1930s period of re-armament and used for constructing the secret three man midget X-Craft submarine during World War II, will be restored and opened to the public as the Boatbuilding & Heritage Skills Training Centre.

Visitors will be able to watch traditional boat building in action, as well as enjoy exhibitions on the story of small boats in the British Navy.

As well as securing the future of Boathouse 4, the project is expected to help produce the craftsmen needed to preserve iconic ships such as HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, although graduates will leave the academy with carpentry and engineering skills to enable them to develop careers in the marine and heritage sectors more generally.

The Portsmouth branch of the IBTC will be in addition to the long-established college near Lowestoft in Suffolk.

See the Heritage Lottery Fund announcement.