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Article published 07/08/2023

A news release from The Unicorn Preservation Society, the charitable trust behind national treasure, HMS Unicorn, has announced it received its biggest single donation to date.

Its first seven-figure sum of £1,110,930 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) will fund the necessary and urgent work required for the continued preservation of Scotland’s oldest ship and much-loved Dundee Museum and visitor attraction.

The generous grant from NHMF, which provides financial assistance towards the acquisition, preservation, and maintenance of some of the UK’s most important objects and landscapes, has provided 95.69% of the total financial investment needed for immediate conservation repairs to HMS Unicorn.

Following consultation with engineers Fenton Holloway and shipwrights T. Neilsen and Company, the works will secure the future of the vessel in-line with National Historic Ship’s advice on historic ship preservation. Fenton Holloway has extensive experience in the stabilisation and repair of large historic ships, most notably HMS Victory and SS Great Britain. Neilsen are traditional shipwrights, well-known for their work in maintaining large historic timber vessels like RRS Discovery, HMS Victory and HMS Trincomalee.

The preservation work will look to restore strength and robustness to HMS Unicorn’s hull and thereby improve her resilience at her current berth and ready her for her projected move to the nearby East Graving Dock. The work will range from the targeted enhancement of key parts of the structure through to replacement of rotten modern timbers in the hull of the ship.

As the most original old ship in the world, the focus is to retain as much of the 1824 fabric as possible. The project looks to improve the long-term durability of the ship in a robust way, one that does not carry a complicated or expensive future maintenance burden. This work follows recently completed repairs to the ship’s unusual original roof to the value of £100,000 to help prevent rainwater causing further internal damage.

A £20,000 donation by an American entrepreneur in November 2022 and a £100,000 grant received from The Headley Trust in February provides the remaining funds required to carry out the immediate conversation work.

HMS Unicorn will remain open to the public during this time, with minimal impact expected on visitor experience.

The work will be completed in advance of the ship being moved to dry dock at East Graving Dock in Dundee for further major conservation works, as part of Project Safe Haven.

First launched in 1824, 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.

For more information on HMS Unicorn visit their website.

Two people stnadin in front of a ship in a dock during the day

Matthew Bellhouse-Moran, Museum Director at HMS Unicorn with Ray Macfarlane, Deputy Chair and Scotland trustee of the NHMF outside HMS Unicorn.

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