THE chairman of a multi-million pound shipbuilding project that has come under fire for a lack of progress has said he is committed to the build and to Harwich.

The Mayflower Project launched in 2009.

Since then the project has opened a base in George Street, Harwich, ran a series of apprenticeships, created a series artworks for the town, opened a visitor centre and started the first few parts of the ship build.

But work on the ship, which needs to begin by March next year in order to be ready for the anniversary, halted almost two years ago.

Fred Nicholls, chairman of the project, said a lack of funding is behind the slow progress.

“For about 18 months to two years the ship build has looked the same but we can’t continue with that unless we get funding,” he added.

“We’ve approached councils and the Government.

“We need £6million in total.

“The trustees are working extremely hard.

“We appreciate that people are disappointed they haven’t seen any progress - we are disappointed.”

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

  • Bare bones: The Mayflower Ship build so far

Mr Nicholls said residents have questioned why grants given to the project have been used on things other than the build.

But rules mean the money can’t be put towards the ship.

He said: “We had grant money for the railway station completely ringfenced for the railway station.

“We had money for the visitor centre completely ringfenced for the visitor centre.

“We’ve not had any grant money for the ship build.

“Under charity law if you have money for a special project, you can’t spend that on anything else.

“The ship has relied purely and simply on the kindness of our benefactors and trustees.

“We’ve also had money for apprentices, but that type of funding came to the end of its project and wasn’t renewed.

“It was a very sad day when the funding for the apprentices stopped.”

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

  • All aboard: Fred Nicholls at one of the new railway exhibitions

But Mr Nicholls, who took over as chairman this year, said he and the other trustees are pushing the project forward.

“I attended the Mayflower Project when I was chairman of Tendring Council and I was enthralled by what they were doing,” he added.

“When I finished as chairman I was then approached to be a trustee.

“We are now trying to resurrect the apprenticeships.

“We are discussing funding ideas to start the ship build.

“We have huge hopes the ship will be built, we want it built, that’s why we are trustees.

“We want to make Harwich a tourist attraction and we are working closely with the Harwich Society.

“We want to build the whole town up.

“If the project stalls, it could end up as a block of flats here.

“It’s important the yard is kept as a tourist attraction for the people of Harwich.”

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

  •  Full steam ahead: Consultant Bob Clow in the 1924 refurbished office

Ongoing work at the project, while they apply for funding, is a renovation of the railway station.

The project leases the building, which they once used as a training area.

It is now being transformed into a 1920s railway station, complete with railway memorabilia donated to the project.

The aim is to charge for entrance into the new mini-museum, which will include a cafe or buffet area, to help fund the yard.

But volunteers are being called on to help with the work and with the ship build project overall.

Mr Nicholls said: “We need volunteers to come forward.

“There is lots of moving equipment to do, minor carpentry work and painting.

“If people can spare a couple of hours to come and help - there are jobs that need doing.

“We’d like people at weekends, so we can give tours to people visiting.

“For the people that have concerns about the project, come along and speak to us or volunteer and help us.”

The original Mayflower ship was registered in Harwich, meaning the town was its home port.

It is believed the ship could have been built in Harwich.

But when it sailed to America, it was based in Rotherhithe in London.

Mr Nicholls said: “The captain of the Mayflower, Christopher Jones, was a Harwich man - his house still stands in Kings Head Street.

“He lived in Rotherhithe at the time the ship sailed to America.

“But the Mayflower was a merchant ship between London and Bordeaux, in France, before it went to America.”

The Harwich Mayflower Project hopes to build the replica ship and sail it to America in 2020, as part of the Mayflower 400 celebrations.

But the town will also feature on a tapestry of all the places linked to the Mayflower or the pilgrims who travelled on it. The tapestry will then tour all those places as part of the anniversary.

For more information about the project, visit