Cutty Sark: Queen reopens Greenwich tea clipper

The Queen officially opened the historic ship after a £50m restoration project

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The Queen has officially reopened the Cutty Sark in Greenwich five years after it was ravaged by fire.

The clipper, which has been restored at a cost of more than £50m, is now elevated so visitors can see it from underneath as well as climb aboard.

The Queen originally opened the 19th Century tea clipper exhibit in 1957.

Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, she also officially named the Gloriana which will lead the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in June.

Crowds cheered in driving rain as the royal couple descended a gangway at Greenland Pier, on the Thames in London's Docklands, before going on board the Gloriana.

'Spectacular'

The 94-foot vessel, decorated with gold leaf and ornately carved, harks back 200 years to when kings and queens travelled by water in opulent style.

The Queen on board Cutty Sark The Queen last visited Cutty Sark in 1957

At one point Prince Philip could be heard advising the Queen to keep under cover after she had been to inspect the stern of the boat, which bears royal symbols and the vessel's name.

After the Queen unveiled the Cutty Sark, the royal couple moved inside to view the clipper's cramped decks that during its working life were filled with tea from China.

Richard Doughty, director of the Cutty Sark Trust, described the vessel as "spectacular" and said: "We have a ship fit for the Queen and we're very proud Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh have come to open the site.

"Fifty-five years on from when she first came, it's a very different experience, offering a light environment in the Cutty Sark's new elevated position."

The 2007 fire was caused by an industrial vacuum cleaner which had been left switched on for two days while a conservation project was being carried out to repair Cutty Sark's iron framework.

Fortunately, the ship's masts, saloon and deckhouses had been removed and put into storage in Kent when the fire took hold.

Royal borough

The Cutty Sark Trust, which received funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as donations from the public, aims to present the tea clipper as it would have looked when it was launched in 1872.

It opens to the public on Thursday.

Prince Philip has a long association with the ship, co-founding the Cutty Sark Society in 1951 to safeguard the vessel.

The Queen with Gloriana The Queen also officially named the Gloriana, which will lead the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in June

He came to Greenwich soon after the fire to assess the damage for himself and Mr Doughty said that the Duke had given up his association with a number of bodies when he turned 90 last year but maintained his relationship with the society, now a trust.

The visitor attraction has a new design which allows visitors to move both aboard and underneath the three-masted sailing ship where visitors can learn about its history in an interactive museum.

The Queen also unveiled a plaque to mark Greenwich becoming a royal borough, an honour bestowed to mark her Diamond Jubilee.

The royal couple also opened an exhibition, entitled Royal River: Power Pageantry & the Thames, at the National Maritime Museum.

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