Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Martyn Heighton

It was with great sadness that we learnt this morning of the death of Martyn Heighton, Chair of National Historic Ships UK and founding member of the UK Maritime Heritage Forum. 

Martyn was a super colleague and always friendly and supportive. He contributed to saving Peggy in many ways, from her original listing on the Register of Historic Vessels right through to his recent visit to advise on the preservation strategy. He'll be most terribly missed.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Peggy Expert Panel Summary

8th March 2016
Peggy Conservation Facility, Cooil Road, Douglas, Isle of Man

Digest or conversations recorded at the meeting, between:
CB       Charles Barker, Mary Rose Trust
MH     Martyn Heighton, Chair, National Historic Ships
JK        John Kearon, Maritime Conservator
And, representing Manx National Heritage:
CW      Christopher Weeks, Conservator, Manx National Heritage, Peggy Project Leader
MR      Matthew Richardson, Curator of Social History, Manx National Heritage
ES        Edmund Southworth, Director, Manx National Heritage
TP        Tony Pass, Chair of Trustees, Manx National Heritage

Peggy Expert Panel
This was a panel meeting convened to discuss technical and ethical issues surrounding the conservation of the yacht Peggy (1789). The meeting took place on the 8th of March, 2016, at the Peggy Conservation Facility in Douglas, Isle of Man. The three guests had the opportunity during the previous evening to visit Quayle’s boat house at the Nautical Museum in Castletown and to view the stables and yard adjacent that might serve as a new home for the Peggy in due course.

Composition of the panel
The three experts were chosen for their depth of experience in the conservation, presentation and promotion of heritage ships and boats. There are few comparable recent projects in the UK that have not benefited from their respective inputs.

Structure of the discussion
The conversation was allowed to develop as naturally as possible so as to encourage free comment, positive and negative. Audio of the entire meeting was recorded and forms the basis of the summary below. Topics included:
The design of Peggy and her significance
Options for treatment
Project management and fundraising
Options for display
Sustainability of the Peggy exhibit


On the design of Peggy and her significance
MH firmly stated that, to his knowledge, Peggy is the oldest complete vessel on the UK National registers of historic ships and small boats and may be the oldest such vessel in Europe. Her significance is uncontested. JK saw the structure as the most important feature, followed by the paint. To the fixings (nails) he attached low importance not least because of their parlous condition. In relation to the paint, Mr Kearon drew a distinction in relative significance between the decorated transom and the rest of the boat. All three experts agreed that Peggy is not a particularly well-built boat; the frames and floors are rather irregular and the iron fixings are of poor quality.

On the Options for Treatment
Because of her small size the long-term conservation of Peggy will be more easily achieved than that, for example, of a war ship.
The experts were firmly of the opinion that the fixings - iron nails – need to be excised and discarded. John Kearon thought a lot of the damage they are doing is hidden under the paint. He said the nails are what he would term ‘rose-headed’; they were driven through the hull from the outside and their heads depressed and damaged the timber as they were driven home. They are long and their tails were subsequently bent over inside the boat. John and Charles Barker suggested we remove them by pulling up (or snapping off) the bent tails then use a combination of narrow core drills and tapping from behind to push them back out. The quantity of ‘infected’ timber it would be desirable to drill out could then be decided case-by-case. Charles suggested re-fixing with treenails in suitable timber and estimated the job at two years for two persons. None of the experts were convinced overpaint removal wold be a necessary precursor to this.
The experts were dubious about the technical possibility of removing the overpaint, but relatively relaxed about the possible aesthetic impact of doing so. As with the removal of the nails they considered it important to undertake one job at a time and to re-assess the issues each time. Edmund Southworth added that conservation technology is continually evolving and that we don’t necessarily have to tackle non-urgent problems in the short-term.
We moved on to discuss who might undertake the work. Edmund Southworth and Martyn Heighton had a productive conversation about the potential participation of Manx workers in heritage training networks across, some of which Martyn’s organisation has facilitated. The Engineering Department at the IOM College and the potential for apprenticeships were both mentioned.
Public engagement
None of the panel members thought opening the restoration workshop to the public was a good idea.

