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Remembered Today:

Royal Marines Museum, Eastney - moving?


Steven Broomfield
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Not sure if this is, strictly speaking, Great War, but might be of interest.

I received a newsletter from the Historic Dockyards, Portsmouth, which contains a piece about the RM Museum moving from its current location (in the Officers' Mess of the old Marine Barracks at Eastney) to the Dockyard. There appears not to be a date set.

The RM Museum is rather good, and is a beautiful location in, as said, the Officers' Mess of the Barracks. These are now, it seems, closed, and look like private housing, but there are still many memorials to sub-units and individuals (including that to Brigadier General Lumsden, VC, DSO***.

Given its remoteness from civilisation (well, Portsmouth, to be fair), I can see the reason behind moving, but does anyone know what will happen to the site (housing, presumably) and the various memorials? Indeed, does anyone have further information or an opinion on this? Where in the Dockyard will it go - not shoe-horned into an existing building, I hope.

Discuss.

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I hope that they keep the stained glass window of Faith, Hope & Charity and the many other integral memorials and objects of interest.

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Good morning all.

I presume we are talking about the museum at Eastney but I wonder if it includes the display housed on the esplanade just east of the old boat pond and swimming pool. Memory being what it is, I could be wrong (usually am). But I can remember as a kid being taken to Eastney Barracks on a Sunday morning and watching the R.M. band march from the barracks to church and sometimes, not often, watch the Drum Major toss his mace over the main gate. My Grand father and an uncle both served with the Royals and left me with some very proud memories. HOUSING ESTATES NEED SHOOTING.
Jim

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Good morning all.

I presume we are talking about the museum at Eastney but I wonder if it includes the display housed on the esplanade just east of the old boat pond and swimming pool. Memory being what it is, I could be wrong (usually am). But I can remember as a kid being taken to Eastney Barracks on a Sunday morning and watching the R.M. band march from the barracks to church and sometimes, not often, watch the Drum Major toss his mace over the main gate. My Grand father and an uncle both served with the Royals and left me with some very proud memories. HOUSING ESTATES NEED SHOOTING.

Jim

Yes: Eastney Barracks. Found this in the Extensive Library: http://history.inportsmouth.co.uk/places/eastney-barracks.htm

Your last comment one might agree with, except that people need to live somewhere, and the Barracks, as with Peninsula Barrack in Winchester, are almost intact: they haven't been replaced with rows of little boxes (pace Tom Paxton), and, given the paucity of our military resources, using them for military purposes is not an option.

Actually, I think you'd be surprised if you saw them today. I visited about 18 months ago and was impressed at how well-preserved the site is.

Anyway, I live on a housing estate :thumbsup:

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Good morning again Steven.

I have just visited the web site for the RM Barracks; good stuff and well worth a read, my comment about housing estates can be put down to

an,Old Mans moaning about the past, I also had the privilege of being billeted at the barracks whist on exercise 'Run aground" in 1957

(I think) anyway, it holds many happy memories.

Jim

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Jim - I don't think you'd see too many differences; not knowing the Barracks in the "good old days" I can't be sure, but it looks pretty good to me.

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Thank you for the information Steven, my interest is personal, I was born in Portsmouth, but as you say or indicated - time moves on and things change not always for the better but that's life. Suck it up and get on with it.

Jim

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I can't think of a suitable free building on the Dockyard site, so hopefully the impending move of the RM Museum signals the beginning of the release of additional buildings by the Naval Base.

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If RMM moves (I think its likely it will) then it will be moving to the "Action Stations" building which I think is the first substantial building on the right, set back beyond the pond after you go through the main gate.

THis is down to The Admiralty cutting funding (thanks to the Conservative/Coalition gvmt I guess). I think the Memorial Garden at Eastney will need to be protected as it is designated the same as burial ground. One of the arguments put up is that current Royal Marines no longer identify Eastney as the Corps spiritual home and they now identify with CTCRM at Lympstone. So thats the modern history of the Corps from about 1850 that The Admiralty want us to ignore. And the MOD and NMRN want the major "Naval" museums in Portsmouth in one place, so Gosport might be next on the list.

My recommendation would be to get down to Eastney as soon as possible as they will certainly be reducing the number of items they exhibit. It will certainly be a sad day when the RMM moves from the old Officer's Mess.

Regards,

Jonathan S

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To be fair Jonathan, making political points about the government is irrelevant: I suspect visitor numbers for Eastney are pretty poor (certainly, the last time I visited, on a nice August afternoon with crowds of people everywhere else, the place was deserted, and the previous time - a colder and danker day in Autumn - the same), so a move to the Dockyard will certainly make the museum more "accessible". Additionally, in the present economic climate I suspect any government would struggle to fund museums which receive few visitors (or museums at all, for that matter).

The Military Museums site at Winchester (the old Peninsula Barracks) works hard to attract visitors and received funding from a range of sources, but the bottom line is that money is not on tap.

