National treasure HMS Unicorn closes for major restoration works
National treasure and one of the world’s most historical ships, HMS Unicorn, will be closing to the public from 21 November until mid-January 2023 for urgent roof repairs, which will aim to make the ship securely wind and watertight.
The closure of HMS Unicorn, which has resided in Dundee for nearly 150 years and is now a popular museum and visitor attraction, marks the next stage of the repair and restoration of the ship, which has seen over £160,000 spent on it during 2022. Works have included ship-based surveys and commissions including a laser scan, internal and external surveys, structural analysis, and a community consultation.
The urgent roof repairs will require a temporary steel roof to be installed on HMS Unicorn to ensure that the ship is kept wind and watertight for the next five years until it can be treated properly.
Over £1 million is required to strengthen structural weaknesses which have been identified in the ship, before it can be moved to a dry dock for further major conservation works. This structural work includes the replacement of missing or rotten timbers and engineering works to strengthen the ship’s weakest points. A recent generous donation of £20,000 from American entrepreneur and self-made billionaire, John Paul DeJoria, has kicked off fundraising efforts, providing 2% of the total financial investment required for the structural works to take place.
First launched in 1824, HMS Unicorn is the third oldest ship in the world and has been under the care of the Unicorn Preservation Society since 1968. Scotland’s only preserved warship, the Unicorn Preservation Society is working to protect and preserve HMS Unicorn for future generations to enjoy.
Once the necessary funds have been raised and the structural work has been undertaken, the ship will be moved to East Graving Dock in Dundee from its current location, as part of Project Safe Haven. Project Safe Haven will see HMS Unicorn forming the centre piece of the new Dundee Maritime Heritage Centre.
A community consultation undertaken in summer 2022 with Unicorn volunteers, the public, schools, special interest groups and staff, including a community survey filled out by over 2,430 participants, found there was strong local support and affection for the ship and a recognition of its historical significance, with an appreciation of the volunteering opportunities it offers.
Museum Director, Matthew Bellhouse Moran, said: “The community consultation confirmed to us that HMS Unicorn is still extremely valued. There is much local affection for the ship – she has been part and parcel of lives in Dundee for as long as people can remember. There is a strong desire to save the ship from going into complete disrepair, with a real recognition of its historical significance.
“Given HMS Unicorn is almost 200 years old, the condition of the ship is good, however there is an urgent need to make the ship wind and waterproof so no further damage can be done internally. Therefore, whilst this work is being carried out, we will be closing the ship for most of the winter. The next stage of strengthening the ship’s weakest points, including replacing missing or rotten timbers, requires a financial investment of over £1 million. We are grateful to Mr John Paul DeJoria for his generous donation and highlighting the sheer scale of funding required to complete the job.
“We are moving step by step closer to achieving the vision of Project Safe Haven – bringing the ship into dry dock and becoming a key part of Dundee’s maritime offering for visitors.”
To support the preservation of HMS Unicorn, please visit: https://www.hmsunicorn.org.uk/hms-unicorn/supporting-us