Following speculation of HMS Caroline coming to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Ministry of Defence and Northern Ireland Department for Enterprise Trade and Investment have jointly confirmed a secure future for HMS Caroline in Belfast.
HMS Caroline, the last floating survivor of the Battle of Jutland from the First World War, will become the subject of a complex and sensitive conservation and restoration programme providing Belfast’s Titanic Quarter with another world-class attraction.
This positive solution has been facilitated by a pledge of up to £1million support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), which will now be used to undertake urgent repairs to HMS Caroline.
The light cruiser built in 1914, measures 128m and was capable of a top speed of 28.5 knots. She will be ready for its first paying visitors as a National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) site in 2016, marking the centenary year of the Battle of Jutland.
In a joint statement issued by MoD Minister Mark Francois, Northern Ireland Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and NMRN Chairman Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, the partnership expresses delight that the Caroline which was decommissioned in 2011 has been rescued from potential scrapping.
“We are very pleased and relieved that the Caroline’s position has been secured for future generations,” says the group. “This is one of the most historic fighting ships in the world, one which played a decisive role in the outcome of the First World War. It was critical that the ship was preserved and made accessible to the public.”
The NMRN says the Caroline’s natural home is Belfast. The National Museum’s Director General Professor Dominic Tweddle says: “While Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which is the home of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, has the facilities for restoring vessels of such immense historic significance, we are very pleased that Belfast, to which the ship moved to from Portsmouth in 1924, will now provide a mooring in perpetuity for the much loved Caroline.
“We are grateful to the MoD for gifting the ship to us and to the Northern Ireland Department for Trade Enterprise and Investment for the spirit of partnership, the enthusiasm it has shown and the commitment it has made to the vessel’s restoration and eventual presentation to the public.”
2013 is set to be an exciting year for Portsmouth with the opening of the eagerly anticipated new Mary Rose Museum, 30 years after she was watched on television by millions being raised from the Solent (October 11th, 1982).
The £35 million project to build an internationally-renowned museum and complete the conservation, reunites the hull of the Mary Rose with many of the 19,000 Tudor artefacts recovered from the seabed in what is set to be a truly mesmerising experience.
2013 will also see continuing work on new galleries at the NMRN, due to open by 2014, the centenary of the start of World War I, marking the Navy’s vital role.
The galleries will tell the story of the Royal Navy since 1900, a largely untold part of our maritime heritage and a Special Exhibitions Gallery will also be added, giving the museum the chance to create 2 new exhibitions a year which can showcase new collections, commemorate anniversaries and bring a changing attraction to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
The NMRN is also working closely with Hampshire County Council to secure the future of M33. Dry-docked alongside HMS Victory, she is the other British First World War warship to survive both the war and the ravages of time. She is a monitor or coastal bombardment vessel and many original features, removed during a long and varied life, are being replaced or faithfully reconstructed to restore the exterior of the ship as near as possible to her 1915-1919 configuration.
The developments are all part of a 5 year strategy for Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and new Chief Executive Lincoln Clarke explains, “we are very excited about these plans, which set out to double our visitors in the next 5 years by showcasing our national treasures in the best possible way. Work is already underway on assessing and developing the visitor experience and we aspire to nothing less than a revolution in what our visitors see and experience."
Later in the month, key people in the leisure and tourism sector, including Lady Cobham the Chair of VisitEngland and James Berresford the Chief Executive of VisitEngland, will visit the site to discuss the exciting new developments that with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to develop plans to tell the navy story in a uniquely inspirational and moving way. Over the next few years, it promises to demonstrate why it remains one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.
Notes to Editors
National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF)
The National Heritage Memorial Fund was set up in 1980 to save the most outstanding parts of our national heritage, in memory of those who have given their lives for the UK. It will receive £20million Government grant in aid between 2011-15 allowing for an annual budget of £4m-5m. www.nhmf.org.uk.
The HMS Caroline joins a diverse range of over 1,200 iconic objects and places which have been safeguarded by the NHMF to the tune of over £300million. These include:
· The Coenwulf Coin
· Stepney Armorial Dinner Service
· The Grade I listed medieval hall house, Llwyn Celyn in Monmouthshire
· William Dyce’s famous painting Welsh Landscape with Two Women Knitting
· The Milton Keynes Pot of Gold
· The Mary Rose
· The Flying Scotsman
· The last surviving World War II destroyer, HMS Cavalier
· The personal archive of Siegfried Sassoon, WWI soldier, author and poet.
· The last surviving World War II motorboats, HSL 102 and MGB 81.
· Skokholm Island, Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Pembrokeshire