The inspiring story behind this fantastic model of a famous Sunderland gatehouse

A fantastic model of the Doxford shipyard gatehouse has been completed – by the daughter of the late master craftsman who began the labour of love.

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 4:55 am

Fred Gooch was a skilled craftsman whose models are on show at the Sunderland Maritime Heritage centre in the East End.

He was well known for his intricate works which included the town hall and a tenth scale model of HMS Venerable which was a 74-gun ship of the line.

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A wonderful tribute to Sunderland master model maker Fred Gooch.
A wonderful tribute to Sunderland master model maker Fred Gooch.

He had made the model, but it needed painting and the gates themselves crafted.

Fred sadly passed away last year but that’s where his daughter Catherine Armstrong stepped in.

In memory of her father, she obtained laser cut gates to the correct style from Scotland. She put these onto the model and painted it.

Then, Fred’s family presented the finished work to the Sunderland Maritime Heritage Centre in Hendon where so much of his work is already on show in the Fred Gooch Gallery.

A close-up view of the model gatehouse.

Catherine said: “It is a pleasure to pass this model over to SMH where it can be given a home with the rest of Dad’s models as they are very much part of Sunderland’s history and heritage.”

Christopher Carolan, chairman of Sunderland Maritime Heritage, said “SMH are overjoyed to house another historic reminder of Sunderland’s shipbuilding heritage by this much loved and talented man and thank his daughters for the work they have done to complete it and for allowing us to display it here in the Fred Gooch Gallery.”

Fred’s daughters, Catherine Armstrong and Christine Bowens, presented the model to Tommy Rowe, SMH’s honorary Vice President and a long-standing friend of Fred.

After the presentation, the family were given a personal tour of the centre’s model of HMS Venerable on which Fred spent many years leading the team who have completed her.

Honorary Vice-President, Tommy Rowe, with Fred’s daughters Catherine and Christine.

A spokesman said: “There is still work to do on her and the centre does have Fred’s plans for this and hopes to find volunteers who can carry through those plans to fruition – she is a testament to Fred’s amazing skills. The centre’s volunteers then enjoyed chatting with Catherine and Christine and their family, sharing with them their many happy memories of working with Fred and their pride in knowing him.”

One of its projects is the restoration and preservation of Willdora which is a Dunkirk little ship and a veteran of Operation Dynamo - the evacuation of 350,000 allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk and Le Panne in 1940.

Fred Gooch pictured next to HMS Venerable, another of his impressive works.

The objective of SMH is to promote Sunderland’s extensive maritime history through the museum and information centre.

To find out more, visit the website here.

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Catherine, right, and Christine with the model which was lovingly created by their father before they completed his work.
The model in its new home at the Sunderland Maritime Heritage Fred Gooch Gallery.
The magnificent models in the Fred Gooch gallery.