This page collects a series of articles about the restoration of Endeavour penned by Mike King and published in the newsletter between 2013-14. We felt they deserved to be put together.

  How It All Started - Mike King

Early in 2001 there was some publicity in the local press about the formation of a group to return one of the Dunkirk boats to be on permanent exhibition, possibly on Strand Wharf.

This was to be the Resolute.

Some Leigh residents were not too enthusiastic about this, because a static boat ashore would not be too exciting, and we also understood that Resolute had not been viewed to assess her condition.

So, a group decided to go to the boatyard in Kent to view Resolute and to weigh up the potential. Four of us, comprising Mike Guy (editor of Leigh Times), John Porter (vintage boat owner and funder of the Leigh paddling pool), Peter Wexham and myself, arranged to meet with Alan Stayley for advice - he had worked on the Cutty Sark - and would provide an authoritative and independent opinion. As we drove into the yard Peter Wexham let out a shout, "There's Endeavour!" and indeed there she was adjacent to Resolute.
11th January 2001 and Peter Wexham touches Endeavour for the first time in nearly 15 years.
Peter & Endeavour reunited
Peter was particularly interested because he used to part own Endeavour, but had lost track of where she was. 
Our expert Alan surveyed both boats and declared that Resolute had broken her back and was well out of shape. However Endeavour was in good shape albeit needing massive work done. 

We returned home enthusiastic about getting Endeavour back to Leigh so she could be restored to sail again rather than be a "static boat on display".

The public meeting in July 2001 was very well attended, culminating in the formation of the Leigh-on-Sea Endeavour Trust. So - in July 2001 the Endeavour Trust was formed, and our boat was returned to its birthplace in Leigh Marina (formerly Johnson and Jago). The trip from Kent and subsequent moves were generously paid for by John Cross of the Boatyard restaurant. Cleaning up the boat was started, with necessary gardening to remove grass and weeds from the deck (yes - seriously) and also tins, bottles, bricks and other rubbish from the bilge. A not-very-pretty deck house was also removed and there she was, ready for restoration. Two difficulties stood in our way - who could do the specialised work and how were we going to pay for it? The one remaining boat builders in Leigh were Sea King who produced many clinker built sailing cruisers, and it was decided to move Endeavour onto Strand Wharf adjacent to their shed. Once again Endeavour was hoisted up and moved.

What about the money? A number of private individuals contributed to the fund but our advisors, John Milgate and Barry Thornton, indicated that probably £100,000 would be needed and that would be difficult to find from private sources. We contacted three potential funders - Heritage Lottery Fund, Cory Environmental Trust in Southend and Essex Heritage Trust. Quite rightly all required a full business plan demonstrating that the restoration was viable and that the boat would be used to benefit the community. David Norman, Paul Gilson and I did the necessary paperwork and presented the scheme to the relevant bodies. We were helped considerably in demonstrating our financial stability by the donation from Jeanne Wilson mentioned in our April newsletter.

So - all was go! With Peter Wexham's help Southend Council agreed to supply oak from Belfairs woods and Endeavour was fenced off for security reasons. All we needed was a start date but during one night thieves removed the fence and all the oak! Southend Council were good enough to provide replacement oak, but we were furious!

Building from new is quite a different matter from restoration and it became clear that the excellent boat builders were very unsure how to go about it. So what to do? Once again John Milgate had the answer and Endeavour was lifted up, put on her usual lorry, and moved to Great Totham in North Essex.

There, a generous land owner and classic boat enthusiast, Rupert Marks provided space in a barn and all electrical power. Two vastly experienced boat restorers Brian Kennell and Shaun White undertook to do all the work, with valuable assistance from trust members and, under the watchful eye of John Milgate, the restoration was under way.

Endeavour pre-restorationIn 24th September 2002 Endeavour was moved to Great Totham by the excellent Trevor Taylor and his amazing well sprung vehicle. Obviously Endeavour, even though she is female, can't talk, but had she been able to I think she would have said, "Oh no - not again! Kent to Leigh Marina, then to Strand Wharf and now another journey; I'm getting fed up with it! When do I get back in the water?"

Sails were made in modern material by Steve Hall, who also presented a huge banner which has been flown on many occasions.
Sails were made in modern material by Steve Hall, who also presented a huge banner which has been flown on many occasions.
But she was well looked after - even cosseted. First she was shored up to make certain her shape was kept while the work progressed, and the two highly skilled restorers - Brian Kennell and Shaun White - decided what new timber was needed, and how to proceed. Replacement oak from Belfairs wood (the first lot was stolen) opepe for the keel, pine, iroko, Douglas fir and larch - the latter from Northern Ireland. As much original timber as possible was retained, although some not in its original position, the hull planking was in poor condition, but was used to line the hold.

