SHOCK waves rippled across the city last night after news broke the Royal Marines Museum was to close in April.
Bosses at the Eastney attraction confirmed the site was to shut on April 1, reopening in its new home at Portmouth’s Historic Dockyard in 2020, after a multi-million pound makeover.
This has come as quite a shock to me and everybody elsePhil Saunders, campaigners
Dozens of workers at the site were left stunned by the revelation – although museum officials insist there is no risk to any jobs.
One insider said staff and volunteers were rounded up and told of the decision in a series of meetings.
The source, who The News is not naming, said: ‘The mood at the museum is pretty confused and sour – some of the staff have been there for a long time.
‘The back of house staff, people like the curators, they weren’t in these meetings, so they weren’t even told, the other staff had to break the news to them.’
John Rawlinson, SeaMore Project director – which is behind the masterplan for the new Royal Marines Museum – said all staff and volunteers had been informed about the new arrangement.
The Eastney site will remain open for conferences and weddings until November 2018. Community groups based at the current building will also be able to operate until this date.
The new marines museum will be opened in one of the original Georgian boathouses, currently home to the Action Stations building, as part of a £13.85m plan to revitalise the historic dockyard.
Proposals to move the Yomper statue, which stands proudly outside the current museum, are also included in this new development.
Marine Gate resident Phil Saunders, 70, has been fighting to keep the Yomper in Eastney – an effort which has been backed by 3,000 people.
He said this latest revelation casts fresh doubts over the iconic statue’s future in its prominent seafront position.
It comes as a formal consultation on the Yomper is set to close at the end of the month.
‘This has come as quite a shock to me and everybody else,’ Mr Saunders added.
Originally, a 2019 date had been set on the museum move, although dockyard officials said this was just a draft.
A spokeswoman added now the plans were in ‘the stage of formal delivery’ these new dates had been ‘firmed up’.
‘We know people will be disappointed not to be able to visit the galleries but we are planning to announce shortly the opening of a temporary Royal Marines exhibition “The Making of a Royal Marines Commando” in the Historic Dockyard,’ she said.
The closure won’t affect the coastal car park and the Royal Marines Memorial Gardens, which will stay open.