New visitor centre will help spread the word about some historic craft

George Hewitt inside the Lucy Lavers lifeboat. Picture: Matthew Usher. George Hewitt inside the Lucy Lavers lifeboat. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
8:30 AM

A Norfolk charity set up to restore, maintain and use heritage maritime wooden craft has just opened a visitor centre to enable people to learn more about its work.

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Some of the exhibits on display at the Rescue Wooden Boats visitor centre at Stiffkey - From left, Wendy Pritchard and Sue Gathercole in the visitor centre. Picture: Matthew Usher.Some of the exhibits on display at the Rescue Wooden Boats visitor centre at Stiffkey - From left, Wendy Pritchard and Sue Gathercole in the visitor centre. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Rescue Wooden Boats was established two years ago by wooden boat-building brothers David and George Hewitt, from Blakeney, together with some wooden boat enthusiasts.

They aim to tell the histories of the boats they restore, along with the stories about the people who used them.

They also want to educate people about the skills involved in wooden boat building and restoration and to keep that ancient craftsmanship alive.

The visitor centre is at the Old Military Camp, Greenway, in Stiffkey, near Wells and is now welcoming visitors at weekends during the summer between 10.30am and 4.30pm.

Phase one of the visitor centre is now open, which primarily focuses on Rescue Wooden Boats’ flagship project, restoring the Lucy Lavers lifeboat.

The Lucy Lavers was originally from Aldeburgh, Suffolk and her first service was the Dunkirk rescue operation in the second world war.

She was completed in 1940 as the number two lifeboat for Aldeburgh and was based there for 19 years.

The boat then joined the relief fleet and served in Wells and Sheringham.

Rescue Wooden Boats was awarded a £100,000 Heritage Lottery grant for its work on Lucy Lavers last year and it plans to restore her t to her former glory in time for Dunkirk’s 75th anniversary in 2015.

Phase two of the visitor centre include plans for educational activities for children, to provide information on local fishing heritage and displays on the history of the Stiffkey military camp.

Wendy Pritchard, from Burnham Norton, who is a trustee of Rescue Wooden Boats, said: “We hope this visitor centre will become a popular tourist attraction and encourage more interest in our charity. We want to eventually open it every day and to invite schools to visit.”

She added: “We are very fortunate that Mark Harrison who owns the old Artillery Training Camp at Stiffkey where George and David have their boatyard, offered to lease us the old officers’ mess as an exhibition and education centre.”

Mr Harrison said: “I am delighted to be supporting Rescue Wooden Boats and am excited about the prospect of the Lucy Lavers restoration being completed.”

Rescue Wooden Boats is now recruiting volunteers to the team of helpers at the visitor centre.

For more information, contact Sue Gathercole on 07774 245810 or email info@rescuewoodenboats.com

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