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Arson-hit Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum could be rebuilt on south bank of Milton Creek, Sittingbourne


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The Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum is set to rise from the ashes, almost seven years after it burned to the ground in a suspected arson attack.

Hundreds of priceless relics including intricate models of sailing barges, oil paintings, maps and documents were destroyed when the blaze ripped through the site, off Crown Quay Lane in Sittingbourne, on October 26, 2008.

Nobody was prosecuted for the incident and up until that fateful day the 19th century former shipwright’s building was the only Thames spritsail barge museum in the country.

Chairman of Trustees Clive Reader among the remains after the fire in 2008
Chairman of Trustees Clive Reader among the remains after the fire in 2008

Now the Barge Museum Trust has submitted plans to Swale council to construct a new buildng on a former industrial site on the south bank of Milton Creek.

The land between Sittingbourne Retail Park and Milton Creek belongs to London-based developer Essential Land, which built the town’s Morrisons store, but following talks it was agreed part of it would be given to the local authority so the museum could be built there.

A strip of land will also be incorporated on the creek edge, along which it’s hoped sailing barges will be moored.

The cost is estimated at £300,000 to build the museum and a further £100,000 to furnish it.

The new building will look similar to the original
The new building will look similar to the original

If given the go ahead contractors could be on site this summer and the work completed by the winter and to open until 2017.

The application states it will occupy two floors of open exhibition space, the entrance on the ground floor with stairs to the first floor, a disabled access lift and toilet plus a small gallery.

Access would be from the retail park.

Clive Reader, chairman of trustees, said: “We are pleased and justifiably excited [at the thought of] seeing the museum open again. At one stage we thought it was all lost.

Some items that survived the blaze will feature at the new museum
Some items that survived the blaze will feature at the new museum

“The trustees decided a long time ago it would be best to move the site because it wasn’t ideally situated, it was very isolated where it was, so we agreed with our insurers to find another site.

“We were in conversations with Whistable [harbour] but after three years they decided not to pursue it any further.

“It’s only by sheer persistence that this site came up towards the end of our search. Had it gone on any longer we would have run out of time for our insurance claim.”

Cllr Mike Whiting
Cllr Mike Whiting

Cllr Mike Whiting has been backing the Trust in getting a new museum up and running.

He said: “I am delighted to see a planning application for a new museum on the quay side in Sittingbourne and congratulate Clive and his committee of Trustees in the work they have done to get this far.

“I was pleased to help secure the land at Lloyds Wharf, which I suggested it because I felt it’s a perfect place to attract barges and provide an income for the Trust.”

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