Steamship Freshspring’s £155,000 grant means it’s full steam ahead to Bideford

Left to right: Cllr. Peter Christie, Martyn Heighton, Earl Attlee, Maria Bailey, Cllr. Gaston Dezart, John Puddy and Stephen Attenborough, Steamship Freshspring Society Secretary.
Left to right: Cllr. Peter Christie, Martyn Heighton, Earl Attlee, Maria Bailey, Cllr. Gaston Dezart, John Puddy and Stephen Attenborough, Steamship Freshspring Society Secretary.

A project to restore a unique steamship has secured funding to bring her to Bideford.

Volunteers behind the SS Freshspring Society were told at a fundraising gala dinner on Saturday they had successfully won a £155,000 grant.

The announcement was made by patron Earl John Atlee, who said the funding had been secured from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

He said: “What immediately struck me about this project was not just that I assessed it as technically viable and sustainable in operation.

“What really made the difference was the social and educational aspects of the project.

“That is the desire to inspire youngsters, of both sexes, to take up or consider a career in engineering or at sea.”

The Gazette first revealed last year plans to bring the SS Freshspring to Bideford and restore her to run small cruises.

Earlier this year the society found on the ship had been evicted from its current berthing in Newnham and must leave by July or face being scrapped.

The recent funding means the ship has now been saved.

Chairman John Puddy and Earl Attlee at the Gala event
Chairman John Puddy and Earl Attlee at the Gala event

The event on Saturday at the Royal Hotel was well-attended and an auction and raffle helped raised almost £2,000.

An initial pump-priming grant from Devon County Councillor Gaston Dezart kick-started the funding effort late last year after a long term berth was granted for the ship by Bideford Harbour Committee.

John Puddy, chairman of the Steamship Freshspring society, said: “This is the culmination of the efforts of trustees the chamber of commerce and the council as well as our wonderful team of volunteers.

“The past months have been a very critical time for SS Freshspring.

“We received notice that our berth was no longer available at Newnham but we very quickly gained the support from Bideford to bring the ship here for the long term.

“Short notice funding is very difficult to achieve and so for a while, it was possible that we could lose the ship altogether. “

Keynvor Morlift, a local company, has agreed to tow the SS Freshspring to Bideford for £1.

Mr Puddy added: “I am therefore pleased to report that the project is fully funded and the SS Freshspring is saved and will be coming to Bideford.”