1987 - July
Trincomalee, still called the TS Foudroyant, was transported to Hartlepool by a special chartered barge. The Foudroyant Trust, with the aid of cash from Hampshire County Council, had commissioned a study regarding the best option for the ship's future. Hartlepool was selected on the strength of the impressive restoration of HMS Warrior 1860, the Royal Navy's first ironclad currently on display in Portsmouth. The transporting of Trincomalee's hulk by the giant barge depleted the Trust's funding, now almost completely exhausted.
1987 to 1989
A period of fundraising ensued. Despite opposing bids from Hampshire and Plymouth to perform the restoration, the ship remained in Hartlepool - a location she had previously occupied between 1862 and 1877! The estimated cost of restoration was £5 million, £1.5 million of which was offered between the Teesside Development Corporation and Hartlepool Borough Council. A dry-dock and permanent berth were part of the package. It was decided to restore the vessel to her original 1817 configuration, but retain some of her 1847 features out of practicality, for historic interest, and to give a more rounded feel to the ship when she became an attraction.
1989 - December
Trincomalee is moved alongside the PSS Wingfield Castle, a Humber paddle steamer also undergoing restoration as a floating exhibit (a job which is now complete - the Wingfield Castle is a free attraction moored alongside the state-of-the-art Museum of Hartlepool, literally a stone's throw from Trincomalee!)
1990 - 1st January
The restoration commenced.
1990 to 1992
Recruited and administered by the Trust, the restoration team's first task was to remove the many features that had been added during her century and a quarter as a training ship. The team would eventually number 48. The superstructure above the Quarter Deck was removed completely, and the many extraneous partitions, cabins and bulkheads fitted for her training role were removed and thrown into a skip - in fact, almost fifty skips! Some 80 tons of iron ballast were removed, cleaned and stored (many were found to have genuine admiralty markings). Until the hull was restored below water and made completely tight, extra pumps were fitted, along with lighting and alarms.
A large steel frame structure was built around the hull to allow repairs to take place under cover, prior to the promised dry-dock being completed. Above the coppering the hull was in very poor condition due to the many alterations to the gun ports over the years, as well as rotting of the timber. 140 frames were replaced, leaving only four originals. Opepe wood was used due to its exceptional similarity to the rare and expensive Malabar teak. As this work proceeded the original gun port array reappeared.
1992 - April
The Foudroyant Trust became The HMS Trincomalee Trust, and in July the name change was officially approved. HRH The Duke of Edinburgh became the Trust's patron.
1993 to 2001
The restoration continued, with the ship finally being dry-docked and recoppered, and with replica steel masts occupying the place of the wooden originals (although the change is invisible to the naked eye, especially with the dazzling rigging in place). The decks were filled with period details and items, from giant replica cannons to personal crew effects. Additionally, audio clips, some motion activated, were added to give a final sense of authenticity to the ship as it gently rolls underfoot (an effect no dry-docked ship can hope to replicate!) One of the final touches was the addition of lifts between decks for wheelchair users, a truly unique feature. Despite her extensive restoration, Trincomalee is still 65% original due to the hight quality of the Malabar Teak, which keeps well in salt water. Surviving heritage vessels of similar age have generally been built of oak and have, over the years, been completely rebuilt.
HMS Trincomalee is now the focal point of Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience and it is planned that she will remain afloat in the Graving Dock. The Ship is within the Core Collection of the National Historic Ships Committee’s listing because of her exceptional importance to the maritime heritage of the UK. It is now incumbent upon the Trust to ensure that the vessel is maintained for the enjoyment of future generations, and this will be best achieved by applying the recommendations of the Ship’s Conservation Plan, and by retaining her as an exciting and enjoyable experience for all those who come on board.