For more than 20 years, the small steamship SS Davenham worked tirelessly, blowing back and forth on a busy industrial road, laden with harmful paint chemicals and dusty piles of potash.
Eventually, the difficult task of transporting its cargo between chemical factories in the north of England took its toll. Beaten down by the elements and in need of repair, the future of the 100-foot-long boat looked grim.
But while her two sister ships were scrapped, against all odds, the SS Davenham survived.
Today, the little steamboat has been given new life by a rather well-connected multimillionaire – to become possibly the most unusual cinema in the country and certainly in one of the most beautiful places.
SS Davenham, with her black and red hull freshly painted and gleaming like new, traded the grim industrial canal route of her past for a comfortable retreat amid the glorious island landscapes of Tanera Mòr, the largest of the summer islands. , off Wester Ross.
Owned by top-flight hedge fund manager Ian Wace, whose personal fortune is estimated at over £ 600million, Tanera Mòr is being transformed into an exclusive Inner Hebrides playground, with homes of vacation, a private chapel and a series of rather unusual additions to its stunning landscape.
In addition to the Liverpool registered puffer, the island is also home to a corrugated iron WWII aircraft hangar at Woodford Airfield in Cheshire, once the primary manufacturing site for Lancaster bombers.
The £ 120,000 hangar
HAVING paid around £ 120,000 at auction for the distinctive 2,900 square foot hangar, which bears the logo of Avro, the company run by aviation pioneer Sir Alliott Verdon Roe, Mr Wace – a friend of Prince Charles and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – had he broken down into chunks and hauled 600 miles back to his private island.
The total cost of moving the hangar and rebuilding it is estimated at £ 200,000. Now located atop a small hill overlooking the island’s former herring fishing station, the expansive hangar would be used as storage space for quads, backhoes, machinery and other tools.
It is a stone’s throw from SS Davenham, which was the last on the open market in 2017 for £ 150,000. With her steam engine already retired and having undergone a series of previous renovations, she was used as a barge, with her interiors emptied to create a large open space.
At the time, the boat, built by Yarwood and Sons in Northwich in 1944, required extensive exterior work, including renovations to its wheelhouse and cleaning of its replacement Gardner diesel engine. After being picked up by Mr Wace, she was converted and refurbished before being towed non-stop from Southampton to the Summer Isles.
The 700 mile trip had to be carefully planned to minimize any damage to the gloss paint, the mast rigging, and to accommodate the cargo of a vintage Land Rover attached to the steamboat deck.
The arrival of the SS Davenham as a 52-seat floating cinema came as little surprise to locals, however, who witnessed the gradual gentrification of what was once a thriving fishing community of herring boats and fish factories. .
£ 1.7 million
Mr Wace, 58, married to model Saffron Aldridge, bought Tanera Mòr for just under £ 1.7million in 2017, significantly less than the original price of £ 2.5million.
A Conservative Party supporter who funded the 2019 general election to the tune of £ 300,000, he reportedly intends to create an idyllic retreat for up to 60 paying guests in three communities, in Ardnagoine, Tigh-an-Quay and Garadheancal.
A note on the Summer Isles Enterprises website says the island is in the middle of a “major construction project to restore cabins and improve infrastructure.” He asks visitors to avoid the bay is inhabited and warns of heavy machinery and that “parts of the island are still a construction site”.
Tanera Mòr is the largest of the Summer Islands, a group of islands at the mouth of Loch Broom. Its herring salting station was established in 1785 and was one of the first herring salting stations in Wester Ross.
The island was priced at £ 2.6million, but after talks broke down over a community buyout it was eventually sold to Mr Wace for what was seen by some as a price of windfall.
Along with a series of vacation homes, the island’s remaining buildings include its old herring station, school, and post office.
Construction work on the island has made Tanera Mòr one of the region’s largest employers, with up to 150 workers transported from Ullapool and others based on the island.
The works included the construction of a chapel which stands on Cnoc Ghlas, while crumbling buildings were also reconstructed using the original stone, with wooden sash and coffered windows, slate roofs and, in some cases, turf roofs.
The dilapidated herring station on the island is also intended for residential and recreational use.
A spokesperson for the Tanera Mòr restoration project said: “Tanera Mòr’s plan spans a six-year period to restore and regenerate the physical ruins and structure inherited when the project began in April 2017.
“The key to this effort is the creation of a vibrant community that renovates Tanera Mòr and, with it, creates substantial opportunities for the regeneration of the local community in an area where these types of opportunities were hard to find and rarely available. large scale.
“There is currently a team of over 100 people employed full time on the project. This project respects the natural beauty, tranquility and history of the island.