The Lydia Eva story
The herring industry had reached its peak in 1913 when 1006 vessels were based at Great Yarmouth, and was in decline at the time the Lydia Eva joined the small fleet owned by Harry Eastick. Despite being the most modern steam drifter of her type, equipped with wireless and electric light, and specifically designed to be more efficient than her contemporaries, the declining herring stocks nonetheless meant that the Lydia Eva had a relatively short working life.
With decent catches becoming increasingly difficult, she landed her last catch in December 1938. Two months later Harry Eastick sold her and his other remaining vessel to Norford Sufflings, a local firm of fish merchants.
She was subsequently sold on to the Caernarvonshire Yacht Company and was altered and equipped for a contract with the Air Ministry, maintaining and servicing buoys around the west coast, but was requisitioned by the Ministry of War in 1942 and became engaged in salvage work.
In 1966 she was transferred to the Marine Services Division of the Royal Navy, where she was fitted with a new boiler and a higher wheelhouse but after just 3 years of service she was laid up for sale in Milford Haven.
The Maritime Trust was founded in 1969 to preserve vessels that were representative of Britain's maritime heritage. Being the only remaining vessel of her type, the Lydia Eva was purchased by the trust in 1971, and following an overhaul at Holman & Sons in Penzance she returned to Great Yarmouth.
Charles Eastick, nephew of Harry, was able to offer invaluable advice; the RAF and Admiralty fittings were removed and Lowestoft based Overys were able to construct a new wheelhouse. By 1973 she was a drifter again, and spent the next five years welcoming visitors on board at her berth at South Quay at Great Yarmouth.
In 1978 she sailed from Great Yarmouth, seemingly to be gone forever, to become part of the Maritime Trust exhibition at St Katherine's Dock next to Tower Bridge in London. Financial difficulties eventually saw the closure of this exhibition in 1986, and once again she was laid up, this time at the West India Dock.
In 1989 enthusiasts in Norfolk and Suffolk, with support from the County Council and various borough and district councils, formed the Lydia Eva Charitable Trust Ltd, with the aim of purchasing the vessel and returning her to her home port. The project generated tremendous local interest, and on 30 June 1990 the Lydia Eva was towed back into Great Yarmouth.
When the Lydia Eva was dry docked in Lowestoft early in the year 2000 it was found that parts of the ship's hull just below the waterline had rusted away so badly that it was not safe to put her on display. Repairs were needed in the region of £750,000, and an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund was prepared.
The Lydia Eva was subsequently refurbished and returned to Great Yarmouth in spring 2009 as a floating museum, open to visitors from Easter to October, and a main focal point of the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival.