Boathouse 4 - IBTC Portsmouth

Following an extensive renovation, Boathouse 4 has re-opened to the public as the Boatbuilding & Heritage Skills Centre.

Housed within an iconic building, constructed during the 1930s rearmament period and situated in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, the Centre aims to ensure the ongoing preservation of traditional boatbuilding skills.

Students from the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC), Portsmouth and Highbury College will be using the extensive space to restore a wide range of vessels. 

IBTC will be offering many opportunities for people to get involved with and learn about our maritime heritage, including short courses and family weekend programmes, sessions with local schools, a summer festival, and an extended volunteer scheme offering mentoring and skills training.

Heritage Bursaries will offer local people currently unemployed or disengaged with education, the opportunity to undertake one year’s full-time traditional boatbuilding training, leading to a City and Guilds qualification and an IBTC Portsmouth Diploma. 

As well as housing the Skills Centre, Boathouse 4 is now open to the public, free of charge.  From Spring 2016, visitors will also be able to watch boatbuilding projects in progress from a new restaurant and bar providing views of the boatbuilding space and Portsmouth’s historic harbour.  Boathouse 4 will be making the restaurant area available for private bookings and corporate events.

Lively LadyThe visitor experience is enhanced by an exhibition on the mezzanine floor telling the stories of small boats that played a key role in the Royal Navy and a display of several craft from the Portsmouth Naval Trust’s collection.  These, along with vessels in need of conservation being used as training projects, include boats on the National Register of Historic Vessels and the National Historic Fleet:

Lively Lady – Famous yacht, built in 1948.  The vessel was used by Sir Alec Rose in his circumnavigation of the globe in 1968.  Lively Lady is to undergo an extensive re-fit at Boathouse 4.  The aim is to prepare her for another round-the-world voyage. 

Steam Pinnace 199 – Naval Pinnace, built in 1911.  Lovingly restored to operational condition by Group 199 volunteers, the National Historic Fleet vessel has been moved to Boathouse 4 so that she can be viewed by the public.

CyclopsCyclops – Pinnace built by the Admiralty in 1915 and undergoing restoration at Boathouse 4.  Read more about Cyclops on our First World War Surviving Vessels website.

Fandango – Bermudan sloop, built in 1949.  IBTC students at Boathouse 4 will be working on this vessel as a restoration project.

November 2015

Want to change career, learn new skills or brush up on existing knowledge?  Take a look at the training courses offered throughout 2016 at IBTC, Portsmouth

This includes a selection of short courses as well as the Conserving Historic Vessels Level 3 BTEC (devised in conjuction with National Historic Ships UK).

There is also the chance to enrol for a 47 week full-time Boat Building Diploma.

Full details, including course fees are now available through the IBTC website.

Jan, 2016



NEWS -  Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust Secures LIBOR Funding for “Memorial Fleet”

The Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust (PNBPT) is delighted to have been granted £2.4M in LIBOR funding by the Chancellor for its “Memorial Fleet” project. The project will create an operational Memorial Fleet of small craft which have played a significant role in the defence of the nation during the Twentieth Century.

LIBOR funding comes from fines levied on the banking industry for manipulating the LIBOR rate, and is being used to support those that represent the best of values, in particular military and emergency services charities and other related good causes.

PNBPT are thrilled to have been granted LIBOR funding, which will ensure that valuable naval heritage is maintained for future generations; the project will offer the public the opportunity to engage with the historic craft both in Portsmouth and farther afield, and will provide rehabilitative and vocational training for veterans.

The Trust will work closely with the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC) Portsmouth, Highbury College and the Trust’s Boathouse 4 volunteers, as well as with the Company of Makers, a Hampshire based charity dedicated to assisting veterans and their families. Veterans will participate in the construction and restoration of the boats, learning valuable new vocational skills; the diversity of the restoration projects will ensure broad scope for veteran training.

NEWS - West Indies Boatbuilding Culture comes to the South Coast of the UK!

For one night ONLY, August 6 @ 6pm Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Auditorium will resonate with the sound of caulking mallets on a wooden hull taking shape on a beach in Carriacou, the Land of Reefs...

On the island of Carriacou in the West Indies, the last wooden sailboat builder dreams of saving a great tradition passed down the generations from Scottish settlers that sailed there centuries ago.

"A fascinating story of personal perserverance, ribald tales of smuggling at sea and the completion of the beautiful wooden sloop in a race against time to enter the thrilling Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta."

This Special Presentation with post screening Q&A with the Filmmakers is part of our outreach to introduce the film to Boatbuilding Academies, Yacht Clubs & Maritime Heritage Institutions, Caribbean and coastal communities in the UK

Screening time: Sunday 6 August 6pm, Presented +  Q&A with Filmmakers Alexis Andrews & Justin Sihera.
Venue Address:  Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Auditorium, No.6 Boathouse PO1 3LJ



NEWS - Boathouse 4 wins Best Re-Use Category at the Portsmouth Society Design Awards

Boathouse 4, reimagined by architect Michal Cohen of Walters & Cohen for the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust to house its small boat collection on the new mezzanine, above the workshop space for the International Boatbuilding Training College, is the outstanding winner of the Society's Best Reuse Award. It is also deservedly in line for a Civic Trust award and a WAF (World Architecture Festival) award.