I agree it will be a sad day if the RM "lose" Eastney in its entirety, but realistically if visitors don't visit it's not much of a museum. I would be interested to know more about the rationale - for example, what exactly ARE visitor numbers at Eastney, and I'd like to know more about the destination. But, to be honest, I am not too upset - yes, it's the Corps' history from 1850, but then what about Deal and Chatham? And what about the 150 or so years before 1850?

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Steve,

It wasnt a political point. Its a fact that this Gvmt has done no favours for the Armed Forces. However the decision to reduce funding for the RMM has been taken by The Admiralty, so if I am having a pop at anyone, it is them.

Your points about Deal and Chatham are the exact same points, in much greater detail, that I made to the Chairman of the RMM Trustees when the possibility of the move first surfaced two or three years ago.

Regards,

Jonathan S

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If RMM moves (I think its likely it will) then it will be moving to the "Action Stations" building which I think is the first substantial building on the right, set back beyond the pond after you go through the main gate.

Thanks, Jonathan. I've never been into 'Action Stations' as I always thought it was designed for kids. I've just checked the website and found that I was at least partly wrong about that. I wonder what will become of the 'attractions' currently housed there. The Dockyard is already too big for a one-day visit, so I also wonder whether they will change the admission ticket structure (and the Loyalty Club season ticket coverage) when the RM Museum opens on the site.

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Well you have one ove rme then Mick as I was only aware of it being a kids play area of sorts. The "contest" with other exhibits in a one day visit and the loss of identity, exhibits on display and profile for the RMM are other points I raised with David Pennefather, who was very sympathetic to nearly all my views on the proposed move.

Regarding Admission and Pricing structure, David Penenfather was not so forthcoming, I expect because nothing had been decided at that point. The inference I took from our exchange was that the NMRN wished to reduce their annual budget for the RMM and this move was the quickest and simpliest way, other than closing the RMM altogether.

Regards,

jonathan

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It is a huge complex, I took these pictures earlier this year......

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http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/actionstations/

I see at the bottom of that page that the 'All attractions' ticket already includes the Submarine Museum, RM Museum and Firepower.

And also gives access for 1 calendar year thus allowing return visits.

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http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/actionstations/

I see at the bottom of that page that the 'All attractions' ticket already includes the Submarine Museum, RM Museum and Firepower.

That's fine if you're there for a weekend or planning on returning to the area often for the specific purpose of visiting the museums, but what happens if you only want to go to RMM? I might be wrong but my assumption is they will not be able to isolate entry to the RMM from PHD and there will be an increase in the overall entrance price. As it stands entry to PHD only, is already more expensive than the RMM at Eastney.

But the real issue is once its gone its gone forever. I just hope this move will not be as disasterous as the refurbishment of the new IWM but I wont be holding my breath.

Regards,

Jonathan

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  • 4 weeks later...

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Here are some points.

Strategy. In the last few years the management of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard has been pursuing quite a bold strategy: create even more new naval-history-related attractions; take over some related attractions that were hitherto independent; set ticket prices in such a way that almost all visitors will buy the all-attractions ticket rather than tickets for individual attractions; slash the price of that all-attractions ticket. The standard all-attraction ticket is currently £21; it was £28.

The strategy is certainly working as far as visitor numbers go. After a disappointing 2012, on account of competition from the Olympic Games, there was a plan to get up to 600,000 visitors per year within five years. In the very first year, 2013, the number of visitors was over 700,000! Whether this meant success in business terms, ie whether income exceeded expenditure, I can’t tell.

Entry to the Royal Marines Museum is already included in the all-attractions ticket. Physically moving the museum to the Historic Dockyard area can be seen as a natural extension of the strategy. But it would be an extension nonetheless: other attractions on the other side of the harbour have been integrated into the administrative structure but none have yet been physically moved to the dockyard.

Different new museum. Would the content of the museum on the new site be different from that of the present museum? Yes, that is the intention. In fact, it seems likely that the museum in the new location would be a considerably different museum from the old. There is talk of ‘using modern technology’ to display the collection differently.

About 10 per cent of the museum’s collection is currently on display; under the new plans would that figure go up and down? Nothing has been said publicly about this, as far as I know. Plainly much will depend on the size of the new building and this has not been published. Also, the change of display techniques will be relevant. If, for example, an audiovisual ‘total experience’ of the Zeebrugge raid were set up, that would necessarily leave less room to display medals and other objects connected with the raid.

Visitor numbers. At present the Marines museum at Eastney gets 29,000 visitors per year – a low number for such a substantial, lavishly designed museum. The proponents of the move to the Historic Dockyard say they hope to increase visitor numbers fourfold.

It is difficult to see where the fourfold figure comes from. Four times 29,000 gives 116,000. If 700,000 people a year buy a ticket that includes among much else admission to the Marines Museum, and if that is a substantial museum, conveniently located, wouldn’t one expect a great deal more than 116,000 people to visit it? I pose the question. Perhaps statistics on visits to the RN Museum which is already in the Historic Dockyard would be relevant, if they exist.

