The Cutty Sark was built in 1869, a clipper designed to transport tea from China, and later used to bring wool from Australia. It achieved the fastest ever wind-powered voyage from Australia to Great Britain via Cape Town, taking only 72 days.
The ship is a famous landmark in its dry dock on the bank of the River Thames in Greenwich, an icon of a once great seafaring nation. Even people who have not visited it in person will recognise it from TV coverage of the annual London Marathon, the route of which goes around the vessel.
In November 2006, a £25 million restoration project began to restore the iron structure, rusting away due to years of exposure to sea salt. The masts and many fixtures were removed, and the ship surrounded by builders' hoardings. It was due to re-open in 2009.
On the morning of 21 May 2007, the ship was ravaged by fire. First estimates are that it will now cost many more millions of pounds to restore the vessel to its former glory.