Certificate no 1816
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Fishing Vessel
Subfunction Trawler
Location Brixham
Vessel type Brixham Trawler
Current use Private use
Available to hire Yes
Available for excursions Yes
Info required No


Builder Upham, J W & A, Brixham
Built in 1895
Hull material Wood
Rig Gaff Ketch
Number of decks 1
Number of masts 2
Propulsion Sail
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Diesel
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
17.70 feet (5.40 m)
9.18 feet (2.80 m)
Length: Overall
74.43 feet (22.70 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed


PILGRIM was built at Brixham in 1895 by J W Upham, for Silas Pine and was constructed of elm planks on oak frames. At this time over 300 sailing trawlers were based at Brixham. At first PILGRIM was registered at Dartmouth with the number DH 394. From 1900 she fished out of Brixham, with the registration number BM 45, until 1912. At some point a 35 hp engine was fitted. John Cheney was her second owner in 1912

She was sold to Swedish owners, including Carl Leffler and two others, and arrived at Ahlviken, near Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden on 8 July 1912 and then fished for seven years in that area. In 1919 she was sold on and converted into a motorised cargo vessel, working out of Halmstad but the venture failed and she was sold by court order. However under new owners she was registered at Hven and recommenced trading, sometimes carrying stone. She continued to work in the Gothenburg area for many years. In 1943 she was purchased by Karl Karlsonn, of Vejern, north of Gothenburg: he carried freights including ice, granite, scrap iron and timber. The granite was carried in six ton blocks to Travemunde and was said to have been used by the Germans to make statues of Hitler. During the Second World War she also smuggled guns from Denmark to Norway for use by the Special Operations Executive and Norwegian resistance groups. In 1950 Karlsonn fitted a new single cylinder 55 hp engine.

In 1961 he sold her to new owners in Helsingborg and was rebuilt as a private sailing yacht, with ten bunks and a large saloon, and was fitted out with two-masts and a new 150 hp diesel engine. In 1983 PILGRIM sailed in a tall ships race but was forced to withdraw after two days bad weather, having lost her propeller and broken her main mast. She was in poor condition and on two occasions sank in Helsingborg harbour. New owners refitted her in 1987 – 89 and she spent the next four years in the charter business out of Malmo. Subsequently she was chartered in Germany and spent some time in Denmark but her condition deteriorated badly.

In 1999 she was purchased and brought back to Brixham in July of that year to be converted back a sailing trawler, and the non-profit making Pilgrim Preservation Company was formed. The stern (which had been truncated by 8ft at some point in her career) was rebuilt to re-instate the elegant counter, the hull and deck were repaired, and she was re-rigged with all new spars except for the mizzen. She was then used for sailing in the coastal waters of Torbay, and as a floating museum alongside at Brixham.

In 2004 PILGRIM was taken into Mashford’s yard in Plymouth for a survey, when it was recommended that a complete rebuild be undertaken and the Pilgrim Preservation Trust was formed. In April 2008 £950,000 was awarded to the trust by the Heritage Lottery Fund which had to be augmented by a further £350,000 in matched funding. In January 2010 work commenced at Butler & Co’s Old Mill Boatyard, Dartmouth. The rebuilding used oak from the Forest of Dean for the frames, deck beams, keel and stanchions, planking of oak and larch, and deck of Douglas fir. The new frames and planks were completed by March 2011. The new deck was then laid and two new Daewoo diesels were installed.

The vessel was re-launched on 30 August 2011, and moved under her own power to Brixham on 4 October for fitting out and re-rigging with new sails (jib, foresail, mainsail, and mizzen sail) made by Crusader Sails, Poole, whilst the topsail was made out of an old mizzen sail. The re-rigging was completed in March 2013.

Source: Historic Sail, Britain's surviving working craft, Paul Brown, the History Press.


Classic Boat: Classic Boat Awards - 2014 Winners, April 2014
Classic Boat: And over she goes, January 2000
Classic Boat: Oldest trawler, April 2013   
Classic Boat: Yard News - Pilgrim's further progress, December 2010
Classic Boat: Yard News - Pilgrim's progress, February 2010
Classic Boat: Pilgrim's Progress, March 1990
Classic Boat: Brixham trawling for Funding, June 2004    
Classic Boat: Pilgrim to star at Cannes, January 2003

Key dates

  • 1895

    Built at J. W. Upham’s boatyard in Brixham for John Pine and originally registered in Dartmouth

  • 1900

    Re-registered in Brixham

  • 1912

    Sold to Swedish owners

  • 1919

    Converted to a coastal freighter

  • 1943

    Requisitioned by the Germans to carry 6 ton blocks of granite to Travemunde for a statue of Adolph Hitler, but fired upon by a German warship on her return

  • 1944-1945

    Carried scrap iron to Norway and smuggled guns to the Norwegian Resistance

  • 1950

    New 55 horsepower engine installed

  • 1975-1987

    Rebuilt as a sailing ship

  • 1983

    Sailed in the Tall Ships Race but lost a propeller, broke the main mast and sank twice

  • 1987

    Purchased and registered in Malmo

  • 1892-1992

    Sailed as charter vessel

  • 1992

    Sailed to Rodvig, Denmark for further works

  • 1993

    Leased to a German sailing society as a charter vessel but the mizzen mast broke in bad weather two months into the contract.  Vessel restored and a new Volvo engine fitted

  • 1999

    Returned to Brixham to be rebuilt as a sailing trawler by the Pilgrim Trust

  • 2001-2004

    Used for sailing in the coastal waters of Torbay then taken into Mashford's Yard in Plymouth for a full survey.

  • 2008

    Awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for restoration work

  • 2009

    Vessel moved to Old Mill Boatyard, Dartmouth, Devon for conservation works during which French WW1 shells were found in planking and ribs

  • 2011



  • 2013/14

    The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £77,900 to complete restoration

  • January 2010

    In straitened times the award made by HLF for £950,000, has unusually allowed drawdown of some of the money without the normal requirement for match funding to be in place. This is to stop further deterioration on the boat

  • April 2008

    £950,000 was awarded to the Pilgrim Trust by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Three yards are tendering to carry out an 80% rebuild of the vessel Once the work is completed, PILGRIM will act as a floating, sailing museum detailing the history

  • January 2009

    PILGRIM is now in Old Mill Boatyard, Dartmouth, Devon, waiting for further funding to be raised to match that awarded by HLF. Source; Ashley Butler, Old Mill Boatyard, Jan 2009

  • 2005/06

    The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £50.000 to undertake a marine survey

Own this vessel?

If you are the owner of this vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information, please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk

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