On Project Management and Funding
The panel expressed strongly their opinion that the management of the project and the support for decision making should be strengthened. Edmund Southworth and Tony Pass for MNH both agreed to take this issue on as a matter of priority. As Mr Pass pointed out, the Peggy project is set to “grow and grow”.
Charles Barker and Martyn Heighton both felt we should step-up our publishing drive to include at least, and in the first instance, an information brochure on the conservation of Peggy. Edmund Southworth suggested this might integrate well with the current drive to update our site brochures. Charles thought publishing our plans for the conservation on the internet was a necessary step. He also felt a more substantial book would sell well, with Christopher Weeks and Matthew Richardson the most likely authors. Martyn Heighton suggested that the Isle of Man might host a meeting of the United Kingdom Maritime Heritage Forum (possibly 2018). There were fruitful discussions on the role of the Friends of Manx National Heritage and agreement that a proliferation of friends groups is undesirable. Edmund Southworth suggested a small-scale academic seminar for an invited audience to discuss the state of our knowledge might be desirable, sooner rather than later.

On Options for Display
The panel were unanimously of the opinion that Peggy is now a museum object, or as Charles Barker put it “a piece of terrestrial timber architecture”. They were adamant that Peggy should be displayed with her masts up and, if possible, rigged. Whilst this would have a radical impact on the location of the new display, the panel strongly agreed a maritime location in Castletown should be sought. They were very enthusiastic about the positive possibilities for telling strong stories and about the economic opportunities for Castletown the new facility could offer.
Edmund Southworth added “The display rationale will have to be debated and clearly documented – paint or not paint, rig or not rig, etc., perhaps by some form of peer review”.

Sustainability of the new display
In relation to sustainability, Edmund Southworth told us none of the Islands attractions is sustainable in a free-market sense. MNH would adopt the approach of Royal Institute of British Architects to this question and work through the proposals for display methodically. Whilst the IOM Government cannot fund this wholly if at all, the potential for attracting a wealthy benefactor is considerable.
Replica Peggy
The participants each voiced concern over the sustainability of a running replica. Martyn Heighton added that commissioning a replica is a serious undertaking and is usually done with a specific purpose in mind, such as was the case with the Matthew out of Bristol.


Thursday, 30 June 2016

What's happening to Peggy?

A number of people have asked us lately about Peggy and what is happening to her. Since she was removed from her boat cellar in January last year she's not been on show She's still sitting tight in her conservation facility in Douglas. So what are we actually doing?
Our conservator, Christopher Weeks, has been working hard over the last year to finish building the conservation facility around her so that it now has an office and a toilet! At the same time he has been analysing Peggy with the help of a variety of specialist technical experts. He has now a treatment programme designed to arrest further decay and preserve Peggy for future generations. Most importantly his proposals have been discussed with our peers at National Historic Ships UK, Mary Rose Trust and others, and we now have a clear mandate to proceed.
The first intervention will be to address Peggy's rusted iron nails. They'll be removed one by one and each in turn will be replaced with a timber peg made of pine. This operation will take a long time - possibly as long as two years - and will be costly. Manx National Heritage will have to ensure funds are in place and that there is a team with experience of working on comparable projects available to do the work at a competitive rate. Christopher will be undertaking pilot trials to fix on the exact method we'll use. He'll be able to project the real cost of the job so we can seek funding. It'll take a while to get all this lined up - watch this space for further developments as they arise. 

Monday, 14 March 2016

Peggy Technical Committee Meeting

Last week we were fortunate enough to host a meeting of the Peggy Technical Committee, a group we have set up to advise and inform us on her conservation. The input of professionals with a broad and profound knowledge of comparable projects is really important to us. Conservation Projects in the UK (which this isn't) that attract charitable grant funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund or other comparable bodies (which it cannot) would generally expect this level of 'peer review' to be visited upon them. Despite our relative isolation we want to 'get it right' at every level (documentation, analysis, diagnosis, remedial work, presentation), and we are aiming for an exemplary standard in every area. Obviously this will not be easy, but we have behind us the good-will of our colleagues, the support of our Trustees and the keen interest of local politicians and the general public, so we are off to a great start.

