Heritage Harbours -  Our Vision

A joint initiative by the Maritime Heritage Trust (MHT) and National Historic Ships (NHS-UK), 'Heritage Harbours' draws on similar concepts in Europe including the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany, as we seek to recognise the value ageing ports and harbours still have today.  Often located in urban areas, there is potential to breathe new life into existing historic buildings; moorings; maintenance facilities; and waste land.  We think that a 'Heritage Harbour' should reflect the story of an areas maritime heritage; offer a safe haven for local and visiting historic vessels; and connect with the local community. 

Amongst the rush to develop new housing along attractive waterfronts, we think it is important to protect the heritage of harbours and ports.  By working with developers and local authorities, we hope to create a shared understanding of the long term benefits heritage can have to an area, including:

  • protection of heritage assets at risk
  • support for local business growth
  • increase tourism 
  • improve community cohesion and inclusivity
  • attract investment 
  • attract heritage funding.

Our Aims and Objectives 

We want to preserve and connect people with the UK's maritime heritage by helping local and travelling historic vessels to find moorings; facilities; and support within named 'Heritage Harbours'. To achieve this, we must:

  • develop a consortium across historic vessel owners; local government authorities; statutory port authorities; developers; and educational groups 
  • connect with local communities to identify benefits of having Heritage Harbour status 
  • develop a criteria for Heritage Harbour status 
  • identify ports and harbours of historical significance across the UK that fulfil the criteria to become a Heritage Harbour
  • promote the benefits and activities of Heritage Harbours.

Find out more about the Heritage Harbour Project in the South East here.


In recognition of the importance of the canal to Exeter and the long-term benefits its heritage will have for the city and the region for generations to come, plans are being developed for the nomination of Exeter Ship Canal and City Basin, within the Port of Exeter, as Heritage Harbour HH4. 

The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal want to work with the canal's owners, Exeter City Council, to develop a 'roadmap' for a maritime revival of the area including more vessels arriving, more businesses connected with the waterway and more activity such as conservation of historic wooden vessels.

The ship canal, the oldest in the country, was built so vessels can navigate the Exe Estuary to the heart of Exeter, from which developed boat building and maritime traditions throughout the Port with its estuary and city quays that are still active today.

Exeter will also become part of a developing national and European network of historic vessel owners, statutory port authorities, and educational groups.

Read the vision document for the canal and basin 'Making the canal matter again to Exeter' below:

Historic vessels in Exeter
Aline (c) NHS-UK


Niels Rager (c) NHS-UK
Niels Risager

Rania (c) NHS-UK

Latest News

February 2021 Read the latest update from the UK Heritage Harbour Initiative here.

June 2020 Read the latest update from the UK Heritage Harbour Initiative here.

For the Maritime Heritage Trust's updates on the Heritage Harbour project, see here.