The National Museum of the Royal Navy completed on the sale of the former Royal Marines Museum building and historic fort at Eastney this month, with ownership transferring to an experienced international hotelier. The Royal Marines collection has been moved to a new state of the art facility at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where the public will be able to access it ahead of a new Royal Marines Museum opening at the site.
The Royal Marines Museum at Eastney closed to the public in 2017, after a review of the building found it unsustainable as Museum and home for a historic collection. On the decision to close it National Museum of the Royal Navy Director-General, Dominic Tweddle said “The decision to close the building at Eastney was not an easy one. It is clearly something that is very close to the heart of the Royal Marines and the local community. However, the age of the building meant that it simply wasn’t a safe environment in which to store our historic collections leaving them at risk of damage or even ruin. In addition the space, whilst beautiful, would have been extremely difficult to configure modern museum displays and for visitors to move around easily. The cost to have overcome all of those issues would have been extraordinary.”
Further to the review, the decision was made to move the Royal Marines collection to a new, purpose built Collections Centre at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where it would sit with wider Royal Navy collections. The ‘Storehouse 12 Collections Centre’, which was in part funded by money raised for the Royal Marines project, was completed over the first COVID 19 lockdown and since safely returning to work, the expert team of curators, have been unpacking the collection into its new environmentally controlled home. Dominic says “We were completing the move of the Royal Marines collection from Eastney to Storehouse 12 on the week that lockdown was announced. It was a herculean effort by our staff and volunteers to ensure that we were able to safely secure all of the objects ahead of the lockdown.”
The new facility will be open to the public next year, enabling them to view and research the Collection, and take tours and talks relating to the items held there. Dominic continues “Moving into and creating Storehouse 12 represents a £2m investment by the National Museum of the Royal Navy to create a home for our Collection in Portsmouth that is fitting of its National and International significance. We have committed significant resource and energy in creating this incredible space that will safeguard our Collections and ensure that they can be appreciated for generations to come.”
A new Royal Marines Museum is planned to be created elsewhere at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Earlier this year, the Museum discovered it had been unsuccessful in securing National Lottery funding to support the project. Dominic says “Whilst the news from the Lottery was a huge blow to the Museum, it has not deterred us from making a new Royal Marines Museum a reality. The impact of the pandemic left the future of the National Museum at risk, and meant we did have to take some time away from the project as we fought to secure our future. However, the dedicated team working on the project have been working hard over the last couple of months to move the plans along. The sale of Eastney represents a huge milestone in that process as it frees up some capital to support the project”.
The Eastney building, which has been purchased by Grand Hotel Excelsior International Ltd, will be transformed into a five star hotel Helen Hubbard, speaking on behalf of the group says “The vision is to re-develop the Historic Former Royal Marines Museum into a luxury five star hotel in a way that will preserve the building’s historic attributes, appeal, and timeless décor. Following consultations, we are pleased to confirm that the iconic Yomper statue will be staying at the entrance.
The property will remain an important part of the community and serve the public through hosting weddings, conferences, and gala events. It will bring economic benefit to the area by encouraging visitors and offering employment opportunities. We are delighted to receive the backing of Portsmouth City Council and the Trustees to be the preferred buyer and are excited to begin the project.”
Dominic says “We are delighted that the historic fabric of the building will be maintained and of course the iconic statue and memorial gardens. Whilst the building was not suitable as a museum venue any longer, it is wonderful to see it come back to life as a hotel.”