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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 October 2005, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
Last wherry returns to new career
Ardea wherry
The luxury trim on the Ardea will be kept when it is restored
The last Broads Wherry ever built has been found in France and brought back to East Anglia for a new lease of life.

The Ardea was built in Oulton Broad, Suffolk, in 1927, for Lowestoft philanthropist Howard Hollingsworth.

It was launched in the presence of King George V and was used as a pleasure craft on rivers and Broads in Norfolk and Suffolk for three decades.

In the 1950s it was taken to France as a house boat on the Seine until Norfolk businessman Mike Barnes spotted it.

The Ardea was one of about two dozen pleasure wherries built up to 1927 and only eight now survive.

The internal fittings are still on the wherry and these show what a luxury craft it was
Mike Barnes

It has been brought back to a boatyard at Horning in Norfolk for restoration before resuming its career as a pleasure craft on the Broads.

The restoration of the Ardea is likely to take years but the new owner believes because it is built of 2in teak planks it is in remarkably good condition.

Mike Barnes who owns the Norfolk Broads Yachting company at Horning said the hardest job will be to locate or make the authentic mast, rigging and sails.

"Because it has been a houseboat these have disappeared. The galley has also had a fire and that will need a refit."

VAT demands

The wherry has a characteristic counter weight on the mast so it could be lowered to allow the vessel to get under bridges and this will have to be made.

Mr Barnes said: "The internal fittings are still on the wherry and these show what a luxury craft it was.

"When I first spotted the wherry 15 years ago it was bizarre to see what I knew was an historic craft in an alien setting.

"I made up my mind to raise the money needed to bring it back. But it's a tribute to the previous owner Phillipe Rouff for ensuring the wherry was in such good condition and for saving it.

"It had a lien on it from a boatyard and French customs demanded VAT payments which were all paid so that it could become a houseboat in France.

"It was an adventure bringing it down the Seine to Le Havre as this meant negotiating 18 large locks.

"Now it is back we will replace an old diesel with an electric engine, restore its interior and we hope to bring it back into commission for the regatta season of 2006."

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