Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton Calshot Spit lightship on the move ahead of cafe revamp

Moving lightship
Image caption The lightship was transported to its new home at the Solent Sky museum

A lightship that guided vessels into Southampton's port for much of the 20th Century has been moved before becoming part of a museum cafe.

The 170-tonne Calshot Spit was retired in the mid-1960s and has been positioned within the port for the past nine years.

It was taken through city streets to the Solent Sky Museum where its restoration will be completed.

Museum curator Alan Jones said it was "part of Southampton's history".

The bright red ship, which was known as Light Vessel 78 (LV78), was built in 1914 and is a rare surviving example of a riveted iron-plated ship.

Image copyright Solent Sky
Image caption The lightship was moored at Calshot Spit at the entrance to Southampton Water

It was originally moored at Calshot Spit, where it acted as a floating lighthouse at the entrance to Southampton Water, guiding flying boats into their terminals and warning ships of sandbanks.

Six crew lived in cramped conditions keeping the light and foghorn operating and recording shipping movements. It was replaced by a buoy in the mid-1960s.

The ship was later placed at the entrance to the Ocean Village development before being moved to Southampton Docks for a planned transport museum, but the plans were dropped in 2012.

The operation to move the lightship has been supported by Associated British Ports and saw it travel three-quarters of a mile (1.2km) out of the docks and along Canute Road to the museum on self-propelling rollers.

Image caption Streets were closed as the lightship was moved from the docks to the museum

The move was completed in about 45 minutes, with Sam Smith of specialist contractors ALE saying it had gone "very well".

"Every lift has its unique challenges but with this one being so old and its industrial heritage, it was very challenging," he said.

Mr Jones described its condition as "solid as a rock", although a full restoration could cost up to £70,000.

"This really is Southampton's lightship - she was built on the banks of the Itchen, she saw the great liners in, she was a turning point for the flying boats - it's marvellous to keep her."

It will sit outside the museum while restoration work is carried out and a planned walkway will connect it to the museum's cafe. It is hoped to be open to the public sometime in 2020.

The museum is also trying to trace any crew members, or their relatives, who served on the ship which was operated by Trinity House.

Image copyright Solent Sky
Image caption The lightship has been located within Southampton Port since 2010

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