Rachel Roberts, Curator, Heritage at Windermere Jetty of boats, Steam and Stories, reveals the history of one of the exhibits

IN THE main gallery at Windermere Jetty sits a very unique yacht.

Although not as highly varnished as the steam launch Branksome, or as colourful as the 20th century hydroplanes, yacht Margaret is a beautiful craft with a fascinating story to tell.

It is the oldest-surviving sailing yacht in the UK and was built in 1780 for Isabella and John Christian Curwen, who had their summer home on Belle Isle.

John Curwen was an avid sailor and organised the first regattas on the lake in the 1780s. He ordered Margaret from boatbuilders Purdy of Whitehaven to sail it in races against other yachts, which travelled from as far as the Isle of Man to compete.

The regattas became a highlight of the Windermere social season. Over the years they grew in scale with races for rowing and sailing boats.

In the 19th century other attractions like sports and shows were put on during the regattas, a forerunner of surviving traditions like Grasmere Sports and County Shows.

Although Margaret was built using simple hand tools, the hull is a very complex design.

The skill of the people who built it is clear and you can still see some of their marks on the wood. The long oak planks have been steamed into shape, a delicate and time-consuming process.

In 1934 local businessman George Pattinson found Margaret being used as a Hen House near Southport. He exchanged it for some new corrugated sheets and brought the boat back to Windermere.

It is now a prized part of the collections at Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam, and Stories and tells of the boatbuilding skill and elegance that has been part of Windermere’s history for more than 200 years.

l Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories is now open every day from 10am-5pm.