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Culture Minister defers export of last surviving wooden three-masted topsail schooner

20 December 2012

Museums and Libraries

Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, has placed a temporary export bar on the last remaining three-masted topsail schooner, Kathleen and May. This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the schooner in the United Kingdom.

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by Arts Council England. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the schooner was so closely connected with our history and national life that her departure would be a misfortune.

As the sole surviving wooden three-masted topsail schooner, and the last Welsh-built merchant sailing vessel, Kathleen and May was found to be of outstanding significance for the study of British maritime history and naval architecture.

The Kathleen and May is an impressive and unique example of an early 20th century schooner, still in full sailing condition. Commissioned by Chester ship-owner Captain John Coppack, the ship was built in 1900 by Ferguson & Baird at Connah’s Quay near Chester.

Her working life was spent in the home trade carrying a variety of cargo, sailing between Scotland, London and the Channel Islands. In her first 8 years, Kathleen & May sailed nearly 40,000 miles! She later plied between Cardiff, Ireland, Liverpool and the West Country, and was sold out of trade in 1961. Since then, she has been purchased by the Maritime Trust, and opened to the public in Sutton Harbour, Plymouth, and was towed to St. Katherine Dock London to form part of the Historic Ship Collection. In 1985, when this collection was dispersed, the schooner was sold on, fell into disrepair, before being restored to full working order.

Lord Inglewood, Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, said: “The Kathleen and May is a uniquely important vessel, not only to the history of the South West, but also deeply connected with the maritime history of the nation."

The decision on the export licence application for the schooner will be deferred for a period ending on 19 February 2013 inclusive. This period may be extended until 19 June 2013 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the schooner at the recommended price of £2,000,000 is expressed.


Notes to editors

  1. Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the schooner should contact:
    The Secretary
    The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
    Arts Council England
    Great Peter Street
    SW1P 3NQ
    Tel: 0845 300 6200

  2. Anyone interested in making a matching offer and who requires further information about the schooner from the Champion should contact The Secretary to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest at the above address.

  3. For enquiries on the operation of and casework arising from the work of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) please contact the Enquiries team on or 0845 300 6200

  4. The details of the schooner are:
    A three-masted topsail schooner built largely in wood with a variety of metal fastenings and fixtures, fully rigged with textile sails set from wooden spars. Built by Ferguson & Baird at Connah’s Quay, Nr Chester, North Wales and launched in 1900 measuring 98’ 4” in length by 23’ 2” in the beam and a tonnage of 136 gross. Currently in full sailing condition.

    Provenance: 1900: Built for Captain Coppack and originally named Lizzie May; 1908: Acquired by M J Fleming of Youghal, County Cork, and renamed Kathleen and May; 1931: Acquired by Captain T Jewell of Appledore, Devon; 1961: Sold out of trade; 1970: Acquired by the Maritime Trust from Captain Davis; 1998: Acquired by the current owner

  5. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by Arts Council England, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair market price.

  6. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.