A decision was taken to restore her as she was when launched in 1924, with a centre board and narrower side decks - the latter having been widened when converted for shrimping.

 Steve Hall of North Sea Sails working onBrian Kennell shows Peter Wexham how to drive the nails homeWork progressed at a pace, with volunteers oiling the new oak and doing other essential but relatively unskilled work (lots of tea was drunk).

Completely new spars were made, as the originals were destroyed long ago, and the sails and rigging made. Well-known author John Leather had much information on the sail layout, and was extremely interested in the restoration.

Sails were made in modern material by Steve Hall, who also presented a huge banner which has been flown on many occasions.

Mast and SparsAll the hull planking was fitted to the frames with bronze wood screws, each recessed and capped with timber plugs - almost all of which were fitted by Reta Cocks.

Endeavour was completed sufficiently for a detailed survey in 2005, when it was pronounced that 'the work has been carried out to a very high standard'.

She was nearly ready for yet another move by road back to Leigh.

Paul feels the weight of a lead ingotAfter returning to Leigh on a lorry Endeavour was completely restored, fitted with a new engine and electrics, and almost ready to be re-launched. But as with all things, the final preparations raised a few difficulties.

When she came back she was painted in a grey undercoat and needed to be over-painted in her original colours: Shannon green for the hull and red anti-slip decks. Under the waterline she needed to be painted with anti-fouling to stop weed and molluscs fouling up the hull and to deter wood-boring pests (yes worms that drill into wood are present in our waters, and can destroy a boat very quickly). Reta Cocks (daughter of  previous  owner), Peter Wexham (previous skipper), George Cocks and Mike King (Chairman)Ron Myall very kindly applied all the necessary painting to leave her looking great. 

But there was one further matter to be attended to - ballast. All craft need to have a low centre of gravity to ensure they don't capsize and when Endeavour was cockling their weight would provide this, but without it she would be very sensitive in a sea-way. One solution was to add concrete inside which is often done, but can create problems of its own. Lead is the best material. This was agreed upon and Peter Wexham and I started the hunt for suitable ingots. Firstly we discovered that lead seemed to be only a little cheaper than gold, then became concerned that we might be putting lead from some Essex church roof into Endeavour! How the worm can eat the wood if anti-fouling is not done - an example from Leigh (not Endeavour)We enlisted the help of Ron Frasle who used his contacts to get us a reputable dealer at an affordable price. So it was delivered - all 8 tons of it! Two strong men, Paul Gilson and Steve Cocks fitted the ingots into the hold.

Then - the moment of truth - back into the water. Ron Frasle at the controls of the crane at Leigh Marina eased her into the water and she floated exactly to her original works. Job done!!

Next was to organise a celebration and public recognition of her importance to the history of Leigh as a maritime village. We decided on a re-christening.
After returning to Leigh fully restored, but needing electrics fitted, a full paint, and sails and rigging being installed, our beauty seemed ready for anything!

But all the work was very time (and money) consuming, and the return to Dunkirk at the end of May presented a major challenge. We also wanted to have some public celebration of her return to Leigh and seaworthiness, so many volunteers pitched in, and a date was set for her re-launch on Saturday 23rd April at Strand Wharf. Very suitable as it was St. George’s Day.

Crowds collected, bunting was flown and then she came into view, and moored up in full glory, except that she was still painted grey – one of the few jobs still to be done.

Rev Margaret Miller blesses Endeavour,
champagne bottle in hand in readiness
Many celebrities were present including five Dunkirk veterans, two MP’s (President David Amess and long term supporter David Atkinson) and the band of the Salvation Army.

Prayers were said, and a bottle of bubbly was broken on her bows – lots of cheering.

Margaret Miller minister at Wesley Methodist Church was welcomed on the RNLI fast rescue boat and was last seen roaring towards Southend in her full regalia!!

Thanks to the generosity of John Cross the workers and Trust members were invited to lunch at the Boatyard Restaurant, when a few more speeches were made.

Wreaths on board to be placed
in the water in Dunkirk
Endeavour finally set off, leaving from Bell Wharf. Here Trevor Osborne handed Paul a wreath of flowers in honoured memory of Frank and Leslie Osborne, Harry Noakes and Harold Porter who lost their lives on ‘Renown’, destroyed on the return from Dunkirk in 1940. This was placed in the hold alongside another from the Trust.

Then she was off, skippered by Paul Gilson, with Peter Dolby, Finlay Marshall and Steve Cocks as crew.

A large party went by coach and linked up with Endeavour for the anniversary celebrations in Dunkirk, and we all sighed with relief and pleasure that the restoration was complete.