The Windermere Steamboat Museum team have been making the most of the good weather over the past few months and have been hard at work recording, packing and labeling all of the objects in the collection. The curatorial team has now relocated over 2,500 objects that relate to the boats, with enormous help from a team of volunteers. Whilst the new Museum is being constructed many of these objects will be cleaned and conserved ready to go on display and tell the stories of boating on Windermere. The conservation team has also been busy moving the workshop into temporary facilities where they will be able to continue conserving the boats ready for display both in the new exhibition space and on the water in the boathouse when the Museum opens. One of the most complex tasks the team has undertaken is the relocation of the boats in temporary storage on site, including the ferry Mary Anne pictured above. The collection has been moved to enable the construction of the new Museum to take place and to ensure the boats are away from all the activity. The store has only moved a short distance but the logistics of moving such a vast collection are not to be underestimated! We are thrilled to be moving into the next stage of the project and look forward to keeping you up to date with progress.
We are very pleased to welcome two new members to the museum team. Helen Parr joined us in May as our Learning and Interpretation Officer and has a key role in developing the interpretation that will be in the new displays as well as planning the exciting learning and activity programmes that we will offer in the Museum. Helen is talking to schools and community groups to develop our activities so if you are interested in being involved please get in touch.
We are also pleased to announce that Matthew Foot has been appointed as Conservation Assistant. Matthew has been completing an apprenticeship in Heritage Boat Building at the Museum for the past 12 months and will now continue to assist with the conservation of over 40 historic wooden vessels.
In June, Roger Mallinson travelled in his 1931 Austin Seven to historic Brooklands to receive a Lifetime Achievement award from the Transport Trust. The award, presented by Prince Michael of Kent, was for Roger’s work with historic steam vessels, notably 1906 SL Shamrock.
Shamrock was built by Nathaniel Shepherd of Bowness-on-Windermere for wealthy Manchester textile manufacturer, W M Birtwistle, and run by his boatman, Charles Ashley, who continued operating and maintaining her after Birtwistle’s death. She passed to Ashley’s son, Billy, one of the founders of the Bowness Bay Boating Company, but a period of commercial use led to the loss of her original Sisson of Gloucester triple expansion steam engine and conversion to a motorboat running on TVO. By the time Roger purchased her in 1976, she was dilapidated, but he lovingly restored her to steam and her former glory. When the 2009 floods caused devastating damage to Shamrock’s highly complex clerestory coach roof, Roger was faced – yet again – with the prospect of a major restoration programme. The Shamrock Trust was formed, with a view to ensuring Shamrock’s long-term future.
Many people have enjoyed the privilege of a trip on Shamrock or a chat with Roger – who willingly shares his knowledge of historic Windermere vessels. Less visibly, we also benefit enormously in the workshop from his engineering expertise, which has enabled us to restore Osprey’s highly significant historic engine for operational use and to develop engineering operation and maintenance programmes for collection vessels. His energy and passion for understanding and making things work, preserving historic material and passing on knowledge and skills really does inspire all of us.
Roger has also been awarded this year’s Marsh Volunteer Award for Historic Vessel Conservation in partnership with National Historic Ships.
We were thrilled to announce in July that we have been successful in our bid for £9.4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This news, coupled with receiving planning permission from the Lake District National Park in June means the project to create fantastic new museum facilities can now be delivered.
Lakeland Arts has raised an enormous £3 million in match funding over the last two years and now only needs a further £300,000 to reach the final target. The support for the project has been overwhelming and we were pleased to be able to thank many of our supporters on an evening cruise around Windermere on MV Swan, courtesy of Windermere Lake Cruises.
We also launched our One Million for the Museum Endowment campaign to raise £500,000 by 2016. For more information on how to give visit the website.
What better way to celebrate the successes of the project than taking part in the Heritage Open Day scheme and welcoming hundreds of visitors to the Museum to get a taster of the future.
This was our fourth Heritage Open Day and it’s proving to be the most popular and exciting opportunity to visit the collection and meet the team. The site was buzzing with activity and the sights, sounds and smells of historic launches. The conservation team was on hand to provide an insight into the complex conservation work taking place and the specialist skills required to look after such an important collection of historic vessels.
There were guided tours of the collection with the Curator, delving into the themes and stories that will be brought to life in the exhibitions and displays in the new Museum. A behind the scenes peek into archival material, including historic photographs and small objects, also gave visitors the opportunity to share their own memories and experiences on the lake.
One of the many highlights of the day was the chance to take a trip on an historic steam launch; SL Shamrock and SL Mosquito visited the museum for the day taking nearly 100 visitors for a special trip on the lake in the glorious September sun. Visitors of all ages enjoyed the activities on offer and we look forward to welcoming them back to the new Museum now the project is moving full steam ahead.
To find out about the next opportunity to visit, see our website.
As we continue to digitise our collection of glass plates, we are always intrigued to find the stories behind the photographs.
We were delighted recently to hear from the daughter of Jim Tebay who contacted us to tell us all about a photograph of men at work on boats at Bowness Bay. As well as identifying her father she also revealed all the names of the other men and that the photograph was taken in 1954. It shows members of the Tebay family who were involved with rowing boat hire at a time when it was a seasonal business. She recalled that in those days boats would be stored for the winter in the Old Laundry in Bowness, now the World of Beatrix Potter.
A family that we would like to find out more about are the Warburtons from Manchester who lived at Cragwood. In August 1898 W. Warburton commissioned Shepherds to build a 36’ electric launch named Swallow at a cost of £122.10s.0d. A photograph of this elegant boat, gives us a tantalising glimpse of her illusive owners. These early electric launches had relatively short lives as battery acid would eat into the wooden hulls. When Shepherds took on the commission for the Warburtons’ next boat, they opted for steam power, and the result was Swallow, the 1911 steamer in our collection.
If you have any information that would aid our research on the Warburtons or other individuals who have a connection with Windermere boats then we would love to hear from you.
It is only a few months since we got the great news about securing the funding for the Museum, and already we are recruiting volunteers to help with the mammoth amount of awnings, fringing, parasols, boat covers that need making.
Over the next few months we want to establish a Sewing Group at the museum to help out with a variety of jobs that will help the project team enormously. This group will become an integral part of the museum, before, during and after the museum opens as work will always need the care and attention of this group.
If you can’t get to Bowness, don’t worry, there will be opportunities to get involved to make sure all those than can, sew! A small description of the type of work need is below.
Starting with covers for the collection
Our collection contains extremely significant vessels and objects with fragile surfaces which need protection from dust and dirt. We have started making lightweight breathable covers for our most vulnerable items – from fragile little models to full size vessels. It’s easier than it sounds and provides essential protection and a great sense of achievement! Once the collection is all covered and safe, further projects will include creating children’s costumes, cushion covers for boats and much more
Please contact Ian Read, Head of Learning for more information about dates when the group meets.