"One Would Be So Amused"
By Jon Rosamond
One of Queen Victoria's steamboats is set to return home to Portsmouth.
The steam cutter, the SS Osborne, was built in Cowes in 1896 for the Queen's personal use, and was maintained in the naval base when not on royal duty.
But the boat has languished in a museum outbuilding on the royal estate at Sandringham in Norfolk. However the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, which manages the historic dockyard, has arranged to take the cutter on long-term loan from owners English Heritage. Eventually she will go on display in the Victorian-era Boathouse No 7 – next to the cafe – where she was kept at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Peter Goodship, the trust's chief executive, said: "I went to see Osborne at Sandringham two years ago and it was love at first sight. She is a beautiful little boat and we're delighted that she will be coming home to the south coast. It's fitting that her permanent residence will be Boathouse No 7, where she and hundreds of other small naval boats were built and maintained from 1875 until the 1970s."
Sold in the 1930s to private owners, the immaculately-restored cutter was a frequent sight in the Solent from 1979 until 1999 when she was acquired by English Heritage. Officials hoped the boat would form part of a small exhibition at Osborne House, Victoria's rural retreat on the Isle of Wight, but the project was abandoned due to lack of cash.
She was supposed to move to the historic dockyard last week, but the operation was called off at the last moment. The low-loader that was hired to transport the 31ft-long vessel found the snow-covered roads of East Anglia impassable.
Lorraine Carpenter, of the trust, said: "People think she looks like a fish out of water at Sandringham, which is in the middle of the countryside. The snow was quite bad up there last week and they missed a slot with the carrier. We don't yet know when she'll be coming down."
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