Funding finds a home for SS Robin

Thu, 09 February 2012

The UK’s Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded a confirmed grant of just under £1m to the SS Robin Trust on Tuesday, enabling the world’s oldest complete steamship to re-open to the public.

Floating above the water on a purpose built pontoon and the only ship to be displayed this way in the world, SS Robin returned home to its London birthplace last summer after a three year restoration programme. The HLF award will now see the final touches put in place to return this exceptional vessel to its former glory and create a new cultural landmark for London. A Visitor Centre will be housed within the pontoon, and an exciting programme of activities, events, training and volunteering opportunities kick-started for people of all ages.

One of only three National Historic Ships ‘Core Collection’ vessels based in London, alongside Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast, SS Robin is a coastal cargo steamer and one of 1,500 originally built between 1840 and 1956 at the renowned Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company on the River Lea.

Being of international significance and the only surviving example of her type, it represents a pivotal moment in the history of industrialisation, engineering and technological development. The yard in which she was created was at the centre of engineering excellence in shipbuilding, having produced such fine examples as HMS Warrior and Yavari among others.

Sue Bowers, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for London said,  “SS Robin, to be moored in the Royal Victoria Docks, will serve as a living reminder of the capital’s seafaring roots, history and traditions in an ever changing landscape regenerated for London’s Olympic year. Visitors will also be able to gain a fascinating insight into the ships’ past dating back to 1890 as her archive and collections of some 4,000 items including original documents, maps, plans, and navigation tools are made publicly accessible for the first time.”

In addition to capital works, which include conservation of the engine room and crew accommodation, physical dockside access and historical interpretation within the pontoon and vessel, the Visitor Centre will provide dedicated workstations, video diary booths and research spaces so that the public can make full use of SS Robin’s archives and collections.

A schools programme, an ‘overnight experience’ offering groups the opportunity to sample seafaring tasks aboard the historic ship first hand, a community events programme and a ‘Captains of Tomorrow’ scheme devised to train volunteers in heritage conservation will mean that people of all ages will be involved in and learn about the history of the ship.

SS Robin will be visible to visitors attending sports events at the ExCel Exhibition Centre, hosting a number of sports events during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and capital works are expected to be complete by late 2012.


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