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Ship Project

The Trincomalee 1817 project is an ongoing process. The restoration is completed (click here to review her restoration history), but that was only the beginning!

HMS Trincomalee, built in Bombay for the Admiralty in 1817, is the oldest ship afloat in the UK and the last of the commissioned frigates of the Nelson era. She saw service in the West Indies and throughout the vast Pacific in the nineteenth century before taking a role as a training vessel, largely in Portsmouth, that lasted until 1986, by which time she was in poor condition.

The Ship was sensitively restored in Hartlepool between 1990 and 2001in a project that gained widespread acclaim with the Trust winning an International Maritime Heritage Award. Subsequent recognition has included a Silver Award in the 2004 national finals of the Excellence in England Tourism ‘Oscars’, and reference in several notable publications as a fine example of the voluntary maritime sector leading economic and tourism regeneration in the renaissance of towns and cities.

Today, HMS Trincomalee is afloat in the Graving Dock as the central attraction of Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience [HME] and is open to the public throughout the year. In addition to the usual visits, the Ship is able to host weddings, functions and presentations and is a popular venue for filming. Educational usage is another important element of the Trust’s work.

Despite all these notable successes and support, the Trust has a constant task to raise funds towards its primary roles – to maintain and conserve this wonderful vessel and to provide her for the public’s education and enjoyment. Unfortunately, the income gained through admissions and sales at present does not fully cover these expenses and the Trust is, therefore, dependent upon the generosity of many people.

A joint strategy with Hartlepool Borough Council was agreed which sought to retain HMS Trincomalee as the centrepiece of the displays at the Historic Quay, along with the Museum of Hartlepool and the paddlesteamer PS Wingfield Castle. Funding would be sought to refresh and provide new facilities all under the single banner of Hartlepool’s Maritime Experieince (HME).

The Trust has benefited from generous grants from the Northern Rock Foundation and the Heritage Lottery Fund, along with several other grants, to enable it to take forward a range of capital schemes as part of the overall plan.

Over the last couple of years the Council has completed some restoration work on PS Wingfield Castle, and fitted out the lower decks as educational spaces for the site as a whole. In addition, the popular and impressive Fighting Ships tableaux displays have been upgraded and made relevant to the viewing of HMS Trincomalee. The popular Maritime Activity Centre, which has hands-on displays for youngsters has also been revamped and a new outdoor events area created. An extended workshop has been completed that services both the Ship and the HME site in general, and the Trust now has its office base at HME close to the Ship and conveniently above the Coffee Shop!

It is into this mix that the Trust’s capital schemes have progressed as shown below:

Quayside Reception

The first of these, the extension to the earlier building and works compound, has been finished. The facilities are a great improvement to out Reception and souvenir offer, and the new building, by adding to the existing, has been sympathetically done. The Ship’s Guides are really pleased – as can be imagined – and the upgraded facilities will provide an opportunity to increase our sales potential.

Trincomalee Exhibition

The Trincomalee Exhibition, “The Worlds of HMS Trincomalee”, is housed in a gallery space at first floor level at HME overlooking the Ship. The Exhibition opened to the public last August but there have been a few ‘tweaks’ required to finish it off subsequently. The research for the Exhibition has been done in-house by Jean Hughes and the Designers are Continuum of York. There are a whole range of stunning graphic panels tracing the history of the Ship, as well as film, video and audio pieces and a special section on the restoration of the Ship. A notable artefact that has been loaned to the Trust for display is the original diary of Eliza Bunt who travelled aboard HMS Trincomalee on the maiden voyage from Trincomalee to Portsmouth in 1818. The diary has been transcribed by Mary Hope Monnery and is available as a book from our Quayside Reception outlet.

We are encouraging supporters and Friends to contact us if they would like to volunteer some time in the Exhibition Gallery as a Room Steward talking to visitors and providing a cheery presence.

Interpretation in the Ship

Aligned with the research required for the Exhibition, we have now almost completed the scheme to add to the interpretation in the Ship. Over the last few months there have been a whole range of exciting interpretative improvements, from opening up more cabins and fitting out the magazines to establishing the manger and sick bay and in the use of mannequins where appropriate. These are ‘scene sets’ that give a far greater understanding for our visitors and school groups about what life was really like aboard the Ship during her Commissioned days.

In addition we have improved the lighting of the Ship and made the upper capstan workable as a ‘hands-on’ exhibit to lift a barrel. There is still a bit of work remaining on the Waist which will result in views to the masts from the Gun Deck, and this is expected to be completed by the end of January. If you have not been on board in the last few months, then you are in for a treat!

Replacing the lower rigging

This massive job has been undertaken ‘in-house’ and has recently been completed. It is a great testament to the skills of our Maintenance Team under the supervision of Les Gilfoyle. The preparation of the cordage has been of immense interest to our visitors throughout – it is rare to see the skills of traditional riggers at first hand, and we have often thought that David Lilley and Bobby Monsen have spent more time talking to visitors than getting on with the job!

On a technical note, we have used black polypropylene cordage from the Chatham Ropeworks, as it is lighter than the traditional manila hemp, is UV resistant and critically does not require application of Stockholm Tar – or similar preservatives – in order to stop rot. Polypropylene is also less susceptible to shrinkage and/or stretch which means that, for example, the shrouds stay quite taught which is visually much more appealing.

During this work we have made one further presentational improvement by placing our Code Flags higher from the yards so as to be seen above the surrounding buildings for everyone entering the Marina area in Hartlepool. The Flags spell out the message – “Welcome to Trincomalee”.


Click on an image to view a larger version
The new, expanded Shipshop.The new Worlds of Trincomalee exhibition.The new interpretation in HMS Trincomalee.Lower Rigging being replaced.
  • The new, expanded Shipshop.
  • The new Worlds of Trincomalee exhibition.
  • The new interpretation in HMS Trincomalee.
  • Lower Rigging being replaced.

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