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Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum in Sittingbourne due to reopen in 2020

By Luke May

A celebration of Swale's history is one step closer to returning, more than a decade after it burnt down.

The old Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum, off Crown Quay Lane in Sittingbourne, was razed by a fire in October 2008 - a suspected arson attack.

Priceless exhibits including intricate sailing barge models, oil paintings and maps were destroyed.

Gransden Construction handed over the keys to the new Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum in The Wall, Sittingbourne this week
Gransden Construction handed over the keys to the new Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum in The Wall, Sittingbourne this week

To date no arrests have been made. But now trustees have set a date for when the museum’s replacement could open.

Gransden Construction started work to build a new £420,000 heritage centre on the former Lloyds Wharf site at The Wall last summer.

Director Richard Gransden said: “It was a six-month programme. We finished this week and handed over the keys.

“It’s an empty shell at the moment, the trust are going to fit out all of the museum equipment.”

Clive Reader after the fire
Clive Reader after the fire

The oak-framed, timber-clad building has been designed as a replica to Victorian sail lofts, in keeping with Sittingbourne’s history as a barge-making town.

"The museum will celebrate the historic skills of ship-building, sail-making, sailing and brick-making.

Chairman of the Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum Trust, Clive Reader, said: “We’ve got a lot of work to do before we open.

"The hardest part is going to be fitting out the museum.

The new museum took six months to build
The new museum took six months to build

“We wouldn’t open in the winter, so it’s looking like we’ll be opening in spring 2020.”

Construction costs were covered by insurance funds along with money from fundraising and Swale council.

The authority also helped secure the new site from developers Essential Land, which built the town’s Morrisons.

Mr Reader added: “I’m hoping we can make the museum more of an experience for families.

"We need to raise funds for the kitting out, including the installation of a lift.”

  • To donate, call 07970 873620.

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