Ceremonial mast set to be restored

CALLS have been made for immediate repairs to safeguard an iconic Suffolk landmark.

Russell Claydon

CALLS have been made for immediate repairs to safeguard an iconic Suffolk landmark.

The 143ft ceremonial mast at the former HMS Ganges Royal Navy Training Establishment site has stood proud at Shotley Gate for more than a century.

But this year a yard arm of the rotting mast has been left hanging by a single piece of rigging, leaving it looking a shadow of its former glory.

After years of calls for it to be repaired, a restoration project for the Grade II listed structure is finally set to get underway.

Barrie Powell, a postmaster at Shotley Gate for 16 years who lives in Caledonia Road overlooking the site, said: “It is demoralising to see it like this. People are disgusted by its appearance. Throughout the world there are thousands of people who have trained here who will be horrified to see it like this.

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“We have to make sure it goes back up and gets looked after.”

The mast was put up at the site in 1907 using the foremast of the HMS Cordelia, which was broken up in 1904. Part of it is also made from the mast of the sailing battleship Agincourt built in Portsmouth dock in 1892.

HMS Ganges Training Establishment was in operation on the Shotley Peninsular from 1907 to 1976 and saw 150,000 recruits pass through.

Roger Cushing, 72, of Estuary Road in the village, said: “We are very sad to see it as it is. There is a lot of history there.

“My father served there in the Royal Marines on several occasions and he met my mother in this area.”

Manning the mast took nearly 100 boys and to be the button boy at the top, standing on the 1ft diameter pole was a particular honour.

It is believed it was last refurbished in 1988 but a specialist marine surveyor was sent to produce a condition survey on the lower steel part of the mast just before Christmas.

It is set to be dismantled and taken to the south coast for repairs before being carried back to Suffolk in a large lorry.

Haylink, part of Galliard Homes, currently owns the site and has submitted a planning application to Babergh District Council to build 404 retirement homes on the Ganges site.

The council is still in the process of considering the finer details before it goes to committee stage.

Christine Thurlow, the development control manager of Babergh District Council, said: “We have got a planning application in which we are considering.

“Independent of that we are already in touch with the owners of the site and they are taking steps to repair it (the mast) and have identified a specialist to do the work and we understand it will be underway shortly.”

She could not say when the work will start, but assured residents its listed status meant it would be put up again.

Galliard Homes declined to comment on the details of a project to restore the mast, only saying that another company was involved.