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Beloved animal figureheads will be back on the water this year

PUBLISHED: 19:03 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 19:12 27 March 2019

Kelvin Thatcher, conservator, and Clare Southern, volunteer, at work on the figureheads originally on one of the boats on the Waterways at Great Yarmouth, being restored to be displayed at the Waterways when work has been completed. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Kelvin Thatcher, conservator, and Clare Southern, volunteer, at work on the figureheads originally on one of the boats on the Waterways at Great Yarmouth, being restored to be displayed at the Waterways when work has been completed. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2019

Visitors to Great Yarmouth’s Waterways will see a return of one of its most iconic features when it reopens later on this year.

The Waterways project manager, Claire Sullivan, on one of the bridges as improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Waterways project manager, Claire Sullivan, on one of the bridges as improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A team of volunteers led by craftsman Kelvin Thatcher are restoring the former boat figureheads which will see the winged horse, the cow and the fish return to the grade II-listed seafront attraction.

The work to bring back one of the Venetian Waterways most loved features is part of Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s £2.7m project, which hopes to re-establish the Waterways as one of the town’s most popular features.

The Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The figureheads – made of mahogany – were added in 1956 to the electric gondolas which were used to take families around the lake of the site.

Mr Thatcher, 68, who is a conservator, has spent the last three weeks rubbing the boat heads down ready for painting as well as filling in small cavities.

The Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

He said: “The Waterways is a really lovely project because people have a lot of fond memories of it.

“It has been great working with a team of volunteers and I am really looking forward to seeing the figureheads all finished.

The Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“When you see the quality of the sculptures upon finishing, it makes the hard work 
worthwhile.”

The 68-year-old, who has been assisted by five volunteers, will spend the next week designing the final features of the animals.

The Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The figureheads will then be painted before being attached to a plinth ready to be installed in the Waterways garden.

Project manager Claire Sullivan said she was delighted to be able to bring back one of the most iconic elements of the seafront attraction.

The Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“The boat heads hold a lot of memories with people so for me this is definitely one of the most exciting parts of the project,” 
she said.

“Although they won’t be attached to the boats, we are displaying them in a different way which we hope people will like.”

The Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Waterways at Great Yarmouth where improvement work is well under way. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mrs Sullivan confirmed the project was progressing well but said an official opening date was yet to be agreed.

She also announced eight boats and eight pedalos would return to the site.

The fish figurehead which was originally on one of the boats on the Waterways at Great Yarmouth, being restored to be displayed at the Waterways when work has been completed. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe fish figurehead which was originally on one of the boats on the Waterways at Great Yarmouth, being restored to be displayed at the Waterways when work has been completed. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Last week it was announced the grounds would reopen to the public on Easter Sunday for the Rotary Club’s Duck Race. However, work on the boating lake remains ongoing.

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