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Waterways gondolas in Great Yarmouth are heading their way to major council restoration scheme

PUBLISHED: 13:35 07 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:35 07 September 2017

The last four gondolas that once plied Great Yarmouth's Waterways in a storage yard in the town.
They will soon be be-headed and moved to St John's Church as part of a project to restore the gardens.
Photo: Liz Coates

The last four gondolas that once plied Great Yarmouth's Waterways in a storage yard in the town. They will soon be be-headed and moved to St John's Church as part of a project to restore the gardens. Photo: Liz Coates

Archant

Off with their heads!

The Waterways and gardens on North Drive in Great Yarmouth.
June 2016.

Picture: James Bass The Waterways and gardens on North Drive in Great Yarmouth. June 2016. Picture: James Bass

The day of reckoning has come for Great Yarmouth’s iconic Waterways Venetian gondolas.

The 1950’s-built boats were once the toast of the town conveying trippers around the winding canals, their beautifully carved animal heads held high as they eddied in each other’s wakes.

Now after years in storage the four colourful vessels are to be carefully be-headed and their figureheads re-used as the £1.7m project to restore the gardens gets underway.

For fans of the boats discussing their fate on social media the news will come as a blow.

PLACES / Y

YARMOUTH - BOAT LOAD OF HOLIDAYMAKERS TAKE A TRIP ON THE VENTIAN WATERWAYS

DATE; 24TH JULY 1967
C3887
FOA AUg 2014 PLACES / Y YARMOUTH - BOAT LOAD OF HOLIDAYMAKERS TAKE A TRIP ON THE VENTIAN WATERWAYS DATE; 24TH JULY 1967 C3887 FOA AUg 2014

But a council spokesman said it was only ever the distinctive heads that were valuable after they were salvaged from the bottom of the boating lake by forward-thinking conservationists decades ago.

Quite why the boats ended up abandoned in their watery grave is unknown.

But care has been taken to protect the vessels until the heritage tide turned in their favour.

A spokesman for the borough council said the boats were beyond repair when they were recovered - a diagnosis that had been confirmed more recently by boating experts - and were possibly too far gone when they became submerged.

Although held in high affection by many there was no chance the boats would sail again, although the “incredible foresight” of those who thought to save them despite their condition has been highlighted.

Barry Coleman, chairman of the economic development committee, said: “The original boats used on the Waterways and Boating Lake were replaced before the 1950s. The boats used thereafter came to the end of their serviceable lives some time ago and were salvaged by the council about 15 to 20 years ago. The cultural significance of the distinctive carved wooden animal heads was recognised, and the boats were kept and stored in order to save the heads.

“Rest assured the heads have not been forgotten. They will soon be carefully removed and moved to St John’s Church to facilitate their re-use as part of the Waterways restoration project, which is now well underway in terms of the all-important preparatory work, including design development, considering the technical challenges for restoration and sourcing plants.”

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