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Preparations underway for festival celebrating Exeter’s maritime history

Published: 14 September 2023

Heritage Harbour Festival Heritage Harbour Festival

Preparations are underway for a free festival later this month to celebrate Exeter’s maritime history.

The golden age of galleons and seafaring will be brought back to life as part of the latest Heritage Harbour Festival.

The festival takes place at the Quayside on Saturday and Sunday 23 and 24 September, between 11am and 4pm.

During the festival Exeter will welcome the arrival of the sailing barge Snark, which will sail up the Ship Canal, and the relaunch of the 110-year-old fishingboat Britannia.

Snark will stay in the Canal Basin for the coming months and become a winter dining room offering a set menu.

This week members of the City Council’s Harbour Patrol Team were preparing the moorings for the Snark, which will enter the River Exe on Saturday.

It is aiming to be at Topsham Quay on Monday, where its masts will be lowered before moving down the Canal on Thursday 21 September.

On Saturday 23 September the Snark will re-enter the river at Gabriel’s Wharf and moor at King’s Wharf on the Quay, where it will have its masts put back up and ‘dressed overall’ for the occasion.

Snark is a modern version of a traditional coastal sailing barge, built by a father and son team David and Nigel Speight.

The vessel was used as part of the Dunkirk sequence in the film Atonement starring Keira Knightly released in 2007.

The Britannia is arriving at the west quay in the basin on 19 September to be craned into the water then secured on the east quay.

Britannia was built in 1914 in Kings Lynn and is the last Class 1 fishing boat of her kind and was built for speed. Her oak timber frames were specially chosen by her builders from trees in the royal forest around Sandringham.

Launched just as the Great War was starting, our ‘Britannia’ had an unusual encounter with a German U Boat. Instead of sinking her, the U Boat crew came on board and exchanged food and bottles of beer.

Later in the war she rescued the crew of a Russian ship in distress. She spent the next 50 years in the whelking trade for which she had been designed.

In the 1970s a complete and lengthy restoration began to return Britannia to her former glory.

Over the two days of the Festival there will be live music, canon firing and lots of free family friendly entertainment in and around Exeter Custom House, Piazza Terracina and waterside.

There will also be a chance to see an outdoor screening of Onedin Line Redux with Richard DeDomenici – a low-budget remake of scenes from the famous 1970s BBC drama.

For a full programme of events and information visit the Custom House website:

The Snark

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