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HMS Unicorn, one of the six oldest ships, goes under the microscope for preservation project - BBC


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This looks like quite a challenge..

 

HMS Unicorn goes under the microscope for preservation project ..... https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-56818539       

 

HMS Unicorn

 

"HMS Unicorn is the oldest ship in Scotland and one of the six oldest ships in the world.


The 46-gun frigate was built during peacetime and launched in 1824, spending its early life in reserve, anchored on the River Medway.


HMS Unicorn was moved to Dundee in 1873 to become a training ship for the Royal Navy Reserves.


It was almost scrapped in the early 1960s when Earl Grey Dock was filled in as part of preparatory work for the Tay Road Bridge.


After its move to Victoria Dock, the vessel was handed over to the Unicorn Preservation Society in 1968, and opened to the public in 1975."

 

Richard

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

B.E.,

 

Those pictures are excellent. Thank you.

 

And glassy waters 😉

 

So the two models in the glass case .... both are HMS Unicorn?...one at a smaller scale and the other how she will look when one day she is returned to her former glory?  She'll make a magnificent model.

 

It seems sufficient budget had been found .... https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/hms-unicorn-secures-funding-to-restore-model-of-port/  ...and the restoration work will by Will Murray of the The Scottish Conservation Studio, Hopetoun House, South Queensferry .. https://www.scottishconservationstudio.co.uk/contact/      

 

Richard

 

PS: Hopetoun House is a superb building and grounds...well worth a visit. They hosted The Italian Car and Bike Show a number of years back ...the pics below tells you how successful that day was ...

 

1786806256_carcobra1.thumb.jpg.9f1ba8ad8536b318481580116a2fd273.jpg

OK, the above doesn't have much Italian content in it but no one was complaining, but the cars below certainly were Italians...

 

513908565_carferraris2.thumb.jpg.a4c0e3ef5bb801d2487b97e559751fed.jpg

The above was a small part of the collection.

 

It's a shame they never held it there again.

 

Richard

Edited by Rik Thistle
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I recall reading that a several decades ago, the roof, which is original to her launch and placement in ordinary, was trimmed back, reducing the overhang.  This ‘cosmetic’ change had far reaching consequences. With the pronounced overhang rainwater was kept away from the ship, but once it was cut back rainwater entered her top timbers and permeated throughout the hull. I believe it was also reduced over the bow (you can see the modern covering on the first photo above), rather than the original timber covering, this has contributed to water ingress at the bow.  All of this accelerated deterioration, including the hogging.

 

Once the impact was understood the roof was re-extended, but the damage was done.

 

A few years ago (probably 10+ when I think about it) the planned conservation was all about minimal intrusive works and keeping as much original material as possible, even chemical injection was being considered to stabilise the timber, but it now sounds like they are beyond that if they are searching out for oak trees, probably more restoration than conservation lies ahead.  And to think in the 1960’s they were still holding on to the prospect of masting  her.

 

Internally she is in fine condition, and a great testament to Sir Robert Seppings innovations.  Even the roof is generally untouched, and of significant archaeological and historic importance in its own right, masting her would have destroyed that artefact.

 

Hopefully they can find a way to get her sorted.

 

Gary

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For a number of years after retiring I volunteered for the SS Meteor Museum.  launched in 1896 and built to a unique whaleback design, Meteor is the oldest preserved ship on the Great Lakes.  I can, therefore,  claim a little experience with the maritime museum business.

 

Like other countries, we have a number of historic ships scattered around the USA.  Most of these, Meteor included, were acquired by civic boosters trying to promote tourism.  Most of them exist on a hand to mouth existence and struggle to keep ahead of maintenance required by damage from wind and water.

 

We also have a number of first class maritime museums that combine land based displays, preserved ships, extensive archival collections, and continuous programming.  All of this encourages visitors to return often to see what’s new.  Two outstanding examples of this are Mystic Seaport in Connecticut and the Chesapeake Maritime Museum in St Micheals, MD.  Interestingly, both of these museums also feature working shipyards equipped to maintain the vessel’s in their collection.  Mystic also has an extensive retail operation to help pay the bills.

 

It would seem like many other features of modern life, success in the maritime museum business requires taking advantage of economies of scale.

 

The U.K. also has two “destination” maritime museums, featuring a mix of preserved ships and shore exhibits;  Portsmouth and Chatham.  In reading about preservation of Unicorn, I cannot help but wonder if, painful as it would be, she would be better off as a part of the collection of one of these larger organizations.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Roger Pellett said:

The U.K. also has two “destination” maritime museums, featuring a mix of preserved ships and shore exhibits;  Portsmouth and Chatham.  In reading about preservation of Unicorn, I cannot help but wonder if, painful as it would be, she would be better off as a part of the collection of one of these larger organizations.

