Blaze believed to have been started deliberately

A fire which completely gutted the Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum has bought heartache to those who have worked for decades to preserve Swale’s maritime heritage.

Investigators believe the fire was started deliberately. The blaze was so intense it reduced wooden models and reconstructions to ash and even melted the metal exhibits.

“I feel sick to the stomach,” said Peter Morgan, a former chairman of the museum which housed a unique collection of Thames sailing barges – the source of much of Sittingbourne and Faversham’s prosperity in the 19th and early 20th century.

The museum closed its doors for the season at 5pm on Sunday – but just over three hours later the fire which destroyed the work of many years broke out. John Hull, Yard Officer at the premises in Crown Quay Way on the estuary, said: “We have seen a number of attempts to gain entry in recent months but this is the ultimate disaster for us.

“I have worked at the museum since 1971 and the collection we have amassed is a unique record of the history and heritage of the whole of Swale and its barges.

“We just locked the doors on Sunday and I thought now the summer was over the real work in restoring and preserving our collection will begin and continue over the coming months. But there is nothing to restore or preserve any more – I can’t begin to think what we are going to do next. All I know it that we have lost an extremely valuable part of our local heritage.

As for the financial cost I can’t even think about that – in any case you cannot put a price on history.”

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