A TRUST has won hundreds of thousands of pounds to maintain a sailing barge which is almost 100 years old.

The Thames Sailing Barge Trust based on Hythe Quay, Maldon, has received a £328,800 grant of from the Heritage Lottery Fund to complete work on the barge Pudge.

The fund is managed by the National Lottery.

The project, which starts in August, will restore the wooden decks and hatches and improve the passenger accommodation and is to be completed by 2020.

Trustee and secretary of the Thames Sailing Barge Trust Gareth Jones said: “Pudge carried bulk cargoes on the Thames Estuary and the rivers of Essex, Suffolk and Kent for more than forty years and these days she is central to the trust’s aims of passing on to the next generation the traditions of sailing and maintaining these iconic east coast vessels.”

Maldon MP John Whittingdale said: “For many people, the Thames barge is a symbol of Maldon and the trust does great work in maintaining the two it owns and at the same time helping to keep alive traditional shipbuilding skills.”

Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the East of England Robyn Llewellyn said: “With its distinctive red sails and decades of history from war to cargo, Pudge is an important part of our history.

“Thanks to National Lottery players an exciting new chapter can now begin for the vessel – restoration will keep it seaworthy, trainee shipbuilders will gain vital skills needed for their careers and for the sector.”

The barge was built in 1922 in Rochester, Kent was one of the last wooden barges built.

It was involved with the evacuation of troops at Dunkirk in 1940.