Reassurances provided over future of historic mast

The mast manning ceremony at HMS Ganges with the button boy standi

The mast manning ceremony at HMS Ganges with the button boy standing on top. Picture: DAVE KINDRED - Credit: DAVE KINDRED

The future of a historic Royal Navy training mast is in safe hands, despite fears about its dilapidated state, according to a museum chief. 

Photos showing the rusting mast at the former site of HMS Ganges at Shotley peninsula have been released on social media, prompting concerns that the 142ft high structure is not being properly maintained. 

HMS Ganges

The rusting mast at the site where HMS Ganges stood at Shotley. Picture: JONATHAN STOW - Credit: Jonathan Stow

However, Roger Jones, chair of HMS Ganges Museum, provided reassurances the early 20th century landmark would be restored to its former glory as part of a new housing development by construction firms Wavensmere Homes and Galliard Homes. 

Plans for the land, known as Barrelmans Point, have been approved by Babergh District Council and include 285 homes, a 60-bed nursing home, retail and sports facilities, a doctor’s surgery, office space, a hotel and a café. 

The mast and parade ground will also be refurbished. 

The start of building work has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Mr Jones said: “As far as the museum is concerned, the museum has been fully assured that the mast and parade ground will be part of the earliest phasing of the development. 

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“Wavensmere have talked to us about getting things right and they have said quite clearly that the mast and parade ground will be part of the first phase of the reconstruction of the site and in that sense we as a museum do not have the concerns that we had in the past.” 

The mast was erected in 1907 where HMS Ganges, a 74-gun 18th century ship originally named Bengal, had stood before leaving for Chatham in 1906.

A photo of the button boy making his frightening climb to the top

A photo of the button boy making his frightening climb to the button on top of the 143 foot mast at HMS Ganges in July 1966. Picture: DAVE KINDRED - Credit: DAVE KINDRED

Naval recruits aged 15-18 used to train in ascending to the top platform at a height of 60ft before hoisting themselves over the platform’s edge. 

 A sequence of photographs of the button boy making his frightening clim

A sequence of photographs of the button boy making his frightening climb to the button on top of the 143 foot mast at HMS Ganges in July 1966. (Photos Dave Kindred/Archant) - Credit: DAVE KINDRED

James Dickens, managing director at Wavensmere Homes, said: “Wavensmere Homes and Galliard Homes are delighted to be able to confirm that we will shortly be starting work on site at Barrelmans Point.  

“Our on-site strategy includes works encompassing the restoration of all heritage assets including the ceremonial mast. We hope to reveal further details of timings in due course but we are all very committed to ensuring that the restoration works are completed as soon as possible.”