THE Unicorn Preservation Society, the charity behind national treasure and one of the world’s most historical ships, HMS Unicorn, has won the Excellence in Maritime Conservation Award at this year’s National Historic Ships UK (NHS-UK) Awards.
The Excellence in Maritime Conservation Award is UK-wide recognition of best practice in the conservation of historic vessels. The Unicorn Preservation Society received the award for work undertaken to understand HMS Unicorn through structural analysis, laser and photogrammetry surveys. From this work a complete model of the ship has been created, allowing for an astounding insight into the structure and construction of the ship, in a way which would not be possible without these modern methods.
HMS Unicorn is an 1824 ex-Navy frigate which has resided in Dundee for nearly 150 years and is now a popular museum and visitor attraction. Although given her age, HMS Unicorn is in relatively good condition, the now complete structural analysis and survey work has uncovered structural weakness within the ship. It is estimated that over £1 million is required to strengthen these structural weaknesses, alongside a broader programme to move the ship to dry dock for further major conservation works. This structural work includes the replacement of missing or rotten timbers and engineering works to strengthen the ship’s weakest points.
National Historic Ships UK’s annual awards ceremony is a celebration of maritime heritage around UK coasts, lakes, and rivers. It encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with static and operational historic vessels through photography, volunteering, conservation, online activities and skills-based training. Recipients of the Excellence in Maritime Conservation Award, launched in honour of the NHS-UK late Director, Martyn Heighton, four years ago, receive a hand-carved trophy commissioned using wood previously removed from HMS Victory.
Hannah Cunliffe, Director of National Historic Ships UK, said:
“The judging panel was impressed by the considered approach adopted by the Society in respect to understanding this highly significant ship prior to stabilisation and conservation. This demonstrated direct application of the NHS-UK conservation guidelines, making HMS Unicorn a worthy recipient of this prestigious award. Whilst the Society is in the early stages of its journey to secure the future of the ship, the survey work and planning that has been undertaken is a major milestone to have achieved.”
Museum Director, Matthew Bellhouse Moran, said:
“This award shows the serious commitment and behind-the-scenes hive of activity that has been HMS Unicorn over the last three years. Good conservation practice is based around careful recording, planning and consideration and it is wonderful to be recognised for our approach to vessel conservation.”
HMS Unicorn is the third oldest ship in the world and has been under the care of the Unicorn Preservation Society since 1968. Scotland’s only preserved warship, the Unicorn Preservation Society is working to protect and preserve HMS Unicorn for future generations to enjoy. Once the necessary funds have been raised and the structural work has been undertaken, HMS Unicorn will be moved to East Graving Dock in Dundee from its current location, as part of Project Safe Haven. Project Safe Haven will see HMS Unicorn forming the centrepiece of the new Dundee Maritime Heritage Centre.