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World's oldest steamship at Lowestoft

PUBLISHED: 13:03 01 July 2008 | UPDATED: 20:45 05 July 2010

The world's oldest steamship has arrived in Lowestoft and will be dry-docked for six months as part of a £2million restoration project.

The SS Robin, a Victorian coastal cargo steamer built at the height of the industrial revolution, is usually docked at the Canary Wharf in London but made the 150 nautical mile trip from the Thames Estuary to the Suffolk town to undergo essential repairs.

The world's oldest steamship has arrived in Lowestoft and will be dry-docked for six months as part of a £2million restoration project.

The SS Robin, a Victorian coastal cargo steamer built at the height of the industrial revolution, is usually docked at the Canary Wharf in London but made the 150 nautical mile trip from the Thames Estuary to the Suffolk town to undergo essential repairs.

She is one of only three ships in the capital on the Core Collection of the National Historic Ships Register - the nautical equivalent of a grade one listed building - the others being the Cutty Sark and the HMS Belfast.

The ship is used as a learning centre for disadvantaged schoolchildren from the east end of London and will continue to be used for this once she returns.

David Kampfner, project manager for the SS Robin Trust that was set up to raise money for the repairs, said: “Volunteers and supporters have been working for months to prepare her for this arduous journey, the first time she has left her home berth in 17 years.

“Moving a vessel nearly 120 years old is risky at the best of times, without taking on the uncertainty of the Thames Estuary and coastal waters of the North Sea. But we are confident she will come through it with flying colours.”

The ship was built in Blackwall, east London and launched in 1890 and is one of few surviving links with the area's commercial history. As a coastal steamer, the crew had to be in sight of land and she could not venture too far from the coast.

She would carry cargo such as grain, coal and iron ore between ports in Britain and the continent. In 1900 she was sold to a Spanish company but was rescued from the breakers yard by the Maritime Trust in 1974 and returned to England.

Funding for the restoration is the result of a £1.9million loan from Crossrail, the new east-west railway for London.

“We were rapidly running out of time to carry out essential repairs when Crossrail stepped in. This funding has kick started our appeal to raise £2million to restore Robin to her former glory,” added Mr Kampfner.

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