A Suffolk man has taken the traditional Ship in a Bottle to the next level. After 13 months, and countless hours of painstaking effort, and with huge amounts of skill and patience, Allan Stevens has unveiled his latest creation. The ex-seaman has made miniature models of three vessels steeped in local East Anglian history and recreated them in stunning detail - complete with tiny crew members - all inside an old brandy bottle ! The LT 472 Excelsior, the last surviving sailing smack from the Lowestoft fishing fleet, is featured alongside the LT412 Mincarlo - the town's only surviving sidewinder trawler - and the historic east coast herring drifter YH89 Lydia Eva.
In 2001 Mr Stevens completed an 18-month project to be hailed as the first person in the world to get a model ship - the LT 459 Nelson smack - into a yard of ale glass. But he hasn't stopped there, Mr Stevens has gone on to produce many other scale models of boats, creating one inside a light bulb and even building two ships inside a 1950s glass rolling pin. He is a member of the European Association of Ships in Bottles, and is devoted to his craft building up his skills over 38 years. Mr Stevens began the preparation work for his latest creation by researching the length and dimensions of the three vessels and then using these to calculate the correct sizes for the scale models. The three models each include four crew members no larger than six-and-a-half millimetres. The Excelsior's 12ft by 5ft measurements scale down to about 13.5mm by 5.5mm. He opted to place the vessels in an old German brandy bottle which he had owned for more than 30 years. "It doesn't have any flaws in it and I kept it all this time so I'd have something special to put in it" he said."The boats all go through the neck and had to go into three pieces to get them in - it is a nerve-racking job. The Mincarlo went in first, then the Lydia Eva in second and the Excelsior third." Mr Stevens, who is a member of the Lowestoft and East Suffolk Maritime Museum, said he had already had a lot of local interest in his latest creation, which includes a miniature version of John Wylson, founder and vice-president of the Excelsior Trust, on board the model of the sailing smack. He estimates that he had now made at least 150 ship in a bottle. "All my works give me a great deal of pleasure, but I am especially pleased with this latest one, given the local heritage," Mr Stevens said. "I worked on it more or less every day for 13 months."