Hope for Cutty Sark after it is damaged by huge fire - Museums Association

Hope for Cutty Sark after it is damaged by huge fire

The Cutty Sark, which was badly burned in a fire last month, can be saved, according to Chris Livett, the chairman of Cutty Sark Enterprises.
Patrick Steel
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'We are going to redouble our efforts. When we have finished it will be better than it was in its complete state a year ago,' Livett said. 'The masts, wheel, and deck-housing were in Chatham as part of the conservation, so some 50 per cent of the ship was not present.'

But he added that the damage to the iron frames, decks and planking was a 'big setback' to the conservation of the ship. There was a funding gap in the initial project, he said, and this means that the ship needs even more help than in the past.

Richard Doughty, the chief executive of the Cutty Sark Trust, said: 'It will take a significant amount of effort and funding to get the work back on track - £25m is needed to preserve the ship. We had £18m raised already and now we are appealing for help to close the funding gap and to get us through this crisis and return the ship to its former glory.'

The ship, which is listed in the core collection of the National Register of Historic Vessels by the National Historic Ships Committee, was engulfed in flames last month in an incident that the police are treating as suspicious.

The blaze was reported to the London Fire Brigade at 4.46am on 21 May. According to a spokesman for the London Fire Brigade, the fire was so intense that it took seven water jets to bring it under control by 6.20am, and it was still smouldering at 11.30am.

There was an investigation team from the London Fire Brigade working with the police, he said, but as yet the emergency services still have no idea how the fire was started.

At the time of going to press, no arrests had been made and there were no suspects, but inspector Bruce Middlemiss of Greenwich Borough Police said that the police were examining CCTV footage of the area, talking to people who had been at the site, and making house-to-house inquiries.

Stephen Riley, the director of maritime heritage at the National Maritime Museum, described the ship as 'irreplaceable' and the fire as a 'blow to Greenwich and a blow to maritime history'. 'When it was built in 1869 it was the Concorde of its day,' he said.

Bill Ferris, the chief executive of Historic Dockyard Chatham, told Museums Journal that he had offered to do whatever he could to help the Cutty Sark Trust.

It was ironic, he said, that people were so interested in the ship's predicament 'when the fact is that the Cutty Sark Trust had to labour for years trying to raise money [for its conservation]'. If there is anything positive to come out of it, he added, then it has been this renewed interest.

The ship, which was closed to the public while the conservation programme was underway, was due to reopen in 2009.

Patrick Steel

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