Keeping History Afloat/Skills for the Future


Traditional boat building at The Heritage Boatyard, Ellesmere Port

This project has now finished.  Please see below and the phase two project page for details on how it was managed, the individual trainees and what was achieved during the scheme.

The Heritage Boatyard is a partnership that has been set up to conserve the historic boat fleet at the National Waterways Museum and to teach young people boat building skills.

Volunteers and young trainees work alongside each other on a wide range of boats, all originally used on Britain's canals and inland waterways.

The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the National Waterways Museum, in partnership with National Historic Ships UK, £110,000 from its Skills for the Future fund to launch a training programme, based at the Heritage Boatyard.

The funding is to further the work at the Heritage Boatyard, training more people in the necessary heritage skills so they can help conserving the historic collection.

About the Keeping History Afloat project

The project provided three 18-month training placements for the following individuals, who were on site at the Heritage Boatyard since March 2011 to learn about the practicalities and ethics of historic vessel conservation:

Andrew Deer - Andrew is 23 and has real passion for boats of all types.  He grew up near Birkenhead in a town still dominated by the massive buildings and docks of the Cammell Laird Shipyard where Andrew went on to work for a time.  An NVQ level trained wood and metal worker, he was unemployed before this training opportunity came along, but his last role was providing general maintenance for a charitable housing association.

Huw Williams - Huw is 26 and loves boats, including his own gig boat.  Huw also grew up near Birkenhead and has always been interested in engineering, particularly within the marine industry.  Although Huw applied for this training without any formal practical wood or metal work qualifications, he had developed a real grasp of all aspects through his own hobbies and had also previously worked at a motor factor company which had a chandlery section.

Mark Andrews - Mark is 19 and has a real interest in traditional boatbuilding.  He joined the project having graduated from the traditional boatbuilding course at Lowestoft College, Suffolk and with a number of maritime skills which he is keen to put to the test.  Prior to this, Mark worked in two boatbuilding yards in Suffolk as a trainee boat builder.

The trainees worked on the collection of historic canal boats at the Waterways Museum and in the last phase of the placement, were also given the opportunity to broaden their experience by visiting other sites within the Shipshape Network, to include:

  • Brinklow Boat Services - a well established boatyard with experience of working with both metal and wood (Shipshape Mersey)
  • Harker's Yard Pioneer Skills Centre, Essex - maintains sailing smack Pioneer as well as restoring other historic vessels and building new craft (Shipshape Thames Estuary) 
  • Windermere Steamboat Museum - working on a unique collection of historic leisure vessels (Shipshape Mersey)

The project also developed associated accredited modules so that the trainees had a tangible outcome from their placement.

The Keeping History Afloat Training Plan, Parts 1 & 2 is available to download from the Technical Papers section of the National Historic Ships UK website: 

See a vodcast about the Heritage Lottery Fund Skills for the Future programme.

NEWS Keeping History Afloat - National Historic Ships UK YouTube channel film

This video shows you our Heritage Lottery Funded 'Skills for the Future' project.  See the three trainees undergoing their 18 month placements at the Heritage Boatyard, Ellesmere Port, and find out more about the new accreditation in historic vessel conservation we are currently developing.  Also featured is footage of the Networking Day, held as an outcome of the scheme (see item below posted on 16 Jul 2012).

Keeping History Afloat video

Item posted 29 Nov 2012

NEWS The first three trainees on the Heritage Lottery funded Skills for the Future project Keeping History Afloat are now completing their 18-month placements

Mark Andrews: has successfully found employment with a boatbuilder on the East Coast and has already taken up his new role.

Andrew Deer: is currently seeking work in the Mersey region and is looking for any boatbuilding or maritime-related employment opportunities which would allow him to continue using the skills he's learnt at his time at the National Waterways Museum.  Download his CV

Huw Williams: is also currently seeking work in the Mersey region and seeking any boatbuilding or maritime-related employment opportunities. 

Please download CVs for further details of their experience and contact National Historic Ships UK direct if you know of any vacancies which might suit: / 020 8312 8558.

Item posted 15 Aug 2012

NEWS Keeping History Afloat project holds celebratory Networking Day

The Heritage Lottery funded Skills for the Future project Keeping History Afloat held a celebratory Networking Day at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port on Wednesday 11 July 2012 to mark the end of the three 18-month trainee placements at the Heritage Boatyard, showcase the work of the trainees and offer them an introduction to potential employers from the maritime sector.  The event was well attended by 40 representatives including heritage and museum professionals, craftsmen, vessel owners and training organisations. 

 After an overview of the Keeping History Afloat project, a debate was held on traditional maritime skills and a prestigious panel of speakers, chaired by Sarah Dhanda, Director of the British Marine Federation, led the discussion.  Topics ranged from the impact of the current economic climate and the difficulties of sourcing materials to threats to repair facilities and opportunities for heritage training.  In the afternoon, attendees had the opportunity to visit the Heritage Boatyard and admire projects worked on by the three Keeping History Afloat trainees.

