Boathouse 4 – change of focus

30 May 2022

Visitors to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard are always amazed and delighted to discover the hive of activity that is Boathouse 4.  Situated near the entrance to the Dockyard, the Second World War boathouse still retains its working cranes, lock gates and canals.  It is a living, breathing place – where the fleet of historic boats are restored and maintained, with some kept in operational condition.  From a steam cutter that served in the Boer War, to a newly constructed replica of a CMB torpedo boat, there is always something new to discover.

For the past few years, the staff and volunteer crews of the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust have shared the Boathouse with IBTC Portsmouth.  Originally welcomed as a tenant into the boathouse, the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust rescued the business when it failed in 2017.  Since then, the Trust has supported the traditional wooden boat building college, although it has always operated at a deficit.  Over the years, more than a hundred students have graduated: those who wished to have gone on to successful careers within the marine industry, whilst others have enjoyed their new-found skills in their retirement.      

However, rising energy costs and a decrease in demand for a year long course led to a pause and a reassessment of the use of the building.  CEO Hannah Prowse said,

“Whilst we are immensely proud of all our students and the part that IBTCP has played in keeping traditional skills alive, we believe that the time has come to reassess how we can best serve the sector and offer the greatest opportunity to young people.  IBTCP may be closing its doors, but Boathouse 4 remains very much open.  We will continue to work with our wonderful volunteers and staff to maintain our world-class collection, as we explore new opportunities for the space in the future.  We know that excellent traditional training continues in IBTC Lowestoft and the Boat Building Academy, Lyme Regis.  As a National Historic Ships Shipshape Hub, Boathouse 4 will continue to work as part of the historic ships sector and we shall continue to support and promote the work of all those engaged in the sector. ”

The students currently studying at IBTCP will be unaffected by the closure and complete their courses as planned.

Boathouse 4 will continue to operate as the National Historic Ships’ Shipshape Hub for the Solent region. The Shipshape network brings together historic vessel owners, skilled craftsmen, businesses, heritage organisations, training bodies and all those with an interest in Britain's maritime heritage and ship preservation, and the Trust looks forward to Boathouse 4 taking on a greater role in leading this collaboration in the Solent area.

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