Historic SS Robin promised �1m makeover as Royal Docks tourists exhibit

SS Robin, the World’s oldest complete steamship, has been awarded nearly �1m so she will become a major tourist attraction in the Royal Docks.

Built in 1890 at the Thames Iron Works on the River Lea she returned home to London afloat a purpose built pontoon last July after a three-year restoration.

The Heritage Lottery Fund award will now see the final touches put in place to return this “exceptional” historic vessel to its former glory and create a new cultural landmark for London.

A Visitor Centre will be housed within the pontoon, and an exciting programme of activities, events, training and volunteering opportunities ready for visitors.

She now lines up with the only other two National Historic Ships ‘Core Collection’ based in the capital, the Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast.

SS Robin is a coastal cargo steamer and one of 1,500 originally built between 1840 and 1956 at Thames Ironworks from which workers formed what was to become West Ham United Football Club.

She is regarded as of international significance and representing a pivotal moment in the history of industrialisation, engineering and technological development.

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Sue Bowers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for London said: “SS Robin will serve as a living reminder of the capital’s seafaring roots, history and traditions in an ever changing landscape regenerated for London’s Olympic year.”

Visitors to her Royal Victoria Dock berth will also be able to gain a fascinating insight into the ships’ past as her archive and collections of some 4,000 items including original documents, maps, plans, and navigation tools are made publicly accessible for the first time.

In addition to capital works, which include conservation of the engine room and crew accommodation, physical dockside access and historical interpretation within the pontoon and vessel, the Visitor Centre will provide dedicated workstations, video diary booths and research spaces so that the public can make full use of SS Robin’s archives and collections.

A schools programme will offering groups the opportunity to sample seafaring tasks aboard the historic ship first hand, while a community events programme and a ‘Captains of Tomorrow’ scheme devised to train volunteers in heritage conservation will mean that people of all ages will be involved in and learn about the remarkable history of the ship.

Nishani Kampfner, chief executive and co-founder of the SS Robin Trust, said securing funding was absolutely critical and the Trust were delighted.

Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales said the cash award is fantastic news. “East London is the future of this great capital and this magnificent ship is a symbol of the Docks’ powerful resurgence. London’s Olympic bid book said the most enduring legacy of the Games must be the regeneration of the entire community for the direct benefit of everyone who lives there.”

Finally, keen supporter Jim Fitzpatrick MP and Patron of the SS Robin said: “This is great news for the Robin and for those who believe in protecting our maritime heritage.”