Date set for restoration of historic landmark HMS Ganges mast

The rusting mast of HMS Ganges at Shotley, which is set to be restored.

The rusting mast of HMS Ganges at Shotley, which is set to be restored. - Credit: JONATHAN STOW

The long-awaited start of restoration work to return a dilapidated historic Royal Navy training mast to its former glory is set to begin in June. 

Concerns had been raised on social media about the rusting landmark at the former site of HMS Ganges at Shotley peninsula, but developer Wavensmere Homes has announced that the 142ft high structure will be dismantled from May 3. 

All sections of the mast will be removed, except for the lower steel section and lower platform. 

A mast manning ceremony during the heyday of the HMS Ganges mast

A mast manning ceremony during the heyday of the HMS Ganges mast - Credit: DAVE KINDRED

A ceremony will take place on June 6 to commemorate the last time the mast was manned, on the same date in 1974. 

Roger Jones, chair of HMS Ganges Museum, said: “We are really pleased that the work is going ahead and the developer has kept us informed of progress throughout the process.” 

Plans for the land, known as Barrelmans Point, have been approved by Babergh District Council and include 285 homes, a 60-bed nursing home, retail and sports facilities, a doctor’s surgery, office space, a hotel and a café. 

The button boy makes a frightening climb to the button on top of the mast at HMS Ganges in July 1966. 

The button boy makes a frightening climb to the button on top of the mast at HMS Ganges in July 1966. - Credit: DAVE KINDRED/ARCHANT

A spokesperson for Wavensmere Homes said: “Work will commence on May 3 to clear the area and remove all sections of the mast, leaving behind the lower steel section and the lower platform.” 

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The mast was erected in 1907 where HMS Ganges, a 74-gun 18th century ship originally named Bengal, had stood before leaving for Chatham in 1906. 

The vessel was used as an uncompromising Royal Navy training facility designed to produce recruits fit enough to serve at sea. 

Naval recruits aged 15-18 used to train in ascending to the top platform at a height of 60ft before hoisting themselves over the platform’s edge. 

Photos had been circulated online in February showing the mast in a poor state of repair, prompting fears that it was not being properly maintained, but both the mast and parade ground will be refurbished as part of the work on the homes development.