Many, if not most, of the boats in the collection at Windermere Jetty are pleasure craft; playthings for people with the time and money to enjoy sailing, racing, and leisurely trips around the lake.
The ferry Mary Anne, is a rare example of one of the working vessels we care for, representing a lost part of a Windermere ferry service that has operated on the lake since at least the 1450s and continues to operate today. Mary Anne is the last surviving rowed ferry, having been built at some point before the introduction of the steam powered chain ferry in 1870.
Suggested construction dates range from 1799 to 1860 but we do know that it was in service as a ferry up to 1870. The boat is significant as the only surviving example of the series of large rowed Windermere ferry boats with huge sweeps (oars) and a moveable ramp that were designed to carry people, carriages, goods and animals across the lake. Mary Anne continued in operation after completing service as a ferry but sank off Belle Isle at some point after World War II and was recovered from there in 1978.
For many years Mary Anne was kept out of doors and has suffered from exposure to the elements and damage from floods.
Now the ferry is in a very fragile state and in desperate need of support if it is to be preserved for the future.
Our conservation boatbuilding team have decided that the best course of action is to construct a bespoke cradle in which Mary Anne can sit, and be displayed when the museum opens next year, but this is not so easy to make when the structure of the boat itself is so fragile, and deteriorating.
So we called in Stuart Norton, a specialist in the use of photogrammetry for designing and building boats. Photogrammetry is the use of photography to survey and map an object. By taking photographs from fixed points all around an object it is possible to take accurate measurements from which you can make an exact 3D model of it on a computer, and from that the uses are almost endless.
However, because the original hull is now so distorted by age, for Stuart to get an accurate picture of the ferry he also had to use historic photographs and a model from the museum’s collections to check the accuracy of his lines.
The result will be a snug cradle for one of the oldest and most unique parts of the collection.
You can follow our conservation team’s work and see how the cradle turns out by going to our Facebook page.