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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 00:30 GMT 01:30 UK
Oyster boat back on the water
By Eleanor Williams
BBC News, Emsworth

Terror / Eleanor Williams
Crowds lined the banks for the launch of Terror

Her career was doomed after the Dean of Winchester was poisoned and died after eating one of her fleet's catch at a banquet in 1904.

Oyster catching was a thriving industry in the small Hampshire village of Emsworth at the turn of the century and Terror was part of a busy fleet of vessels used to dredge the beds and convey the shellfish around Chichester Harbour.

But within weeks of the food poisoning scandal, in which several people died from cholera after eating oysters contaminated by sewage, the village's main industry had died and Terror was out of a job.

She embarked on a new role as a day boat, taking people out on tours in the harbour, but after years of neglect, she eventually ended up as a wreck in a museum in Portsmouth.

error, Emsworth
Terror is set to take people out on day trips again from next year

Apart from the faint impressions of the old nursery beds in the harbour - still visible at low tide - the small wooden boat is thought to be the last surviving vessel from the Emsworth oyster days.

And now Terror has been restored to her former glory.

As she took to the water for a test sail on Wednesday, ahead of her official launch at the Emsworth Food Festival, people gathered to follow her progress from the harbour footpath and others followed her out into the harbour in their own boats.

Watching from the mill pond walk, one mother excitedly told her young son the story about Terror.

Terror, Emsworth, taking people sailing in 1910 (courtesy of Emsworth Museum)
After the oyster industry died, Terror was used as a day boat

At the height of her career the 29ft (8.8m) sailing vessel helped to land 100,000 oysters every week - until the day of the fateful banquet.

Robert Perry, project manager for Chichester Harbour Conservancy, which has been behind the restoration project, explained what happened.

"Unfortunately the oyster beds were very close to Emsworth and to the modern - for the day - Victorian sewers, which unfortunately did drain straight into the nursery beds," he said.

"The oysters did exceptionally well - they were nice and juicy - but they had to be filtered and they weren't properly filtered.

Terror in the greenhouse prior to restoration (courtesy of Chichester Harbour Conservancy
Terror was found in a dilapidated condition in a greenhouse in 2003

"Then there was the famous banquet where they served oysters and the Dean of Winchester died as a result of eating them.

"The oyster trade in Emsworth died in a matter of weeks or even days."

In 2003, the remains of Terror were found sitting in a greenhouse near Emsworth.

Mr Perry said he came across the Victorian vessel, which was in a dilapidated condition, by chance.

"She was in a greenhouse in Southbourne and owned by a couple of enthusiasts," he said.

Terror moored in Emsworth harbour in 1906 (courtesy of Emsworth Museum)
Terror was originally built in a boatyard in Emsworth in about 1890

"They had rescued her from Portsmouth Museum, where she was just about to be broken up.

"But the project proved too big for them so they put an advert in the local paper and I saw it and put a bid in to the lottery fund."

Chichester Harbour Conservancy bought Terror and secured some funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The restoration project was carried out at Dolphin Quay boatyard, just yards away from where Terror was originally built at Foster's boatyard in about 1890.

Richard Uttley, shipwright and master craftsman, worked on the project along with apprentice Sam Poore. He sees Terror as part of the village's history.

Terror being restored by Richard Uttley (courtesy of Chichester Harbour Conservancy)
Terror was restored at Dolphin Quay boatyard over two years

He said: "The boat itself is so unique... an honour is not the right word but it's something so satisfying to actually save it.

"Having lived in this village since 1960 it's part of the heritage. I consider myself an Emsworth person. To actually save that bit of Emsworth is really pleasing."

As Terror takes to the water at a re-dedication ceremony on Friday, the current Dean of Winchester, the Very Reverend James Atwell, will be there to bless her.

Like his predecessor he will be served an oyster, and he is hoping that this time he will survive the experience.

'Last oyster boat' sailing again
06 Sep 06 |  Hampshire

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