The campaign to save the former Brixham sailing trawler ‘Torbay Lass’ has taken a major step forward with a bid for a £900,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund having now been submitted.
The total cost of the project to save the 1923-built historic vessel is estimated at £1.27 million, and even if the Lottery grant is obtained there will still be £370,000 required from other sources.
An initial decision on the grant application will be made in September which, if successful, will lead to a more detailed application being made in February 2014, with a final decision in June of that year.
Meanwhile, Torbay Lass remains at Tilbury Docks on the River Thames, where she has been threatened with eviction. Her owners say they have no money with which to find her a berth elsewhere.
Totnes MP Dr Sarah Wollaston and Torbay’s Elected Mayor Gordon Oliver have both written to Tilbury’s owners asking for a stay of execution until September. If the initial Heritage Lottery Fund application is successful Torbay Lass would then be moved to Brixham. Because of her condition temporary repairs would first have to be carried out and she would make the passage in fair weather, with an escort vessel.
Torbay Lass is one of 200 vessels that form the nation’s National Historic Fleet, vessels that include HMS Victor, Cutty Sark and SS Great Britain. Six of the vessels in the Fleet are former Brixham sailing trawlers, a testimony to their reputation as an iconic class of working vessel in the days of sail.
Five of the six have already been brought back to Torbay and restored. The aim is to complete the locally-built heritage fleet based in Brixham by restoring Torbay Lass in the harbour area, with the work open to the public. The work will take two years to complete.
The Steering Group that is overseeing the project includes Torbay Council, Brixham Town Council, Torbay Development Agency, Brixham Chamber of Commerce, TorBay Harbour Authority, South Devon College and Brixham Trawler Agents, as well as individuals such as former Pilot Captain Bob Curtis, shipwright Bob Cann and heritage enthusiast Bill Wakeham. The campaign is being led by the Trinity Sailing Foundation, which owns and operates three of the other former sailing trawlers.
Dr Wollaston MP, Mr Oliver, Torbay Development Agency and Brixham Town Council have all written to the Heritage Lottery Fund backing the bid.
A survey of Torbay Lass, carried out last month at Greenwich, has revealed the extensive nature of the restoration work required to save her. However, the surveyor has said she can make the trip under her own power provided precautions are taken.
Trinity’s chairman Struan Coupar says: The submission of the initial application to HLF is the first milestone. Between now and the decision day in September we need to start raising the additional money that will be required, and widen the campaign to attract wide support and involvement from the community.”
Sailing trawlers were first developed by the fishermen of TorBay and became the model for deep sea trawling in Europe during the 19th century. At one time more than 3,000 were in commission, based in ports like Hull, Grimsby and Lowestoft as well as Brixham and Plymouth. They vastly increased the catches made by previous methods, and linked up with the developing railway network to bring fresh fish to all parts of the country.
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As this release was about to go out word was received that the owners of Tilbury have agreed that the vessel may stay there until the end of September. Mr Coupar said: “This is excellent news – just what was needed – and thanks to the intervention of Dr Wollaston MP and Mayor Oliver.”