CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Bideford volunteers work to restore historic SS Freshspring

PUBLISHED: 12:25 06 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:25 06 March 2018

Freshspring at Bristol in 1988. Picture: Richard Clammer

Freshspring at Bristol in 1988. Picture: Richard Clammer

Archant

A unique steamship is being restored at Bideford for a new educational role, writes Owen Jones

She once steamed around the Mediterranean, supplying British warships with fresh water for their boilers. Now the Steamship Freshspring – saved from being cut up for scrap – is being prepared for a new role.

For two days every week volunteers turn up at the SS Freshspring, moored alongside Bideford Quay, to chip, scrape and paint the 70-year-old riveted steel superstructure – slowly restoring this historic vessel.

The aim is to turn her into an inspirational educational facility which will encourage young people to consider a career in the maritime sector and engineering.

Steamship Freshspring is moored at BidefordSteamship Freshspring is moored at Bideford

Ultimately the dream is to win £3 million in National Lottery funding and restore the steamship to operational use, capable of taking passengers to sea.

At the helm of this ambitious challenge is 70-year-old John Puddy, who bought Freshspring for £1 after spotting a small article in a magazine saying she needed a new owner.

John is now chairman of the Steamship Freshspring Society, a registered charity dedicated to the restoration of what is a unique example of steamships from the first half of the 20th century. After a varied career – which included running Lundy island for 15 years and working for the Amber Foundation and Greenpower Education Trust – John is now excited about the possibilities Freshspring offers.

John Puddy in the engine room of Steamship FreshspringJohn Puddy in the engine room of Steamship Freshspring

Big steps have already been taken. The trust was awarded £155,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund to bring the ship from Newnham on Severn to her Bideford berth.

This was followed by a £61,000 National Lottery grant, which will enable the ship to be opened to the public as a heritage attraction later this year. The grant includes funding to employ an education officer.

John says: “It has taken off beyond my wildest dreams. We have achieved so much in such a short time. The ship seems to be magnetic – we seem to have no trouble getting people to come and join us.”

Freshspring pictured by Mike PennyFreshspring pictured by Mike Penny

Despite its age Freshspring is in remarkably good shape, particularly the triple expansion steam engine which has been cared for over the years and is in outstanding condition. The mahogany wheelhouse has not survived and a new one is being built from iroko wood by traditional boat restorers Butler & Co of Truro. Sadly the wheelhouse was broken into several years ago and the ship’s binnacle and telegraph were stolen.

John hopes one day to be able to find suitable replacements.

He’d also love to hear from anyone who remembers working on Freshspring in the years she was in service, or who worked on one of her 13 sister ships.

Freshspring in Bristol in 1980. Picture: John H.ClarkFreshspring in Bristol in 1980. Picture: John H.Clark

The immediate target for the trust is to get the ship ready to be opened to the public on June 30, the annual Bideford Heritage Day.

John Puddy envisages Freshspring one day being moved along the quayside to be near Bideford’s Burton art gallery and museum and becoming an associated maritime exhibition space.

But over the horizon there are bigger plans.

FreshspringFreshspring

The idea is for the cargo tanks, in which Freshspring used to carry 236 tons of fresh water, to be converted into cabin accommodation. If the ship can be restored to steaming condition she could then be used for short river excursions, carrying around 100 passengers, and for sea-going cruises for sea cadets, navy cadets and people interested in experiencing life at sea aboard a steamship.

The ship’s steam engines – similar (but smaller) to those that powered the Titanic and almost all 20th century steamships – originally ran on coal and later were converted to run on diesel. But John believes the future could see the steam engines being powered by more environmentally-friendly natural gas.

Restoring the ship to operational condition won’t be cheap though, and a major lottery bid for around £3 million will be required.

Freshspring in dry dockFreshspring in dry dock

For John Puddy though, it will be money well spent – particularly if it leads to more young people developing an interest in engineering or a career in the maritime industry.

Freshspring is such a unique example of the small steamships that were once the workhorse of the merchant fleet that it can be compared with bigger and better-known heritage ships like Cutty Sark or SS Great Britain, he says.

“It is our Great Britain. I know it is a small ship but it represents a period of time in maritime history.”

Learn more about the project and how to get involved at ssfreshspring.co.uk

Freshspring pictured by Richard ClammerFreshspring pictured by Richard Clammer

SS Freshspring

SS Freshspring is the last surviving example of the 14 Fresh class water carriers built by Lytham Shipbuilding and Engineering Co for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

She was launched on 15 August 1946 and after trials in February 1947 sailed to her long term base in Malta. Initially coal fired she was converted to run on heavy fuel oil in 1956.

Freshspring picture in Malta. Picture: Michael CassarFreshspring picture in Malta. Picture: Michael Cassar

She returned to the UK in 1967 to replace sister ship, Freshpond, at Devonport. Prior to being put into reserve in 1976 at Gareloch, she also worked in and around the Clyde and Pembroke docks and she was surveyed and refitted at Ardrossan in 1969.

She was offered for sale in 1977 and sold two years later to Oswald Burgess, who towed her to Bristol, which is where she was last steamed.

‘The ship seems to be magnetic – we seem to have no trouble getting people to come and join us’

____________________

Follow Devon Life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Devon’s Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, also known as The Black Farmer, tells KATE WILLIAMS about his new book, Jeopardy, encouraging the embracing of risk to enrich life

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As five members of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton celebrate 125 years of collective volunteering, we look back on their time with the organisation

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

CAROLYN SEAGER reveals how long after her mother’s death she discovered her amazing career in the service of her country

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An author known for her novels depicting life on the Channel Islands is nonetheless happiest writing from home here in Devon

Read more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fig Tree Court is a development of 14 apartments in Tiverton for retired and semi- retired over-55s with gorgeous views over the Grand Western Canal

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Alex Green goes behind the scenes on the Dartington Hall Estate to find a community of artists, makers, farmers, and social entrepreneurs living out the legacy of its founders

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Many people know of award-winning Roly’s Fudge, but do they know how much hard work and business insight goes into making it?

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Topsham businessmen Steve Williams and Pete Woodham-Kay take an ethical stance on eating meat | Photos: Nick Hook

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

As llama love grips the nation, we meet a Dartmoor couple who have spent the last 11 years making them their livelihood | Words: Lydia Tewkesbury

Read more
Friday, August 24, 2018

Aimee Pagliari is the Teignmouth Life Coach and she can help you achieve your personal, career or business success through a variety of holistic methods

Read more
Friday, August 24, 2018

Although doulas are relatively unknown in the Western world, they have been supporting mothers around the world since biblical times. We’ve met Aimee Pagliari, the Teignmouth Doula, to find out more

Read more
Friday, August 24, 2018

Aimee Pagliari of Teignmouth Counselling has been working as a counsellor for 10 years and we’ve spoken to her to find out who can benefit from such therapy

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Gill Heavens salutes a long-standing North Devon club whose members love to explore the depths of our offshore waters

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Cantering up the gently sloping, springy turf of a Dartmoor tor is a million miles away from the noise, pollution and hubbub of Sara Cox’s life in London – and that’s exactly why the 43-year-old radio and TV presenter keeps coming back to ride there.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search