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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
The Cutty Sark's proud heritage
With its masts towering above the Thames, the 138-year-old Cutty Sark has been an imposing presence over Greenwich since it was installed in dry dock.

The tea clipper, which was struck by a fierce blaze in May 2007, had become a magnet for tourists and historians alike.

Cutty Sark images and graphics

Cost 16,150 to build in 1869
Achieved fastest ever wind-powered voyage from Australia to England via Cape Horn of 72 days in 1885
Sailed in Australia wool trade 1883-1895
Carried 32,000 square feet of sails, the rough area of 11 tennis courts
Some 15 million people have visited the ship since it went on display in Greenwich

Originally intended to transport tea from China to Britain in the 1870s, the 900-tonne Cutty Sark was built in 1869 by Scott & Linton in Dumbarton.

As one of the last tea clippers to be constructed, the ship was designed to make long voyages quickly.

After the tea trade was taken over by the steamers which used the Suez Canal, she was used to transport wool from Australia.

Graphic: Cutty Sark damage

Her working life drew to a close. But in 1922 a Captain Dowman of Falmouth, who believed she should be preserved, made her part of the floating nautical school he ran.

Overhead view of the Cutty Sark
About 90% of the ship was alight during the blaze

His widow donated the Cutty Sark to the Thames Nautical Training School at Greenhithe in 1938.

The vessel was maintained there until the Cutty Sark Preservation Society was founded under the director of the National Maritime Museum, Frank Carr, with HRH the Duke of Edinburgh named patron.

She was restored to her glory days as a trading vessel after being installed in a stone dry dock in Greenwich.

More recently it became a familiar landmark on the route of the London Marathon.

But by the 1990s structural problems began to present themselves in her hull, and the Sark's structure was said to have seriously deteriorated.

After years of lobbying for her full restoration, she was awarded grants totalling 25m and she was closed in November 2006 so that work could begin.

As part of this process, her rig was dismantled and the ship was being lifted by 3m (9.8ft) above her current position.

This was to allow visitors to walk beneath the hull, where catering and educational facilities were to be installed.

She was due to undergo mechanical cleaning and preventative coatings were to be applied to her. A glass "bubble" was also intended to be attached at her waterline.

I remember going on a school trip in the mid 1970s to see this magnificent ship
Adrian Gill, Camberley, UK

Now only one clipper from the same period is left intact - the City of Adelaide, built in 1864 and currently housed at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Ayrshire, which had been due for demolition.

The general editor at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, Peter Van der Merwe said the Cutty Sark was a very special ship.

"It's one of the most important historic ships in the world. It's the first merchant ship which was deliberately saved for preservation to represent really the ultimate development of the merchant sailing ships - the fast sailing ships of the nineteenth century.

"It is also constructionally very important. It's a composite ship built of teak on an iron frame and it was in its time an extraordinary famous ship."

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