US Ambassador bears witness to big day for Portsmouth's heritage

THE US Ambassador was there to see a historic day for Portsmouth's heritage.

Friday, 20th May 2016, 6:00 am
The American Ambassador to the UK Matthew Barzun, left, with Professor Dominic Tweddle, the director general of the National Museum of the Royal Navy Picture Ian Hargreaves (160700-2)

Matthew Barzun took time out from the US Embassy to tour Portsmouth, including attending the announcement at the historic dockyard of a £14m lottery grant.

The funding will pay for the relocation of The Royal Marines Museum, at Eastney, to a boathouse next to The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

A new Centre for Discovery will also feature more than two million artefacts, currently housed elsewhere.

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Prof Dominic Tweddle, director general of NMRN, said it would ‘deepen and enrich’ the visitor experience.

Sir Peter Luff, chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: ‘We loved the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s plans to tell the very human story of the Royal Navy.

‘The Centre for Discovery will provide a new, spacious venue to relate this narrative while the relocation of the Royal Marines Museum will give it a more prominent home and increased visitor numbers.’

The Royal Marines moved into Eastney barracks in 1867. The former Officer’s Mess is the current location of the Royal Marines Museum.

The new museum will open in 2019.

About the future of the Eastney site, Jacquie Shaw, spokeswoman for NMRN, said: ‘We appreciate that some Royal Marine colleagues do have an emotional attachment to the building and will endeavour to keep an element of Royal Marine heritage in the building.

‘However, the site at Eastney is part-owned by the Ministry of Defence and the NMRN and features in Portsmouth City Council’s published Seafront Strategy so the NMRN will work in partnership with these to secure the future of the building.’

Regarding the future of the Yomper statue, she said: ‘We recognise the statue is popular and well-placed in its current position. Discussions are under way to consider its future. One option is potentially creating a more contemporary creative piece in the new museum to highlight the broader history of the Royal Marines over and above a memorial piece to a specific campaign.’

The future of Action Stations at the dockyard has not yet been revealed.

Peter Goodship, consultant chief executive of Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, said: ‘Until such time as Action Stations transfers to ownership of the Royal Marines Museum, the trust will continue investment to ensure it delivers the best possible experience for visitors.’

Following the success of Laserquest, a new family attraction – Ninja Force – will open in Action Stations later this month.

‘Seaside cities in the US can learn from Portsmouth’

THE US Ambassador showed young sailors how to tie knots.

Mr Barzun, a keen sailor and a regular kitesurfer on Hayling Island, enjoyed meeting young people at Portsmouth Sail Training Trust.

He also gave talks at St John’s College and Portsmouth College.

‘It’s been a great day,’ he said. ‘I love it here.’

And he added: ‘I learned a lot about what Portsmouth can teach the United States – connecting people to the water. We have lots of seaside cities.’