Fleetwood Nautical Campus turned 125 years old in 2017 – and it was a year to remember for cadets and staff, past and present.
The College’s first roots were laid as Fleetwood grew into a fishing port of repute in the 1800s.
The town had been created in 1836 and by the time a dock was opened in 1877, Fleetwood boasted passenger steamers, sailing smacks and fishing vessels which would despatch more than a hundred tons of oysters and fish daily by rail.
Fleetwood's cargo trade reached its peak in 1892, the year the Fleetwood School for Fishermen – the precursor to the nautical college – was established.
The College celebrated its historic milestone throughout 2017 – with a number of notable of events taking place.
Captain Neil Atkinson, Head of Fleetwood Nautical Campus, said:
“2017 was a very special year for us at Fleetwood. It was 125 years since the School for Fishermen was established, 50 years since the Nautical College officially opened and 30 years since the Nautical Campus was created.
“We wanted to ensure we commemorated this appropriately and our year of celebrations was launched at the close of 2016 when we were honoured by a visit from the then Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Justine Greening MP.
“To further celebrate this milestone, our new £1.2m Marine Engineering Centre was officially opened in July 2017 by Mr Ashok Mahapatra, Director of the Maritime Safety Division of the International Maritime Organisation, in front of industry partners and invited dignitaries.
“We have also highlighted this auspicious anniversary at the graduation ceremonies of almost 200 students who have completed their studies with us during 2017.
“It was fitting that one of our graduates was named the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) UK Officer Trainee of the Year in 2017, becoming the first engineering officer ever to receive the award on the eighth occasion a Fleetwood cadet has been chosen for this honour in the last 11 years.”
Following the school’s launch in 1892, classes were initially held in London Street and at the Fielden Free Library in Dock Street and 130 students attended when the weather was too bad to put to sea.
While Fleetwood was primarily a cargo port during the school’s early days, by 1906 the trawling industry was replacing the cargo trade and five years later Fleetwood would become the third most important fishing port in Great Britain.
In 1928, what was now named the Fleetwood Navigation School moved into new rooms in the Orient Building on Station Road – conveniently close to the docks – which would be its home for the next 37 years.
Following the Second World War, the school’s single instructor, Captain Macfarlane, was joined by Captain William Carruthers on return from service.
Captain Carruthers would go on to become Principal of Fleetwood Nautical College between 1959 and 1975 and oversaw the move to its current home at Broadwater.
During his time as Principal at the College, Captain Carruthers commented: “When a youngster looks you firmly in the eye and says he wants to go to sea, he is expressing one of the strongest vocational urges it is possible to conceive. It is just like being in love; the depth of feeling is the same.”
Construction work on the Broadwater site began in early 1964 before the official opening on 1 November 1967.
During this period, Fleetwood began to cement its reputation as a global centre of excellence for the maritime industry. In December 1965, the magazine 'World Fishing' reported that the College had “an international flavour, with students from Ceylon fisheries, the Turkish fishery protection service, India, Iraq, Israel and Africa.”
However, during the 1980s the College saw a dramatic decline in numbers was the as more and more shipping companies began “flagging out” – chartering ships from overseas.
By 1986, numbers of deck officers recruited in the UK each year dropped from between 1,500 and 2,000 to just 50. Student numbers followed suit and the College merged with the larger Blackpool and Fylde College of Further and Higher Education in 1987 – becoming known as Fleetwood Nautical Campus.
Since then it has gone from strength-to-strength and today remains one of the British maritime industry’s most respected training institutions.
Captain Atkinson added:
“It has been a fantastic year for us at Fleetwood Nautical Campus and we look forward to continued success in the future.
“I personally would like to thank my staff and all our industry partners for their part in helping Fleetwood reach such a special milestone.
“I would also like to thank our students – past and present. We are extremely proud that Old Fleetonians can be found working in high-level positions in industry around the world and they continue to give an excellent impression of what we stand for at Fleetwood wherever they are situated.”