New bid for lottery cash to resurrect Royal Marines Museum

Topic: CommunityLocal Initiatives Storyline: Museums

Museum chiefs will make a fresh bid for lottery next month to kick-start stalled plans for a new £13m Royal Marines Museum.

In what is the 360th anniversary year of the elite amphibious force – an anniversary the Corps is marking with a succession of events – the guardians of its heritage will ask for nearly £5m of lottery cash, key to getting the new museum back on track.

The old museum in Eastney closed its doors to visitors in the spring of 2017, with the goal of re-opening in Boathouse No.6 in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard by 2020 with a much more modern, interactive exhibition than its former home could support.

The project relies on substantial National Lottery funding. If it is granted, it ‘unlocks’ access to other cash – fund-raising by the museum and pledges from individuals and organisations – to finish the new museum.

The first bid was rejected, then came Covid, but now bosses at the National Museum of the Royal Navy are ready to make a new application for lottery support having used the lengthy hiatus to both tweak the bid and the design of/features in the exhibition spaces.

If successful – a decision could come in June – the new marines museum would open in 2026, taking over space currently occupied by the Action Stations exhibit.

“For a big story, you need a big canvas, a big space – the boathouse is a perfect location,” explained Matthew Sheldon, acting director general of the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

“The plans have been re-drawn since the initial bid was made with the emphasis now very much on the story of the Royal Marines Commandos from World War 2 through to the present day, and how they fit in with the work of the wider Royal Navy.

“Yes, it will tell the 360-year proud history of the Corps, it’s a wonderful story which deserves to be acknowledged, but what we really want to convey is the excitement of what the commandos do, creating a museum which is physically interactive, challenging visitors, especially younger ones.

Breathing fresh life into the new Royal Marines Museum – “seven years without one is painfully long” – is Mr Sheldon’s “number one task”.

He steps into the shoes of Professor Dominic Tweddle, who transformed, then expanded, what was once the Royal Naval Museum, by bringing four separate RN museums under a single banner (marines, submarines, Fleet Air Arm and Navy), then adding to both the collection and scope of the museum.