Harwich Town Council

01255 507211

9.30am – 1pm Monday, Wednesday & Friday

Large cash award from the culture recovery fund for restoration of historic Treadwheel Crane

A grant of more than £140,000 has been awarded to Tendring District Council (TDC) to fund the restoration of a building in Historic Harwich.

Historic England has awarded the figure from the second round of its Heritage Stimulus Fund – part of the Culture Recovery Fund – to support repairs to the Treadwheel Crane.

Believed to have been built in 1745 – possibly re-using timbers from a previous 1667 crane – the Treadwheel Crane is a Grade II*-listed Scheduled Ancient Monument which is a human-operated crane used for loading and unloading ships. It is thought to be the only surviving British example of a two-wheel man-operated crane in the medieval tradition.

TDC, which owns the crane, will fund the remaining 25% of the repair cost of almost £47,000.

Carlo Guglielmi, TDC Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Resources, said it was important to protect the area’s heritage.

“Wherever it is located we take our responsibilities towards heritage buildings seriously, but in a place with such a rich history as Harwich it is perhaps even more crucial,” Cllr Guglielmi said.

“This is a popular part of the Harwich Society’s guided tours of the town, often opened up for school visits, and it is vital we protect it for generations to come.”

Operated by men walking inside the 16ft wheels to control the17ft 10ins crane jib, the device had no brake which would have made it dangerous for those powering it should they demonstrate any lack of skill.

The crane was originally located around a quarter-mile north of its current location as part of the original Harwich docks where it was alongside a slipway most famous for launching the 24-gun HMS Seahorse – served upon by later Admiral Nelson as a midshipman. The crane was moved in 1932 to St Helen’s Green and is currently on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk list.

Works required include repairing a ground slab which has failed, causing subsidence, as well as restoration to the roof, timber frame, and the crane itself.

Under the planned works an experimental but traditional technique using tar and sail cloth, rather paint and other materials, will be used to weatherproof the front part of the roof; which is one of the reasons Historic England supported the grant bid.

A planning application for Listed Building Consent is going before TDC’s Planning Committee tomorrow (26 October). Subject to approval, work will begin soon after and is expected to be completed in Spring 2022.

Administered by Historic England on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the funding will go to 142 historic locations across England, with grants which total £35million.

The government’s £2billion Culture Recovery Fund is intended to open up heritage and the benefits it brings to everyone, helping to level up and improve life and opportunities for people in places that need it most.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “From local churches to ancient buildings and landscapes, the UK’s unique heritage makes our towns, cities and villages stronger, more vibrant and helps bring communities together.

“This latest funding – £35m from our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund – will help protect sites including Jane Austen’s House and Hampton Court Palace for future generations and help them build back better from the pandemic.”

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s Chief Executive, said: “Funding from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund is hugely welcome at a time when the people and organisations who look after our vast and varied array of heritage urgently need support to carry out essential repairs. Heritage is a fragile eco-system, with an amazing cast of characters who keep our historic places alive, with specialist skills that take time to learn and experience to perfect. These grants will protect their livelihoods, as they use their expertise to help our heritage survive.”

The award follows an £11,000 grant from Historic England which funded initial investigation works by a specialist contractor to scope the restoration required. TDC provided around £6,000 of funding for this work and worked with Historic England to pull together the bid in a tight timeframe to hit required funding deadlines.

To find out more about Historic Harwich visit www.historicharwich.co.uk or for further details about the Treadwheel Crane go to the Harwich Society website at www.harwich-society.co.uk

View Historic England’s video featuring specialist crafts workers whose work and skills are supported through the Heritage Stimulus Fund.