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Can you help save Henry Blogg’s historic Cromer fishing boat?

PUBLISHED: 08:48 21 January 2014 | UPDATED: 08:48 21 January 2014

Cromer town councillor Cat Plewman with Henry Blogg's old fishing boat the Q J and J. 

Cromer town councillor Cat Plewman with Henry Blogg's old fishing boat the Q J and J. Photo: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

A last ditch plea is being made to save an historic Norfolk fishing boat, which belonged to legendary lifeboatman Henry Blogg.

Q J and J timeline

■ The QJ and J was built by Robert ‘Calla’ Emery of Sheringham in 1915 for John James Davies, a crab fisherman and stepfather to Henry Blogg.

■ She is named after Blogg’s children Queenie and Jack and his nephew Jimmy. Queenie was Blogg’s daughter born in 1907, who died aged 28, and Jack was his first child born in 1902, who sadly died aged just 18 months.

■ She is a north Norfolk crabbing boat and reputed to be one of the last hovellers - an unlicensed boat that usually worked off beaches and among other tasks “attended vessels in distress”.

■ She operated better than north Norfolk’s RNLI lifeboats in shallow water so worked alongside lifeboat crews, but did have a tendency to swamp in heavy weather.

■ In 1988 she was sold to a Wells fisherman, and is said to have played a role in the 1940 evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk but this is not documented. Two years later she was rediscovered as a derelict ex-leisure vessel on an estuary in Essex, where she was due for destruction.

■ She was saved however, by Sheringham Museum and brought back to north Norfolk. The famous boat was then handed over to Cromer Town Council, which has stored her in various locations.

■ In 2008 she was moved to Lowestoft, then to Stiffkey.

The Q J and J was the workaday vessel used by the Cromer coxswain when he was not performing heroic deeds on the town’s rescue boat, which earned him more medals than anyone else in lifeboat history.

But after years of sitting high and dry the fishing “hoveller” is in poor condition - and a desperate plea is being made for someone to take her on and save an important slice of the county’s maritime history.

The wooden boat, built in 1915, was saved from the scrap heap by conservationists and plans were put in place to restore her to her former glory, after she was handed over Cromer Town Council.

The project collapsed, however after funding fell through. Since then the council has struggled to find grants to cover the estimated six-figure sum needed to fully restore the historic crab boat, so members have taken the decision to pass her on to a new home.

The Q J and J fishing boat seen in its working days on Cromer Gangway. Photo: PA Wire The Q J and J fishing boat seen in its working days on Cromer Gangway. Photo: PA Wire

Town clerk Julie Chance said members had hoped to overhaul the QJ and J and place her under a special canopy on a plinth at the bottom of The Gangway in Cromer, but the total bill for the project had risen to around £150,000.

“Cromer cannot possibly take her on ourselves. Grant funding is difficult to come by in this sort of instance. We were spending too much money and it’s public money we’re spending at the end of the day,” she added.

“We’re offering it really to anyone that’s interested.”

Residents who offered donations towards the project would have their money returned, Mrs Chance said.

Henry Blogg Henry Blogg

Mr Blogg was awarded seven RNLI medals for gallantry; three gold and four silver. He was also awarded the George Cross and the British Empire Medal.

During his 53 years’ service, which began in 1894 at the age of 18, the Cromer lifeboat launched 387 times and saved 873 lives. The QJ and J was named after Mr Blogg’s children Queenie and Jack and nephew Jimmy.

In 2008 the council was close to realising its dream of restoring her after it secured a £17,000 grant through the government’s Prism fund.

This was to go alongside £10,000 of council cash towards the refurbishment costs - then estimated at £50,000 - but the grant fell through due to a disagreement about how best to store the boat, and the scheme has been on hold ever since.

The QJ and J meanwhile has moved around the coast, as it has been transferred to different temporary homes, while taking a battering from the elements, leaving it in its current “delicate” condition.

Town councillor Cat Plewman, who was part of a team that worked on seeking funding for the scheme, said it was a “difficult” situation due to the spiralling cost of restoring the famous craft.

She added: “The last thing we want to do is not do anything with it because obviously there’s a lot of history. The elements is where she should be but obviously not until she’s repaired.”

Ms Plewman said the QJ and J was important because of her links with Mr Blogg.

“Clearly that makes it impossible to say ‘well we have just got to scrap it’ and that’s not what we want,” she added.

The council has already offered the vessel to Rescue Wooden Boats, based in King’s Lynn, but the charitable trust has said it cannot take it on.

Mrs Chance said: “It’s shame we have had to make this decision and it would be a shame to lose the history, we just haven’t got the resources.”

■ Anyone interested in taking on the QJ and J should call the council on 01263 512254.

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