John Kearon (shipwright and conservator), Charles Barker (Mary Rose Archaeological Services) and Martyn Heighton (Chair, National Historic Ships UK) generously gave up two days from their busy schedules to visit Peggy on the Isle of Man and discuss the issues we face. Broadly these include:
1. Have we correctly diagnosed Peggy's state of conservation?
2. Is what we are proposing reasonable and proportionate?
3. Is our plan for eliminating Peggy's rusted fixings feasible and proportionate?
4. Do we need to remove the modern over-paint from Peggy?
5. How dry does she need to be to save her?
6. What are the risks of drying her and how can we lessen them?
7. How should we eventually display her?

Here are some photographs of us on the day.....

L-R Martyn Heighton, John Kearon & Charles Barker
The three visitors inspect Peggy's original keel

Matthew Richardson, Chris Weeks and Edmund Southworth from MNH
The Committee were broadly supportive of our approach but certainly keen to challenge us on the detail. I really enjoyed the day we spent together and learned an enormous amount. With respect to those outstanding issues we moved on quite a bit in the course of our discussions. The proposal to remove Peggy's nails was unanimously agreed upon, and trials will commence this summer. A further matter upon which our experts were adamant is that Peggy should be displayed with her masts up. The implications of this will need to be taken into account when, in due course, we commission an architect to look at issues and options for display (a very tall building would be required).

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Timber analysis now in

Thanks to Hutton+Rostron* I now have in front of me a report on their analyses of Peggy's timbers. This is an extract from their moisture content survey

Hutton+Rostron Peggy Survey, January 2016

If you enlarge the picture you should see that Peggy is apparently very wet (especially at the stern, where she was most often wetted by the tide)! However, because she is so salty, these readings must be tempered down a bit.
H&R also mapped the fungal and insect damage, as well as positively identifying all the timber types:

Peggy timber types, after H+R
Anyway, all this data tells us how much we need to dry Peggy to arrest further rusting, salt damage, fungal decay, insect attack and paint loss (phew!). This is really important because we do NOT want to dry her any more than we have to.

* Hutton+Rostron, Netley House, Gomshall, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 9QA. 01483 203221;

Monday, 25 January 2016

Things we didn't know before

We lately received the results of paint analysis of Peggy and of George Quayle's cabin room in Peggy's boathouse. Crick Smith, the company undertaking the analyses, has done a great job and come up with some super results.
The paint layers confirm that Peggy and the cabin room were built at the same time as each other, and that the same paint was used on both so that one echoed the other. It would appear that in the 1790's Peggy was painted a creamy colour on the hull exterior, with the rubbing strakes (thin timber bands down each side) picked out in black. The lower part of the hull (under the water) was tarred black. There was a thick, green band running around the top and across the transom (the decorative board at the back of the boat). It was on top of this that the gilded lettering 'PEGGY' was applied. The cream/ green/ black colour scheme was used in the cabin room. Inside the boat, the bilges (below the water line) were tarred black and the rest of the interior was a bright, deep red.
In or around 1802 George modified Peggy by making her taller. He repainted her at this time in a dark-yellow ochre paint with black highlights. Again, the decor in the cabin room was changed to compliment the boat. We can also see that, contrary to received opinion, George continued to use Peggy in her modified form for up to eight seasons, until no later than 1810. As soon as I can I'll post some mock-ups so you can see how she would have looked. Crick Smith are also helping me investigate the safest and most effective means of removing the modern over paint from Peggy.

Meanwhile, this week we have researchers from UK consultancy Hutton & Rostron inspecting Peggy. They are going to report on her timbers: what species of wood are they and what kinds of decay have they suffered? They'll also help devise a strategy for drying Peggy safely .