Britain’s Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a grant of just under £1 million to the SS ROBIN, which will allow the ship to re-open to the public.
Floating above the water on a purpose-built pontoon, SS ROBIN returned to her London home last summer after a three year restoration program. The HLF award will now see the final touches put in place to restore this exceptional vessel to her former glory and create a new cultural landmark for London. A visitor’s center will be housed within the pontoon and an exciting program of activities, events, training and volunteering opportunities will be kick-started for people of all ages.
One of only three UK National Historic Ships ‘Core Collection’ vessels based in London (along with CUTTY SARK and HMS BELFAST), SS ROBIN is one of 1,500 coastal cargo steamers built between 1840 and 1956 at the Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company on the River Lea.
Being of international significance and the only surviving example of her type, she represents a pivotal moment in the history of industrialization, engineering and technological development.
Sue Bowers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for London stated:
“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 ship’s past dating back to 1890 as her archive and collections of some 4000 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 Center will provide dedicated work stations, video diary booths and research spaces so that the public can make full use of SS ROBIN’s archives and collections.
Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales stated: “This is fantastic news. East London is the future of this great capital and this magnificent ship is a symbol of the Docks’ powerful resurgence. London’s Olympic bid book said the most enduring legacy of the Games must be the regeneration of the entire community for the direct benefit of everyone who lives there. For centuries, London’s East End has been one of the poorest areas in Europe. The Games have provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the lives of residents for generations to come. The Docks represent a crucial part of the borough’s physical and social regeneration as we approach London 2012.”
Nishani Kampfner, CEO & Co-Founder of the SS Robin Trust, explained the importance of HLF funding for the historic ship: “Securing HLF funding was absolutely critical for the Trust and we are delighted with the grant award. The grant will provide much needed financial support to ensure that SS Robin re-opens to the public in her new evolved role of heritage site and training centre. The funding will be used to create an authentic and memorable experience for visitors which will include exploring and opening up the hidden and fascinating stories of London’s shipping and seafaring roots onboard SS Robin.”
SS ROBIN will be visible to visitors attending sports events at the ExCel Exhibition Center, hosting a number of sports events during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and capital works are expected to be complete by late 2012.
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.