This 'cathedral to small boat building' designed by four engineers, erected in the rearmament run-up to WW2 to house small boat building and repair, was built around four Dorman Long cranes, one of which was used in the recent construction. With its saw-tooth roof and horizontal Modern Movement glazing it is a distinctive C20 survivor facing Portsmouth Harbour in the naval base heritage area. Threatened in the 1980s with demolition and a replacement by John Winter who designed the ticketing entrance, the PNBPT used Boathouse 4 for storage and events - until discussions with the ICTB in Lowestoft began eight years ago, and preparation of the HLF bid to house the new complex mix of uses began four years ago. At a total cost of £5.5m, the HLF gave £3.75m and the EU Regional Growth Fund £479,000. Reversion to the original use: small boat building and craft training is not only a gratifying return to the boathouse's original function, but the new facility addresses the continuing loss of traditional dockyard trade skills. 

Cutting a window into the temporary wall to reveal the boatbuilders at work - lit in the evenings - is a masterstroke. The existing mezzanine was extended reached by a new staircase and lift and a new westward range added, filling three sides of the tall volume of space. Here the trust's small boat collection is displayed - including boats hung over the entrance and suspended on cradles over the busy workshop space below. The first floor also has a classroom, meeting room, toilets, and children's facilities including a popular climbing mast. A film projection room is tucked into the northeast corner. The kitchen, bar and very popular restaurant complete the harbour ward side, with offices and workshops on three sides underneath. A glazed acoustic screen shields the restaurant, with its unique-level view of the harbour, from the activity of the boat restoration and construction below. Its rope partitions and woodwork details were made by the trust's in-house conservation team; timber from Beaulieu in the New Forest, where timber-framing still continues, was used for the cabinets. The harbourside workshops below the restaurant are light, airy and functional. 

Three of the sets of steel columns supporting the roof are painted a vibrant yellow. Detailing throughout is plain, robust and industrial - entirely appropriate for what is still mainly an industrial building. Materials are recycled as far as possible - setting an example now followed by the surrounding active naval base. Heating the 2,700m2 was not feasible, so only the enclosed spaces are heated, and timber stores season in the main space under cover. The colleges offer participation in education at many levels - family, school and college and adult - makes an excellent and unmatched contribution to technical education locally and in the sub-region. 

Source: Portsmouth Society, November 2016

NEWS - May 2016 

Float your Boat: Family Workshops 

Come and join us for our family friendly mini boat build workshops! Build a boat in a day (10am - 4pm) to take out onto water and sail. 

Our experienced team will guide your family group through every stage of the build and provide you with all the tools and materials necessary.

Come to the iconic Boathouse 4 in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and build mini wooden sail boats alongside our full size historic boats with our IBTC students and professionals.

Booking and Contact 

Sessions cost £30 per boat made. This price includes all materials and tools. One boat build group should consist of 1 adult (min) and 3 young people (max) aged 10 or older.

Dates for 2016 - June 4th, July 2nd, September 3rd, October 1st, November 5th, December 3rd

Booking essential, please phone Caroline on 02392 816741 or email

NEWS issued 24th May 2015

Dolly Varden - The Movie 

Dolly Varden was bult in 1872 and has had a long and distinguished racing career with an ever changing rig as she was used extensively for testing sails and rigging under the ownership of Tom Ratsey of Ratsey and Lapthorne sail makers who are still operating to this day.

She was discovered in a field where she had been for 25 years and prior to that she had spent fifteen years in a backwater. When the covers hiding potecting her came off, at 150 years old, no one was sure of what to expect! 

Getting her out was made challenging by soft ground, power lines and buildings added and closing off the access after she was put there. She was taken to a store where various experts in wooden vessels prodded and poked her and in the end they all agreed we had a viable proposition, she could be restored using much of the original material.
This short video is the start of Dolly Varden’s journey back to where she belongs racing on the water and the music is by kind permission of our very good friends from the Internationally famous Celtic Rock Band THE DOLMEN.
Source:, 24 May 2016


NEWS issued 4th May 2015

Generous Gesture from Royal Naval Shipwrights

NEWS Press Release issued 7 Oct 2013

Plans to build the traditional boatbuilding skills centre will steam ahead after a £3.75m lottery cash boost.

In partnership with Portsmouth Naval Base, the new charity IBTC Portsmouth, is delighted to have been awarded a 3.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a further £455,000 from the Regional Growth Fund which will enable them to establish a south coast centre of our renowned College, in Boatshed No 4, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

The IBTC at Oulton Broad will continue to operate alongside the new centre in Portsmouth, working together to increase their profile, prestige and marketing efficiency.

At Oulton Broad and in anticipation of this event, they have taken a number of measures to augment what they  already do.  These include, the establishment of National Historic Ship’s UK East Anglian Hub for the Shipshape Network, a major Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) bid and applying for charity status.

The CCF project will build our links with the Excelsior Trust, Lowestoft and access to its facilities, build and expand on the Hub concept, improve footpath access and establish a water taxi to run between Oulton Broad and the Heritage Quay in Lowestoft. They will also build on their sawmill facility to provide reasonable priced native timber to boat builders and furniture builders in the region.

 Landlords, Tilia Properties are also committing funds to major refurbishment works to their building including new insulated roofs, wall cladding and new doors and windows throughout.

 Whilst the Portsmouth project is a fantastic chance to spread our training to the centre of south coast yachting and boatbuilding, IBTC see their Oulton Broad branch catering for those living north of the M25, and northern Europe and Scandinavia. There they offer a quieter more relaxed atmosphere than will be possible in the busy tourist attraction of Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

  See here for more information about IBTC Oulton Broad


The Lowestoft arm of the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC) will remain.
Jan 2013

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