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Figurehead of the war ship Arethusa in Lower Upnor has been restored after a wasp attack

By Rebecca Hughes
The Arethusa figurehead in Lower Upnor
The Arethusa figurehead in Lower Upnor

A Medway ship’s historic figurehead has been fully restored, thanks to its former trainees.

The famous figurehead of the war ship, Arethusa, has had pride of place at the Shaftersbury Young People charity, in Lower Upnor, ever since the ship was broken up in 1932.

Launched in 1849, Arethusa was the last British naval vessel to go into battle under sail alone.

Once decommissioned, the ship was passed from the Royal Navy to charity Shaftesbury Homes to provide refuge and give schooling to children who had been sleeping rough on the streets of London.

It trained those young boys for a career in the Royal Navy or Merchant Navy. The ship was based at Lower Upnor on the Medway, where she remained in service until 1932 when the ship was broken up.

The vessel has long since gone but the figurehead has remained at the outdoor adventure venue Arethusa Venture Centre.

After being damaged by a wasp attack, the Arethusa Old Boys Association – who trained on the ship – started raising the money to refurbish her.

A sailor admires the Arethusa figurehead long before her restoration. Picture: Mary Stevens.
A sailor admires the Arethusa figurehead long before her restoration. Picture: Mary Stevens.

Now the work is complete and the centre will welcome dignitaries to celebrate the restoration.

The Rt Hon Lord West of Spithead, former First Sea Lord, will unveil the figurehead today (Wednesday).

The Arethusa Venture Centre provides residential school trips and educational visits for young people throughout the UK. It offers outdoor challenge and adventure to aid confidence and self esteem in young people.

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