Built in 1930 and based in Great Yarmouth, Lydia Eva fished along the East Coast and North Sea for nine years. The Royal Air Force bought her in 1939, using her in a variety of roles until she was laid up in 1969.She was acquired by the Maritime Trust in 1971/2 and restored as a floating museum in Great Yarmouth. Lydia Eva joined the Trust's national collection of vessels in London's St. Katherine 's Dock in 1986 but was laid up again in 1990 and eventually returned to East Anglia when the Lydia Eva Charitable Trust Ltd was formed. It leased the ship and shares her between the ports of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.
She was the last vessel to be built at the Kings Lynn yard. Having been towed directly to Great Yarmouth after her launch, she was fitted out with her engine, boiler and machinery at Crabtrees and undertook her first sea-going trial on July 22nd 1930. The herring industry had reached its peak in 1913 when 1006 vessels were based at Great Yarmouth, and was in decline at the time the Lydia Eva joined the small fleet owned by Harry Eastick. Equipped with wireless and electric light, and specifically designed to be more efficient than her contemporaries, the declining herring stocks nonetheless meant that the Lydia Eva had a relatively short working life. With decent catches becoming increasingly difficult, she landed her last catch in December 1938. Two months later Harry Eastick sold her and his other remaining vessel to Norford Sufflings, a local firm of fish merchants.
She was sold on to the Caernarvonshire Yacht Company and was altered and equipped for a contract with the Air Ministry, maintaining and servicing buoys around the West coast. In 1942 she was requisitioned by the Ministry of War Transport and became engaged in salvage work. In 1966 she was transferred to the Marine Services Division of the Royal Navy, where she was fitted with a new boiler and a higher wheelhouse but after 3 years service she was laid up for sale in Milford Haven.
The Maritime Trust was founded in 1969 in order to preserve vessels that were representative of Britain's maritime heritage. Being the only remaining vessel of her type, the Lydia Eva was purchased by the trust in 1971, and following an overhaul at Holman & Sons in Penzance she returned to Great Yarmouth. Charles Eastick, nephew of Harry, was able to offer invaluable advice; the RAF and Admiralty fittings were removed and Lowestoft company Overy's were able to construct a new wheelhouse. By 1973 she was a drifter again, and spent the next five years welcoming visitors on board at her berth at South Quay at Great Yarmouth.
In 1978 she sailed from Great Yarmouth, seemingly to be gone forever, to become part of the Maritime Trust exhibition at St Katherine's Dock next to Tower Bridge in London. Financial difficulties eventually saw the closure of this exhibition in 1986, and once again she became laid up, this time at the West India Dock.
In 1989 enthusiasts in Norfolk and Suffolk, with support from County and Local councils, formed the Lydia Eva Charitable Trust Ltd, with the aim of purchasing the vessel and returning her to her home port. The project generated tremendous interest, and on June 30th 1990 the Lydia Eva was towed back into Great Yarmouth harbour by the Port Authority tug, Hector Read. When the Lydia Eva was dry docked in Lowestoft early in the year 2000 it was found that parts of the ship's hull just below the waterline had rusted away so badly that it was not safe to put her on display either in Great Yarmouth or Lowestoft. Repairs were needed which cost about £750,000, and an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund was prepared.