One of the leading champions of historic ship and boat preservation in this country has died suddenly.

Martyn Heighton was director of National Historic Ships UK, the official voice for historic vessels in this country, but had been involved in a range of organisations from the Mary Rose Trust to Bristol's Historic Harbour.

On the Thames he was a member of the Cutty Sark Advisory Committee, and a strong supporter of efforts to build the Thames Heritage Boat Museum at Beale Park in Berkshire. He gave evidence to a public inquiry when a planning refusal for the museum was succesfully overturned.

Paul Smith of Thames Heritage Boat Museum writes: "Martyn Heighton was very much a hands-on Director of National Historic Ships and over the years took a keen interest in so many marine conservation projects. His death will be a great loss to the NHS team and the marine conservation community.

"Martyn had always worked hard towards helping and promoting our nation's wonderful maritime heritage regardless of location or size. On a personal note he had been a good friend and strong advocate for the Tamesis Trust's Thames Heritage Boat Museum project at Beale Park.

"So much so that he attended a planning appeal for the museum project, where he stressed to the inspector the great importance of our nation's maritime heritage, particularly that of the Thames and described the Thames Museum as being potentially more important than the £16.7million Windermere Steamboat Museum (now Windermere Jetty) which at the time had just received a sizable Heritage Lottery Grant.

"Always interested in anything to do with historic vessels Martyn also joined the trust on a private inspection to see the delightful ex Thames Conservancy steam launch Donola, currently held in store which we hope to be able to put on public display again. If there was a historic vessel to see then it always seemed like he was to be found close at hand.

"His interest and enthusiasm about historic ships was unmistakable and he will be greatly missed."

Story dated November 11th 2016