Annual Report 2018

30th January 2018

Dear Friends, 

This past year has been another successful one for the Friends of LV50.  In addition to supporting the discovery, promotion and understanding of the heritage of the wooden Lightship LV50, moored in Blyth Harbour, we have again opened the vessel to the public for heritage tours and held several fundraising events. The grant we received in 2017 from Sir James Knott Trust also helped with our projects in 2018. Our volunteering efforts were recognised by the National Ships Register UK and Marsh Awards scheme with a special commendation. 

Throughout the year, the Friends continued their public awareness activities through giving outreach talks to community groups, including Blyth Rotary Club, Blyth and Cramlington Local History Societies, and Morpeth U3A. We also held events, musical evenings, and delivered tours and talks on board the vessel; the total number of visitors was approximately 800.

Through the generosity of the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club and the Sir James Knott Trust, we requisitioned Information Boards, which were erected at 3 locations around the Harbour, where they are accessible to the public for viewing.  The photograph also shows the recently erected replica lamp.

The Friends Educational Project, a new venture, was started this year.  On a snowy day in February, a visit to the LV50 was made by a group of primary school children.  Although the weather was cold and frosty the pupils enjoyed a tour and took part in various educational activities.

In March several of our Friends attended a tourist fair in Alnwick to promote LV50.  This resulted in contact with other tourist facilities and organisations, which enabled us to place our promotional leaflet in various tourist venues.  Several people visiting the vessel on our Open Days mentioned that they had seen our leaflets, which prompted them to visit.

As well as conducting tours of the vessel to groups, the Friends started their regular summer programme in April. This involved opening LV50 to the public on the last Thursday of each month between April and September.  Positive visitor feedback includes “Amazing vessel, a brilliant tour, this is important history in Blyth; Enjoyed visiting one of the oldest lightships in the UK”.

In May, the Friends hosted a pie and pea supper on board LV50. As well as being enjoyable, this was successful in raising much-needed funds. Also in May, the Friends participated in the Northumberland Day, an event celebrating everything Northumbrian. Following this we were invited to the Northumberland Day Award ceremony at Langley Castle, where we received an honourable mention for our efforts.

For the second year running, in August, The Friends participated in the International Lighthouse/Lightship Day, which involved a local Amateur Radio Group transmitting from LV50 around the globe. This day also coincided with the Friends opening the vessel during the International Lightship Heritage Weekend, which aimed to promote maritime heritage. 

In 2018 the Friends participated in the newly extended two week Heritage Open Days by opening LV50 for two weeks in September.  This helped to increase our visitor numbers as the days were well attended by young and old, making it an enjoyable family event. Visitors came from the North East, various places around the UK, Scotland, Germany and the Netherlands.

In November the Friends of LV50 gave a warm welcome to the Blyth Mayor, Cllr Adrian Cartie, and  other Councillors when they visited LV50. They were given a tour of the vessel followed by refreshments.  All expressed a keen interest in the history of LV50 and were impressed by the enthusiasm of the Friends in promoting Blyth heritage. 

Also in November, Lester Sher, our Chairman, and Martin Willis, Blyth Harbour Master, who sponsored us for a Marsh Volunteer Group Award, visited Trinity House, the Lighthouse and Lightship Authority in London, to accept the Award bestowed on us.  Their citation reads: “Your contribution to LV50, particularly the work you have done to uncover its history and share it with the public have been recognised by the judging panel as outstanding”.

In December, the final Music Event for the year was held on board the vessel.  These events, arranged by Frank Higham, our Vice Chair, have been held throughout the year. They have been extremely popular and the funds they raised have enabled us purchase several items to enhance our visitor experience.

Research this past year has focussed on gaining a better understanding of life aboard a working lightship as well as discovering more about LV50’s construction. By exploring below her deck, we found two tanks, which we now believe were used for fresh water, as well as structural supports made of wrought iron. This demonstrates how, around the time LV50 was built, traditional wooden building techniques were evolving to incorporate iron into their design.

Finally, we are busy developing our own website 

With a donation from the North of England and P & I Association Ltd, the Friends commissioned initial design and training from Ray McGinty Information Design.  Four of our members are now undertaking updating and maintenance of the website. Our main pages Home, History, About Us, News and Events, already have information posted, although much still needs to be included. 

The Friends future looks bright for 2019. At our recent Strategy Meeting, Committee members were full of ideas for new projects and formed a Sub-Group to seek funding for them. However, as the Friends of LV50 are a small group, the need for more volunteers was identified to help deliver these projects. With assistance from Northumberland CVA, we hope to attract more volunteers. If you would like to join us to discover and promote the heritage of this historic vessel please contact