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In honour of National Historic Ships UK's late Director, Martyn Heighton, the Excellence in Maritime Conservation Award was launched in 2019 to mark best practice in the conservation of historic vessels.  Our 2023 Judging Panel were Hannah Cunliffe, Director of National Historic Ships UK; Stephen Beresford, Senior Conservation Boat Builder at Windermere Jetty Museum; and Matthew Bellhouse Moran, Museum Director at our 2022 winner, the Unicorn Preservation Society. 

The Award boasts a hand-carved trophy that was commissioned using wood from HMS Victory.  The winner's name has been engraved on the plaque, and will be displayed at their site for the next year.  For 2023, the winner also received a cash prize of £500, courtesy of Beckett Rankine, the UK's leading marine civil engineering consultancy.  This year the judges awarded Highly Commended status to a second project in addition to the main Winner. 

WINNER: Hull City Council - Spurn Lightship

Light Vessel No.12 was built for the Humber Conservancy Board by the Goole Shipbuilding and Repairing Company in 1927 at a cost of £17,000.  She was commissioned at the Spurn station at the mouth of the Humber Estuary and is a much-loved icon of the city of Hull.  

Hull City Council assessed the condition, history, and future use of the lightship against the NHS-UK guidance manual Conserving Historic Vessels, also being mindful of her status on the National Historic Fleet.  They took the conservation approach of ‘preservation’, working to keep as much original material and fittings as possible, whilst ensuring the vessel was well-placed to survive continued exposure to the elements and operate safely as a visitor attraction. 

The conservation work, carried out by Dunston Ship Repairs at Hull Docks, was extensive, addressing decades of gradual deterioration including issues with water leakage causing corrosion and decay.  Spurn was put in dry-dock several times for conservation-led repairs and maintenance, working to a goal to ensure preservation for the next 50 years or more.  

Councillor Mike Ross, Leader of Hull City Council, said: “It’s great to win this award, it recognises the level and standard of work completed.  Following Spurn Lightship’s conservation work, it is most likely in the best condition it has ever been in since the vessel was first built in 1927.  It’s great to win and put Hull on the map for its conservation work to the city’s lightship, which will become a floating museum once again early next year.”

Hannah Cunliffe, Director of National Historic Ships UK, said: "Congratulations to Hull City Council on winning the highly coveted Excellence in Maritime Conservation Award.  The judging panel was impressed by the way in which the team had embraced the conservation principles set down in our guidance materials, facing some challenging decisions, to achieve an exemplar preservation project.  The final outcome tells the story of the Spurn Lightship through its physical fabric, in a way which safeguards and enhances its significance, so I am delighted to see the project recognised in this way."

SPurn 1  SPurn  SPurn 3  Spurn 5

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Tim Loftus, Johnson and Loftus Boat Builders St Vincent  

The judges also wanted to commend Tim Loftus of Johnson and Loftus Boat Builders in Ullapool, Ross-Shire, for his attention to detail in returning a historic vessel to operation by the most authentic methods possible.  

Built in 1910 by W & G Stephen of Banff, St Vincent is a sailing drifter of timber carvel construction.  She worked in Scottish waters for many years, and later in Grimsby, Lowestoft, and as a pleasure vessel in North Shields, before returning to Scotland in 2007.   

St. Vincent's owner stipulated that no compromises be made in the authenticity of the rebuild.  This ethos has resulted in an unusually pure restoration and offers great opportunities for learning how these vessels were operated and the challenges experienced by the people who fished her in the earliest part of last century.  All new timber was selected in the round, milled on site, and shaped with tools familiar to the shipwrights of 1910.  A real effort was made to replicate the original configuration and the lack of an engine teaches us much about traditional seamanship.  It is hoped that St. Vincent is now ready for another 100 years and that the quality of the rebuild by Ullapool boatbuilder Tim Loftus and the team at Johnson & Loftus Boat Builders will stand to inform future generations of how the Zulu was built and worked.

St Vincent  St Vincent 4St Vincent 2  St Vincent 3