The application period for 2019 is now closed.

Martyn Heighton was the Director of NHS-UK from 2005 until his sudden death in 2016, during which time he was a passionate champion for the maritime heritage community, supporting historic vessel projects of all sizes.  Amongst many new initiatives he launched, Martyn was directly responsible for the publication of Understanding Historic Vessels - a three-volume series which looks at the methodology for recording and deconstructing historic vessels, as well as setting down key principles in ship conservation to build consistency across the sector.

The third volume, Conserving Historic Vessels, has become the bible for any historic vessel custodian embarking on the difficult journey of funding and planning a sustainable future for their craft.  It is now recognised internationally and is used by grant giving bodies, including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, as a way of determining understanding and viability in vessel-related funding applications.  It forms the core of the NHS-UK distance learning course in Historic Vessel Conservation and also underpins the NHS-UK small grants scheme, where applicants are asked to consider and state which conservation route they will be following.

Thanks, in part, to this publication the standard of conservation in the historic vessel sector is improving all the time, with some notable exemplar projects coming through.  In recognition of Martyn’s role in bringing about this change and for his tireless efforts to save vessels which would otherwise not be here today, NHS-UK is launching a special award for Excellence in Maritime Conservation.  This accolade will be given to the individual, organisation or group that best demonstrates the principles set down in Conserving Historic Vessels and whose outputs the judging panel feels are most closely aligned with the dedicated and persistent approach that Martyn applied to all historic vessel projects during his lifetime.


A special trophy has been commissioned for this Award using funds donated at Martyn’s memorial service.  It incorporates wood previously removed from HMS Victory which has been gifted to NHS-UK courtesy of the National Museum of the Royal Navy in recognition of the important advisory role which Martyn performed for the ship, serving as first chair of the HMS Victory Technical Committee.  The trophy has been fashioned by Andy Peters of Maritima Woodcarving.

Successful recipients will be presented with the trophy at the NHS-UK annual Awards Ceremony where they will be photographed with it and subsequently have their names engraved upon the winners’ plaque.  The trophy will remain in the care of NHS-UK throughout the year, but winners will also be given a keep-sake in recognition of their success which, in 2019, will comprise a copper ingot from HMS Victory, see:


The Excellence in Maritime Conservation Award is open for nominations from Monday 15 July to 12 midnight on Monday 23 September 2019.  Entries can be submitted via the online form.This form can also be downloaded as a Word document and emailed or posted to NHS-UK.

Please note that any data supplied with your nomination may be held by NHS-UK in perpetuity for archive purposes and kept on our electronic record system which is only accessible by authorised staff.  Submissions will be shared with our judging panel.  If you wish your details to be removed from our system at any time, please email:


Nominations are welcomed for individuals, organisations or groups believed to have contributed to the successful conservation of a historic vessel on the National Historic Ship Registers within the last two years, or continue to undertake ongoing conservation of their vessel in its daily use, maintenance and sustainability.  This can include all forms of vessel custodian such as private owners, museums, charitable organisations, as well as other individuals, employees, consultants or companies who have been directly involved with conservation of a craft.  The judging panel also reserves the right to nominate candidates to the shortlist at its discretion.

Judges will be particularly looking for nominations to demonstrate the approach that has been applied, how this has followed the principles in the NHS-UK guidance publication Conserving Historic Vessels, and how the long-term future or a permanent record of the vessel has been secured.  This may take the form of physical conservation work, a conservation plan, management of a vessel collection, creating a vessel record, or implementing a structured deconstruction process to NHS-UK guidelines.

Judging Panel:

Nominations will be considered by a panel of four judges, chosen for their experience and knowledge of the maritime heritage sector, as well as the fact that they worked closely with Martyn Heighton during his career:

Hannah Cunliffe
Hannah spent her childhood afloat and then set up a business as an independent maritime researcher and consultant.  She worked alongside Martyn Heighton at NHS-UK for ten years before being appointed as his successor in 2017.

Dr. Campbell McMurray
Campbell trained as a marine engineer.  He later became the founding director of the Scottish Maritime Museum and then director of the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth. 

John Kearon
John is a Master Shipwright, Historic Vessel Conservator and marine draftsman, formerly the Head of the Department of Maritime, Industrial & Land Transport Conservation, with National Museums Liverpool.

Alan Watson
Alan is a former Merchant Navy Electronics Officer and now Chairman of the Medusa Trust. He is also a trustee of the Coastal Forces Trust, and a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights.

Martyn Heighton