2007 Application to demolish

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The City of Adelaide is located in a slipway on private land near the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine. The owners of the slipway have served notice on the Trustees of the Scottish Maritime Museum to quit by 2007 and the lease was terminated.

Without an external organisation coming forward to own and remove the clipper, and given the difficult legal position of the Trustees of the Scottish Maritime Museum without their own funds to restore or move the City of Adelaide, the Trustees now consider that their only option is to remove the ship in pieces. This could be achieved in 2 ways:

  1. Dissection of the clipper into suitable lengths which could then be moved on wheeled transport the short distance to the Museum's premises where the parts could possibly be realigned and partly restored. This would be a complex operation and the Museum Trustees are not fully behind such a proposal as there is no guarantee of success. The Trust prepared estimates for the vessel to be cut into pieces small enough to be moved by road and these were £650,000. This could take up to a year to achieve.
  2. Deconstructing (dismantling) the clipper piece by piece for recording purposes and its complete removal from the slipway. The 'deconstruction' would be undertaken in a manner which would yield archaeological information about the ship's construction which may be of scholarly interest. Portions of the clipper could be given to organisations wishing to have a piece of the ship for historical interest. No costs have been prepared and the Trust have advised that this would require further investigation. It is not certain if funds are presently available for this or if special lottery funding would be required.

The second option is the one favoured by the Scottish Maritime Museum Trustees and was the subject of an application they made to the North Ayrshire Council to deconstruct the clipper.

Consultations and Representations to Council

The proposal to deconstruct the ship was advertised in the Irvine Herald and Edinburgh Gazette and a site notice posted. Some 132 letters were received. Some of these came from Maritime-related organisations who are involved in the history and preservation of ships as well as:

  • City of Adelaide 1864 Action Group (Adelaide, South Australia)
  • SOS Action Group (Sunderland, U.K.)
  • Christopher Pyne, Member of Parliament (Adelaide, South Australia)
  • South Australian Maritime Museum (Adelaide, South Australia)
  • Australian National University (Canberra, ACT, Australia)
  • Sunderland Maritime Heritage (Sunderland, U.K.)
  • Institute of Advanced Studies, ANU (Canberra, ACT, Australia)
  • Australian Defence Force Academy (Canberra, ACT, Australia)

These letters stressed the importance that the City of Adelaide has played in history, both from the constructional and social history point of view. In particular, it was indicated in these letters that:

  1. the ship is the only one of the two surviving examples of a clipper ship, the other being the Cutty Sark, but the City of Adelaide is recognised as possibly being the better example and predates it by 5 years;
  2. the ship is one of the 46 ships listed in the National Historic Ships Committee as being of international significance and built in Britain;
  3. the ship is the world's oldest composite ship, a mix of wood and iron frame hull;
  4. the ship, although built at Sunderland, is of major Scottish significance, representing a unique style of construction pioneered in Scotland and is one of only 6 ships in Scotland which are part of the recommended list of the National Core Collection of Historic Vessels for the UK.
  5. the ship is one of the only two surviving ships which carried immigrants from Britain (the other being the Edwin Fox which is under restoration in New Zealand) and the only surviving sailing passenger-cargo ship from Australia's most crucial period of development in the 1870s and 80s.
  6. the ship's history has been well documented by the passenger's diaries who sailed with her, including many from Scotland;
  7. the ship has strong historical connections relating to the development of trade between Australia and Scotland;
  8. the ship has past links with Irvine being refitted in the town's ship yard in 1923/24 and has been berthed in the Firth of Clyde area since this time.

Historic Scotland advised that the City of Adelaide is a vessel of high cultural significance at international level. The Council must be satisfied that all possible options for its retention have been carefully explored.

Council Analysis

In its analysis, the North Ayrshire Council considered that:

  1. The importance of the ship internationally is widely recognised and is not in dispute.
  2. Restoration works by the Maritime Museum ceased prior to 2000 as no funds were available to continue with the initial works.
  3. There are no approved redevelopment proposals for the slipway site. However, development has now commenced on the adjoining site for a flatted development. The Council considered it likely that a proposal will come forward for the whole site on which the slipway is located which is allocated for residential purposes.

Council Decision

On World Heritage Day, the 18 April 2007, the North Ayrshire Council advised that they agreed to the deconstruction of the clipper subject to:

  1. Referral of the application to Historic Scotland under Section 12 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997, and
  2. The condition that prior to the commencement of the deconstruction of the ship, hereby approved, a Steering Committee shall be established, whose composition shall be based on the recommendations of the paper produced by the National Historic Ships Committee (NHSC) regarding the deconstruction of historic ships and shall be agreed in writing by North Ayrshire Council as Planning Authority. Thereafter the Steering Committee shall follow the guidelines in this NHSC report and prepare recommendations on the detailed method of deconstruction, the recording of the resultant parts and their availability for display, for the further agreement in writing of North Ayrshire Council as Planning Authority and of Historic Scotland.

The reason for the above condition is to maintain control over the demolition process and to meet the requirements of Historic Scotland.


Source: North Ayrshire Council, Cunninghame House, Irvine KA12 8EE, Scotland