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National recognition for Exeter Ship Canal and its future ambitions

Published: 23 November 2020

Exeter Ship Canal Exeter Ship Canal

Exeter Ship Canal and its Basin have been awarded prestigious national status by leading maritime authorities.

Britain’s oldest ship canal – part of the Port of Exeter – has been named a Heritage Harbour, one of only four historic harbours in the UK so far to be given the status.

The title was awarded by the Maritime Heritage Trust and National Historic Ships UK following an application from The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal.

Heritage Harbour status is recognition of the importance of the canal to Exeter and the long-term benefits its heritage will have for the city and the region for generations to come.

The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal now want to work with the canal’s owners, Exeter City Council, to develop a ‘roadmap’ for a maritime revival of the area.

Cllr David Harvey, Lead Councillor for City Management, said: “This is fabulous news for the city. Exeter is fortunate in its maritime tradition and we are very lucky to have such a beautiful and historic body of water right on our doorstep, leading right into the heart of the city.

“Heritage Harbour status carries the potential to unlock all sorts of exciting opportunities for the waterway and the port. I am grateful to The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal for the work they have done in gaining this recognition.”

John Monks, Chair of the Friends of Exeter Ship Canal, said: “We can build on this opportunity to bring the canal and the basin and their heritage back to life. We would like to see more boats arriving, more businesses connected with the waterway and more activity such as conservation of historic wooden vessels.”

John added: “We plan an inaugural meeting of the Heritage Harbour community with representatives from quays, boatyards and waterway organisations from across the Port of Exeter, as well as the various local bodies involved, joining those from the canal and basin. Their heritage is interlinked and the Heritage Harbour project will extend across schemes that preserve heritage across the whole port.”

The Heritage Harbours vision includes:

  • the protection of waterfront and maritime heritage assets
  • support for local business growth
  • increased tourism
  • community involvement
  • attraction of investment and heritage funding
  • a welcome for local and visiting historic vessels to find moorings, facilities and

Brian Corbett, trustee of Maritime Heritage Trust and the Association for Gaff Rig Sailing and their representative on European Maritime Heritage, said: “The real nomination of a Heritage Harbour arises from the enthusiasm of its waterways community to form a group that aspires to maintain a working maritime heritage in their area for the benefit of everyone. The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal already constitutes that group.”

As part of its new status, Exeter will also become part of a developing national and European network of historic vessel owners; statutory port authorities; and educational groups.

Maritime Heritage Trust and National Historic Ships UK will start by giving Exeter and its facilities a presence on their websites that promote the benefits and activities of Heritage Harbours.

Exeter becomes the fourth Heritage Harbour, joining Medway, Faversham & Oare, and Maldon & Heybridge as locations with the prestigious status.

The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal’s ‘vision’ paper -  Making the Canal Matter Again to Exeter – is available to read on their website

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