Restoration work back on track for Topsham’s old Vigilant

Work will start on the Vigilant within the next two to three weeks. Ref ext 3568-08-15TI. Picture: T

Work will start on the Vigilant within the next two to three weeks. Ref ext 3568-08-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Work has resumed to restore a Thames barge to its former glory after a lack of funding saw the project grind to a halt.

Owner Benjamin Squirrell is funding the project himself and his friend, Dave McCabe, a Topsham boat builder, has been undertaking the work in Topsham Quay.

Benjamin hopes the Vigilant will remain in the quay as a reminder of the role the barges played.

He said: “We are committed to saving this historic craft and getting her to a state where she will sail again.

“We want to keep her in Topsham and sail her from this historic port so that she serves as a living reminder of the vital role these sea lorries played in this country’s past.”

The project received a setback when an application for lottery funding was turned down last year, despite backing from MP Hugo Swire.

Additional plans to turn the boat into a sailing school to teach people to sail the vessels have been scrapped because of a lack of funding.

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Benjamin said: “It is very sad because we had support from the London Guild of Shipwrights, South Devon College and The Retreat boatyard to run an apprenticeship scheme.

“So an opportunity to give a youngster a unique learning experience and a future trade is lost.”

Ben purchased the barge from an Essex boatyard and returned it to Topsham in late 2012.

When Topsham was a working port, barges like the Vigilant would have been frequent visitors to the quay on their way to Teignmouth.

Built in 1928, Vigilant was a class race winner because the vessels were built to race.

The Vigilant, built in Ipswich, continued to be sailed until the early ’90s when she was converted into a houseboat.

Anyone who would like get involved with the project can email

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