I have sympathy with that idea, but not sure local interests would allow her to be moved (the income from tourism would be hard to let go) and that move would be a very expensive operation.  But preserving historic vessels is ruinously expensive, just look at the near constant efforts even the “icons” like HMS Victory require and budgets that go with that.  Not sure what the answer is long term for less famous ships like Unicorn (well apart from loads on money!) hope Unicorn gets her new home and reinstated cover from the elements.  🤞

Edited by AJohnson
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Where I live in Hartlepool we have the National Museum of the Royal Navy North, home to Europe’s oldest floating warship HMS Trincomalee, Unicorn’s older sister ship, with the NMRN looking to increase its presence here. So it is possible to build around a single ship.
 

There is a strong local attachment to Unicorn in Dundee, and I don’t imagine they will let her go, so there is that precarious tension between income and cost for a relatively unknown ship. But things look like they are moving at last.

 

Gary

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There is a strong local attachment to  Unicorn in Dundee,

 

Yes, there has been an awful lot of money spent on the Dundee waterfront iover the past few decades  Dundee has really upped it's game.

 

It would be difficult to imagine the local power brokers letting HMS Unicorn leave Dundee.  But mabye there could be some kind of horse trading done with Hartlepool?

 

Richard

 

 

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56 minutes ago, Morgan said:

Where I live in Hartlepool we have the National Museum of the Royal Navy North, home to Europe’s oldest floating warship HMS Trincomalee, Unicorn’s older sister ship, with the NMRN looking to increase its presence here. So it is possible to build around a single ship.
 

There is a strong local attachment to Unicorn in Dundee, and I don’t imagine they will let her go, so there is that precarious tension between income and cost for a relatively unknown ship. But things look like they are moving at last.

 

Gary

The historic quayside development around Trincomalee really sets the scene/context and adds more “interest” for visitors who are not nautical fanatics like us (long suffering Admirals spring to mind 🤣 - or unwilling kids dragged along, ask me how I know this...). I think the key to successfully historic attractions of any kind is “broad” appeal, from the enthusiast/history buffs through to tourists, families etc.  A historic ship, no matter how glorious in our eyes will struggle in isolation without it being part of a larger “attraction” or within easy reach of something else attractive.  I hope there is some kind of vision like this for HMS Unicorn can be realised, perhaps a Scottish “branch” of the same museum network Trincomalee is part of?  Let’s hope so.

A trip to Hartlepool is on my list for this year once everything up and running after COVID restrictions ease 😄

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There is a large new building outside the museum at present where a WW2 Rescue Motor Launch is being restored. Also, the museum is bidding to buy a historic sword collection, which includes Nelson fighting sword, fingers crossed they secure it. So small steps, but it is building.

 

Gary

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Posted (edited)

On a maritime history interest scale of 0-10 my wife rates about a minus 5. A number of years ago while reluctantly following me through the Chesapeake Maritime she happened on to a gallery dealing with African American watermen and seafood plant workers.  It turned a boring afternoon, for her, into a memorable experience.

 

Likewise, a 2019 visit to Mystic was enhanced  by a pier side talk about the Danish lighthouse tender that ferried Jewish refugees in 1940 from Nazi occupied Copenhagen to Sweden.  The boat is on permanent loan to Mystic from the New York Jewish Historic Society.  Mystic was selected because they had the expertise and on-site repair yard to care for the boat.

 

Based on several visits, it is my belief that the residents of the U.K. are much more interested in history than their American cousins.  Although with my engineering background, Stepping’s structural innovations are of interest, I wonder if a never rigged warship that spent its life in ordinary will ever draw enough  interest from the general public to pay the bills.  Displayed and properly cared for at a major museum she would be available for examination by those interested in her engineering history.

 

 

 

Roger

Edited by Roger Pellett
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Roger raises a valid point about a broader appeal than merely the ship. A very pertinent and striking contrast is that less than a kilometre from Unicorn is the RSS Discovery, the ship that is part of a museum complex that looks at polar exploration, and obviously Captain Scott in particular, this get far more attention from the general public. Of course there is nothing like a dead hero to create public interest.

 

If they can get Unicorn located close bye then hopefully some footfall will rub-off.  
 

And for the Admirals there is the new Scotland Victoria and Albert museum of design, sister of the London museum, together this makes for a worthwhile destination for visitors.

 

Gary

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