Average visit. It seems a plausible assumption that the average time spent by a visitor at Eastney now must be much longer than it would be if the museum were at the Historic Dockyard. At Eastney, a couple of miles from the Historic Dockyard, the typical visitor is strongly motivated and has taken the trouble to go out there, and there is a lot to see. I don’t know, but I’d guess that the average visit must be over one hour. At the Historic Dockyard the Marines museum would be just one among an extensive set of attractions covered by the ticket, and visited by many people who will want to see, however briefly, in a limited time, all or most of what they have already paid for. They would surely spend less than an hour at the Marines museum on average. Many, I would guess, would take five minutes just to see the kind of thing the museum was, and then leave, having decided quite reasonably that others out of the many attractions covered by the ticket would interest them more.

So which is preferable? A museum that has X visitors per year, most of them seriously interested, and very likely gaining great satisfaction from the experience? Or a museum that has many times more than X visitors per year, each on average, spending far less time there, and thus getting correspondingly less interest and satisfaction? Answering that question may lead to some fundamental thinking about the reasons for having the museum at all.

Appropriate location. In Amsterdam there are museums housed in historic buildings that are both striking in themselves and appropriate to the museum’s subject: the city history museum in the 17th-century city orphanage; the naval museum in the 17th-century storehouse of the Admiralty; the Jewish museum in an old synagogue. This appropriate-location factor adds greatly to the quality of the visitor’s experience. Its value can’t be quantified but it is there. This same factor applies to some degree to the two museums, submarine and ordnance, across the harbour at Gosport, which are covered by the Historic Dockyard’s all-attractions ticket. They too are in appropriate historic buildings; however, the buildings, unlike the Amsterdam ones, are not particularly striking in themselves, so the appropriate-location effect is not so great.

At Eastney the present museum is housed in the mess building where officers formerly held lavish dinners, played snooker, smoked cigars and so on. That building is surrounded by a number of very impressive barracks blocks, now turned into housing, but excellently conserved, and from the outside looking just as they were a century ago (see photos). This really is an impressively appropriate location that, unlike the two Gosport examples, is well up to Amsterdam standards. Moving the museum would sacrifice that feature. No doubt some old building in the Historic Dockyard could be found to house the museum, but it would have nothing to do with the Royal Marines.

I’m not in a position to weigh up these and other relevant points and come to a decisive judgement. Apart from anything else, I have no access to any of the relevant financial data. But I do hope that there can be well-informed, rational public debate before the matter is resolved.

References:

http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/defence/royal-marines-museum-to-be-moved-to-new-home-in-portsmouth-historic-dockyard-1-5596746

http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/news/news479.php


More Eastney Barracks Photos

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Bart, thanks for that. Objective and thought-provoking. I still don't know the answer!

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(Red face) Rotterdam!

Must go there. But it's not in a barracks or anything like that. It is in an old building in an area that the marines were defending in May 1940, whose bombing led to the conflagration of the old city. I'll have to go and see what they make of that association.

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Your correspondent visited the museum of the Dutch Marine Corps in Rotterdam.

In the photo the museum is the building with the coloured sign. Plainly this is a smaller museum than that at Eastney. Still, the collection displayed is large enough to make this a museum worth visiting for anybody interested in the subject who understands Dutch.

The museum’s building is not impressive architecturally, but it does score pretty high on the appropriate-location criterion.

In May 1940 the bridge across the Maas at Rotterdam was a vital objective. The Germans soon occupied the south bank of the river. If they could capture this bridge there would be no more rivers to impede their drive into the heart of Holland. The north end of the bridge in the centre of Rotterdam was defended for five days by Dutch marines. The museum building is very close to the bridge, and it was part of the position held by the marines. The museum building itself was not very important in the battle, since the marines occupied the upper stories of the great white building right next door. As the photo suggests, the white building survived the war, although when you actually go there you can see some shell damage. The museum is thus in a location that could scarcely be more appropriate: marines actually fought and died there.

The museum covers the whole history and present activities of the marine corps. The space devoted to the May-1940 fighting is less than ten per cent of the whole. Fair enough, but the story could have been told more clearly. I studied all the material on display, listened to all the recordings of old participants, and gazed out from the museum across to the present-day bridge and its surroundings, but I still couldn’t get a clear picture of quite where the Germans were and where the marines were during those five days in May 1940. I only put together the summary contained in the paragraph above after talking to an old marine, one of those who run the place.

The people at the museum knew all about Eastney, and had been there, some a number of times. They told me that at the Dutch Ministry of Defence recently ‘some youngster with an MBA’ had proposed that their museum should be moved from Rotterdam to another part of the country so that all the Dutch military museums could be in the same place, because that would be more cost-effective. This plan was strongly opposed on the grounds that tradition was more important than accountancy. Earlier this year the minister announced definitively that the museum would remain by that bridge in Rotterdam.

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"This plan was strongly opposed on the grounds that tradition was more important than accountancy."

Hooray! I wish more of our administrators thought like that.

sJ

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I think I've just made my mind up.

Is there any form of campaign to resist this move?

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