Find out about the project that has saved Cutty Sark

Find out about the ongoing restoration project that is preserving Cutty Sark for future generations.

Make no mistake: this ship is a survivor – since she first sailed the seas in 1870, Cutty Sark has faced storms, war, neglect, old age and fire. Yet incredibly, she still retains around 90% of the original hull fabric with which she first launched.

It became clear in the 1990s that to ensure Cutty Sark would survive into her third century, major conservation work was needed. This project got underway in 2006.

The 2007 fire

In May 2007, there was a dramatic fire on board Cutty Sark, pictures of which were broadcast around the world. Although the damage initially looked devastating, there was some good fortune in the timing. Because the major conservation project was already underway, Cutty Sark’s original masts and a large number of planks had been removed and were in storage at the time of the blaze.

Due to the fire, the restoration project ended up taking 18 months long than initially forecast, and cost £10 million more. But the results speak for themselves – Cutty Sark is now displayed in a way that gives you access like never before and the ship you see today is largely the same as when she first carried tea from Shanghai to London. She was reopened by Her Majesty The Queen in 2012.

How Cutty Sark was restored

The preservation project has involved treating Cutty Sark’s ironwork and using special paint systems to prevent further decay; consolidating the wooden hull planks; and replacing the props and shores to support the hull evenly. The keel, main deck and sheathing were all replaced.

To further preserve her, a glass roof was built at waterline so that everything below was protected from the weather.

Before this restoration, Cutty Sark had offices and workshops on board, and in the 1950s a false deck in the hold and a stairway had been added. These were all removed and the dry berth was opened up to create an event space.

Another priority was improving access for wheelchair users. Unfortunately it is not possible to make every area accessible but in unavailable areas webcams have been installed.

Focus on sustainability

Preserving Cutty Sark for future generations is not just about restoring her hull and timbers – the restoration project aims for Cutty Sark to be as sustainable as possible, by making her more than just an historic attraction. So we now have a café on board, a studio theatre and a programme of workshops and family events. These all give visitors a reason to come back again and again, and bring new life to an old ship.

Ahead of Cutty Sark’s 150th anniversary in 2019, we are working hard to conserve and restore many aspects of this historic vessel. The ship’s four on-board boats – two lifeboats, the Jolly Boat and Captain’s Gig – are in need of conservation. In collaboration with students at the International Boatbuilding Training College and Pioneer Sailing Trust, 2017 will see the two lifeboats conserved by young students working towards professional development programmes. 

See all events and workshops

Support our Marathon runners

We have five runners entered in this year's Virgin Money London Marathon - please support them and help preserve Cutty Sark for future generations.

Find out more and donate