Henry VIII’s flagship to sail again?

Henry the Eighth’s great flagship could sail again from Woolwich if an idea set out this week gets enough support.  Greenwich Councillor Nigel Fletcher made the suggestion at a meeting of Greenwich Council during a debate on the Borough’s heritage.

Cllr Fletcher, who is Greenwich Conservatives’ spokesman for Culture, had tabled a motion calling on the Council to draw up plans to celebrate the rich history of the Borough of Greenwich, and in particular to devise plans to mark properly the 500th anniversary of the accession of Henry VIII, who came to the throne in 1509.  In an unusual move, the ruling Labour Group on the Council agreed to support the Conservative motion, which then passed unanimously.  During the debate, Cllr Fletcher suggested the possibility of rebuilding the Tudor warship ‘Henri Grace a Dieu’ , which was launched at Woolwich in 1514 and was popularly known as ‘The Great Harry.’

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Fletcher said, "I think an idea like this could make a real positive contribution to the life of our Borough, and I hope people will support it. It would tie together all the various elements of our history: the Royal heritage and maritime tradition, but also the history of the people of the borough.  The Royal Dockyard at Woolwich was founded for the building of the Great Harry, so 500 years on I think it would be a fitting way to mark the regeneration of the area today.

"Businesses and private donors could help raise the finance to build the ship, whilst trade apprentices could benefit from helping with the design and building. It could showcase local arts and crafts, and schoolchildren could be involved in projects to learn about it during the process. When it's finished, it could be used as a sail training vessel, helping disadvantaged young people and others to learn new skills and work together in a team - there are many charities which do amazing work turning round young lives with such activities.

"Beyond all that, we would have a great asset we could take pride in and celebrate, in time for the anniversary of the launch of the original ship in 2014. Income from tourists and corporate functions would be able to support its charitable work, and it would be great to have a fully sailing flagship for Woolwich to complement the much-loved Cutty Sark at Greenwich, and add to our heritage offer by bringing alive the Tudor period."

Anyone wishing to register their support or interest is asked to contact Cllr. Fletcher directly at nigel@nigelfletcher.org