Exeter Canal is given Heritage Harbour status and joins selected few across the UK to hold the title

Exeter Ship Canal and its basin has been named a Heritage Harbour – one of four in the UK to have been granted the status.

Britain’s oldest ship canal – part of the Port of Exeter – was awarded the title by the Maritime Heritage Trust and National Historic Ships UK following an application from The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal.

Heritage Harbour status recognises the importance of the canal and the long-term benefits its legacy will have for the city and the region for generations to come.

With the title in the bag, The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal plans to work with canal owner, Exeter City Council, to develop a ‘roadmap’ for a maritime revival of the area.

As part of its new status, the city will also become part of a developing national and European network of historic vessel owners, statutory port authorities, and educational groups.

Maritime Heritage Trust and National Historic Ships UK will start by giving the city a presence on its promotional websites, highlighting the benefits and activities of Heritage Harbours.

Cllr David Harvey, lead councillor for city management, said: “This is fabulous news for the city. Exeter is fortunate in its maritime tradition and we are very lucky to have such a beautiful and historic body of water right on our doorstep, leading right into the heart of the city.

“Heritage Harbour status carries the potential to unlock all sorts of exciting opportunities for the waterway and the port.

“I am grateful to The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal for the work they have done in gaining this recognition.”

John Monks, Friends of Exeter Ship Canal chairman, said: “We can build on this opportunity to bring the canal and the basin and their heritage back to life.

“We would like to see more boats arriving, more businesses connected with the waterway and more activity such as conservation of historic wooden vessels.”

He added: “We plan an inaugural meeting of the Heritage Harbour community with representatives from quays, boatyards and waterway organisations from across the Port of Exeter, as well as the various local bodies involved, joining those from the canal and basin.

“Their heritage is interlinked and the Heritage Harbour project will extend across schemes that preserve heritage across the whole port.”

Brian Corbett, Maritime Heritage Trust trustee, said: “The real nomination of a Heritage Harbour arises from the enthusiasm of its waterways community to form a group that aspires to maintain a working maritime heritage in their area for the benefit of everyone.

“The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal already constitutes that group.”

The Heritage Harbours concept includes:

  • the protection of waterfront and maritime heritage assets
  • support for local business growth
  • increased tourism
  • community involvement
  • attraction of investment and heritage funding
  • a welcome for local and visiting historic vessels to find moorings, facilities and support.

Exeter becomes the fourth UK Heritage Harbour, joining Medway, Faversham and Oare, and Maldon and Heybridge.

Read how the Friends of Exeter Ship Canal is Making the Canal Matter Again to Exeter here.

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