Cutty Sark to be restored in time for Olympics as funding gap is met for £46 million campaign

By Culture24 Staff | 08 February 2010
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A photo of a ship on a canal

(Above) © Wikimedia Commons user Atelier Joly

The convoluted campaign to restore the Cutty Sark, Greenwich's 19th century naval icon, is expected to be completed in time for the 2012 Olympics in London after the government confirmed the final funds for the £46 million rebuild had been secured.

A £3 million grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will complete the project to re-open the Grade I listed ship to the public for the first time since November 2006.

Led by National Maritime Museum Chairman Lord Stirling, the appeal to save the ship was largely backed by more than £23 million in Heritage Lottery Fund money.

A black and white photo of an elegant clipper ship on a high sea

The clipper ship was launched in 1869

The future of the 1869 clipper had been thrown into serious doubt by a disastrous fire in May 2007 which ravaged restoration work and devastated the timbers of the ancient vessel.

"I am thrilled that the reconstruction and restoration of the world’s last surviving tea clipper is progressing with speed," said Mayor of London Boris Johnson, praising the "passion, dedication and commitment" of the "exceptional" fundraising effort.

"Since entering her dry dock in Greenwich in the 1950s, the Cutty Sark has been as synonymous with a proud maritime heritage as it has with the borough of Greenwich.

"I am proud that the Greater London Authority is playing its part in putting this wonderful landmark back on the map."

A photo of an historic ship in a dock

Docked at Greenwich in 2003

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the Cutty Sark would be "yet another jewel" for visitors to enjoy in 2012.

"Everyone was shocked and saddened as we watched those terrible images of fire on the news," he reflected.

"People wondered whether Cutty Sark could ever be brought back to its former glory. Today's announcement means that the historic clipper will once again be open to the public – and in pristine condition – in time for the Olympics."

Builders will keep 90% of the original ship intact under the plans, suspending the ship above a dry berth to allow the public to admire the ship’s lines for the first time.

Originally saved by Captain Dowman in 1922, the Cutty Sark was rescued from ruin in the 1950s by the Duke of Edinburgh and former National Maritime Museum(NMM) director Frank Carr, who moved it to the purpose-built dock in Greenwich.

Officials at the Borough council pledged £3 million to the campaign, augmented by a £1 million injection from the Greater London Authority and a high-profile public appeal.

Sammy Ofer, the Israeli magnate who gave £20 million to the NMM in the most lucrative philanthropy gift ever recorded for a cultural cause in the UK, was also persuaded to give a crucial £3 million gift to the effort last in 2008.

"The £3m grant from my department is the final link in a chain that has included magnificent donations from the HLF, The London Borough of Greenwich, The Greater London Authority and thousands of private donors," said Culture Minister Margaret Hodge.

"I look forward to welcoming Cutty Sark back as an integral part of the Greenwich World Heritage Site when we play host to visitors from all over the world in two years time."

Watch the report from the Cutty Sark fire below

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