Society unveils £1.93m plan to transform Gosport's Diving Museum

AMBITIOUS multi-million pound plans to transform a diving museum into a '˜high quality attraction' have been revealed.

Wednesday, 26th April 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:07 pm
From left, chairman John Bevan, Kevin Casey, and The Mayor of Gosport Councillor, Lynn Hook at the Diving Museum with a new arrival, the world's oldest diving helmet Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170347-2)

Proposals are in the pipeline for Gosport Diving Museum, based at No 2 Battery at Stokes Bay, to be developed to celebrate the town’s rich history.

The museum – which is run by The Historical Diving Society – is celebrating its seventh year and the society is eyeing up a £1.93m project to open the remaining two-thirds of the building in order to display further exhibits.

Kevin Casey, the museum’s director, said: ‘Due to the environmental constraints of No 2 Battery, two-thirds of the building is unsuitable to be opened up to display exhibits and hence the area we use is not suitable to display certain items unless placed in high quality cabinets.

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‘We would like to preserve the heritage of the building, plus ensure its sustainable future by turning the museum into a high-quality attraction, thus showing off Gosport’s rich history as well as benefiting the local community.’

The building was completed in 1861 as part of the defences for Portsmouth Harbour known as the Stoke Bay Lines, to counter the threat of possible French invasion.

It was shut at the end of the Second World War and converted into a nuclear bunker and civil defence building. Then it was closed for 30 years before the diving society opened it up as a museum.

Mr Casey added: ‘This is a very ambitious and exciting project and we are looking forward to the challenge.’

To seek the funding for the project, the society is working on an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The society will need to raise £235,000 itself in order to receive the remaining funds from the HLF.

An idea that has been suggested to help raise funds would be to ask 235,000 divers around the world to donate £1 each as the society considers Gosport to be the birthplace of diving.

The very first diving helmet arrived on a three-year-loan from the science museum earlier this month.

The plans are seen as community-focused, with the society keen to have a school involved in the project.

If successful with the application, the refurbishment could be completed by 2020.