Ganges mast could be ship-shape again by 2020 if planners agree

The former Ganges site at Shotley. Picture: MIKE PAGE

The former Ganges site at Shotley. Picture: MIKE PAGE - Credit: Archant

The iconic mast at the former HMS Ganges base at Shotley could be back to its best within three years, local residents hope.

The spectacular annual mast manning ceremony at HMS Ganges, Shotley in 1968. The mast was erected in

The spectacular annual mast manning ceremony at HMS Ganges, Shotley in 1968. The mast was erected in 1907 for boy entrant training purposes. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

An application to restore the 143-foot mast has now formally been submitted to Babergh Council – its restoration is a key element of the redevelopment of the site with nearly 300 homes and business use.

A condition of the redevelopment proposal by developers Haylink is that the restoration of the mast, which is a listed building because of its importance to the local landscape, should be under way by the time the 130th new home is completed.

Local independent councillor Derek Davis said he did not expect a rapid restoration – it was likely to be two or three years before it was completed.

And the speed of the work could depend on whether Babergh is successful in a bid for infrastructure funding from the government.

Residents in Shotley have been worried at the condition of the mast. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Residents in Shotley have been worried at the condition of the mast. Picture: GREGG BROWN


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Mr Davis said: “The work will go ahead – it is one of the planning conditions for the redevelopment of the site – but it cannot happen until the homes are built around the parade ground because there is the danger if it is in place then that it could be damaged by the construction work.

“The new rigging should be completed to a very high standard.

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“It will be done by the people who worked on the restoration of the Cutty Sark a few years ago.”

The mast has been the best-known landmark on the Shotley peninsula for generations.

It was used to train naval cadets in the skills of rigging sailing ships long after the Royal Navy had finished with these vessels.

And its mast ceremony topped up with a cadet reaching the very top as a “Button Boy” was one of the best-known naval spectacles.

Blue Peter legend John Noakes took on the role of the Button Boy in one of the most memorable episodes of the programme back in the late 1960s.

The mast itself dates back to 1907 when the permanent HMS Ganges site was developed – replacing a training ship that had been moved from Harwich to Shotley a few years earlier.

HMS Ganges trained generations of Royal Navy recruits until 1976.

Between 1988 and 1999 it was used as a police training centre – although the mast was not used and fell increasingly into disrepair.

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