Hartlepool Borough Council has provisionally allocated funding of £4 million to safeguard the future of the paddle steamer Wingfield Castle following discussions with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, National Historic Ships UK and others.
Built in 1934 in Hartlepool by William Gray & Co on the site where she is currently moored, Wingfield Castle ran on the Humber ferry service between Hull and New Holland for her whole operational career until she was withdrawn after her last voyage in steam taking the 5.30pm departure from Hull to New Holland on Thursday 14th March 1974 under the command of Captain Stan Wright. From time to time in her career she also undertook local excursions from Hull to view the docks as well as taking trippers down the Humber to Grimsby and across to view Spurn Head.
In the decade after her withdrawal she led a nomadic life spending time in Brighton, Swansea, London and on the Medway before returning to the place where she was built in Hartlepool in 1986 where she was restored as a museum ship, moored next to HMS Trincomalee and opened to the public.
After more than thirty years in this role her deteriorating structure led to her closure so this is wonderful news that funding has now been earmarked by the Local Authority to safeguard her future as a ship built locally by the local people of Hartlepool with local skills and local knowledge nearly ninety years ago. She is a true reminder of Hartlepool’s once great shipbuilding past.
The next stage will be to work up plans for what needs to be done to the ship, how she will be rebuilt and how she will finally be re-opened to the public.