The current Keeping History Afloat scheme was due to complete in October 2012, but the Waterways Trust was pleased to announce recently a grant increase from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £100,600, enabling a second phase of the project. Working in partnership with National Historic Ships UK, the Trust will take on three more trainees for 18-months each, based at the Heritage Boatyard.  This will equip the trainees with a variety of hands-on skills, targeting 18 to 25-year-olds, as well as older trainees living locally. The additional funding brings HLF’s total investment in the training scheme to £210,800.

Click here for full press release.

Item posted 16 July 2012

NEWS The Waterways Trust will use its additional HLF grant of £100,600 to continue its training scheme for skills relating to traditional boat building and the conservation of historic vessels.

Working in partnership with National Historic Ships, the Trust will take on three more trainees for 18-months each at the Heritage Boatyard based at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port. It will equip trainees with a variety of hands-on skills, targeting both 18 to 25-year-olds and older trainees who live locally. This brings HLF’s total investment in the training scheme to £210,800.

Item posted 31 May 2012

NEWS National Waterways Museum trainees present fruit of labours to chairman

A cabin door painted by boatyard trainees has been presented to the chairman of the British Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port.

Tony Hales CBE was presented with the colourful creation for National Waterways' support for the Heritage Boatyard project at the museum during a recent visit.  The door was built and painted in a traditional roses and castles design by the heritage boatyard trainees, who are learning traditional boat building skills at the innovative project.

The heritage boatyard trainees have been with the Museum since March last year and have been funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund's Skills for the Future programme, as part of a nationwide scheme to develop practical skills in the heritage sector.

The Heritage Boatyard is a project working with a range of partners and funders - including National Historic Ships UK - that aims to preserve traditional boat building skills relating to inland waterways craft and pass on these skills to a new generation.  (Please see previous posts below for further information.)

This item was taken from, 2 May 2012

NEWS Harker's Yard Placement - 26 April 2012

Two of the Heritage Lottery funded trainees currently completing 18-month bursaries at the Heritage Boatyard, National Waterways Museum, will be transferring to Harker’s Yard in Brightlingsea next week to gain experience of a different working environment on a placement lasting 30 April - 11 May. 

A full programme has been planned for the trainees, aged 20, and 27, who will have the chance to work on a range of different vessels.  On-site shipwrights will help them undertake a condition survey, learn about the reconstruction of historic vessels, examine the build and handling of replica rowing gigs, and they will also spend two days sailing Essex smack Pioneer.

For this placement only, two additional trainees will join the group, travelling from their base in Cremyll, Cornwall where they have been working for charity EISCA on local keelboats and the rebuild of the Uffa Fox-designed Flying 30, Huff of Arklow.  Barbara Simi-Bridgman, EISCA Administrator, commented: ‘I am delighted for the boys – this opportunity will help them grow and become more confident in their chosen career.’

National Historic Ships UK champions the interests of historic vessels in the UK, working to advise government and key funding bodies to ensure their long-term conservation wherever possible.  In partnership with the Waterways Trust, NHS-UK is managing Keeping History Afloat, the £126K Heritage Lottery project which is funding the trainees’ learning experience. 

This placement marks the last in a series organized during 2011-2012: with the trainees recently returned from a week at the Windermere Steamboat Museum; a short training session at the ss Great Britain and Boat Building Academy, Lyme Regis; and previously a week at Brinklow Boat Services where they worked on the hull of historic narrowboat Sculptor.  Keeping History Afloat will conclude this summer, with course completion marked by a major Networking Day held at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port on Wednesday 11 July 2012.

Click here for the full press release issued 26 April 2012

NEWS Traditional Boat-Building Skills for the Future Progress Report 31 Sep - 31 Dec 2011

The Waterways Trust, with its partner National Historic Ships UK, has continued to progress the delivery of this project. The trainees, Andy, Huw and Mark have been working hard with the staff and volunteers within the Museum's Heritage Boatyard and have started to put into practice their understanding of the complexities of historic vessel conservation.

Since the last update (see below), the work on accredited modules by the project team and David Tournay of Evolution Partnership has progressed into the final stage with seven units now completed.

Between 17-19 October, the trainees had an extended visit to Southampton (4 days) staying on the National Historic Fleet vessel SS Shieldhall.  The main purpose of the visit was to attend a lecture given by the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights in Southampton which focused on traditional marine engineering.  However, site visits were also arranged to historic vessels HMS Medusa, HMS Alliance, as well as the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Solent Sky Museum.  This allowed the trainees to understand the complexities of large object conservation in a heritage context, particularly in relation to treating and maintaining metal corrosion and marine engines.  

Please view our News section for further details about the students' masterclasses.  The next external placement for the trainees has been organised for the beginning of May 2012, when the trainees will be hosted by Harker's Yard, Essex.  They will experience work on the conservation projects within the yard, as well as gaining experience of vessel handling on registered historic smack, Pioneer

Update posted 13 Feb 2012

Keeping History Afloat Phase 2

Region news headlines

Last chance for a cruise in 2017

Daniel Adamson's very last cruise happening in October 2017

ss Freshspring open to the public 7-10 Sept

Historic vessel taking part in Heritage Open Days

Historic Ellesmere Port steam ship declared Regional Flagship of the Year for the North West

Daniel Adamson presented with Regional Flagship pennant

Read all our news »

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