Queen visits Greenwich to reopen the Cutty Sark
YEARS after being ravaged by fire, the Cutty Sark was officially unveiled by the Queen yesterday following its £50m restoration.
It was 55 years ago that the Queen first opened the Cutty Sark to the public and it was only fitting she returned to reopen it in 2012 - the year Greenwich became a royal borough.
Her Majesty, dressed in postbox red, was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh who, back in 1951, co-founded the Cutty Sark Society to safeguard the tea clipper.
The pair arrived in Greenwich by boat and made their entrance to the sound of trumpets before taking their seat in front of the ship to hear a special suite of music sung by primary school children and performed by the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
In front of a host of dignitaries, they were presented with gifts, including a book commemorating Greenwich's new status, and Her Majesty unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion, while, behind her, the Cutty Sark crew stood on the ship's masts.
Cheers went up as she made her way past schoolchildren from across the borough and the assembled crowds waving Union Jack flags and clutching umbrellas, heading inside the vessel to officially reopen it - a landmark moment in the Cutty Sark's already illustrious history.
A little later she was met by more crowds and the sound of God Save Our Queen played by the Royal Hospital Schools Marching Band at the National maritime Museum, opening their Royal River exhibition.
Marian Lucas, 78, of Grove Street, Deptford, had braved the rain to see the visit for herself. She said: "It was just wonderful. I just had to come and see her and the Cutty Sark."
Cutty Sark Trust director Richard Doughty said: "There have been so many challenges - its been a real rollercoaster ride.
"This is a very special moment. We've been working for a very long time, trying to get this ship fit for the Queen."
The Cutty Sark was back to her proud best for the Queen's opening - even the grass nearby had been sprayed green for the occasion.
It is a refurbishment which has cost £50m - £3m of which came from Greenwich Council - with the most spectacular and controversial element seeing the famous clipper lifted more than 11ft above its dry berth.
This allows visitors to appreciate its magnificent hull for the first time, while also providing its owners with a state of the art corporate venue and cafe.
Lifting it had raised fears the ship could be damaged but structural engineer Steve Brown said it actually helped the conservation process.
He said: "When you sit a ship on its keep, it starts to sag. The idea of lifting the ship is to reverse that process and get the hull back to its ordinary shape."
Originally launched in 1869, the clipper carried everything from tea to gunpowder and was famed for reaching a recordbreaking speed of 17.5 knots from Sydney to London.
Inside the ship herself, people can roam around the decks, enjoying an all-new interactive museum.