Breakthrough in the painstaking efforts to restore 'Cutty Sark'

When flames engulfed the Cutty Sark last May, it looked initially like a fatal blow had been dealt to the £25m restoration of the historic clipper. But yesterday workers reached a "major milestone" in restoring the vessel.

The ship's counter, a major but fragile part of the stern, was lifted by crane from the wreckage to cheers from construction workers. It will now be subjected to electrolysis treatment and repaired before being reattached to the ship.

"We've successfully moved a 15ft, 8-tonne piece of curved iron which has taken weeks to carefully saw off," said Stephen Archer, of the Cutty Sark Trust. "The consequences of getting it wrong could have been huge, but we got it spot on." Richard Doughty, chief executive of the trust, described it as a "major milestone".

On 21 May last year a fierce blaze swept all three decks of the ship in Greenwich, burning the timber in the hull and causing the iron frames supporting the woodwork to buckle. There were fears that the brief but intense fire had damaged the vessel irreparably.

At the time of the fire, the Cutty Sark Trust was a quarter of the way through a £25m refurbishment intended to improve public access to the ship, including the installation of a glass roof. Fortunately, masts, rigging, cabins and figureheads were being held in storage at nearby Chatham. But the blaze has added £10m to the cost of the refurbishment and will push back its completion date by six months to spring 2010. The trust received a£10m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in January but it is still £3.7m short of the £35m it needs.

"When we were £15m short of our target, people said that we'd never make it to where we are now," Mr Archer said. "We're still a long way off; but then we've got the most fantastic project under way, something that represents both a precious inheritance and part of our future. I'm convinced that businesses and individuals will come to our aid."

The ship is being restored by a team of 60 specialists. "We're trying to combine conservation with restoration," Mr Archer said. "Every nut, bolt, and plank, charred or otherwise, will be put back into its original place. It's the same with the counter: the cheaper, easier option would be to just replace it with a brand new one. But that wouldn't be the Cutty Sark. We're determined to keep its authenticity." Genuine 19th-century teak is being used to restore the interior.

When the project is completed, the ship will be raised three metres above its current position, allowing visitors to walk beneath the hull for the first time.

Almost a year after the blaze, police investigators, including a member of Scotland Yard's murder squad, are no closer to discovering the cause of the fire, though arson is suspectd. Inquiries continue.

Cutty Sark was built in 1869, intended to be the fastest ship in the annual race to deliver the first tea of the new season from Shanghai to London. After tea clippers were replaced by steamships, which could pass through the newly opened Suez Canal, Cutty Sark was switched to the wool trade, posting a best time for the Australia to Britain route of just 67 days. She was rescued from the scrapyard to become a naval training vessel in 1922, and was restored to herformer glory for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable