(Above) The Maritime Treasures gallery at the No.1 Smithery
A once decaying maintenance building used to build and repair Royal Navy ships will reopen as the £13 million centrepiece of Chatham Historic Dockyard next month after receiving its first fleet of models and historic artefacts.
The No.1 Smithery’s collection of globetrotting maritime objects and art, ranging from miniatures of Napoleonic ships to gold cups used by VIPs onboard, will entertain visitors to the Dockyard with five dedicated new areas.
A Napoleonic Prisoner of War ship is one of the new arrivals
Highlights include loans from the National Maritime Museum and the Imperial War Museum, a courtyard for family activities and performance art, a Pipebending Floor where the public will be shown engineering techniques and a controlled storage space for more than 4,000 models.
The structure had previously been specified as a Scheduled Ancient Monument amid concerns about its dilapidation.
The King's Cup
“Saving the building and turning it into a fantastic new museum experience for our visitors has been a huge achievement for the Trust and its partners,” reflected Bill Ferris, the Chief Executive of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, who suggested the opening would be the most important nautical launch since HMS Victory was unveiled at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
“Its transformation is one of the last and most significant pieces in the Historic Dockyard jigsaw and is at the heart of Medway’s and the Thames Gateway’s cultural regeneration strategy.
The building will open in July 2010
“You can really see the contrast between the original, industrial, dirty and noisy building, with the new and very modern galleries and collections.”
A collection of enormous Stanley Spencer canvasses will go on display for the first time since being restored by the Imperial War Museum in the first show in the exhibition area, accompanied by 28 drawings and related Smithery tools.
Opens July 24 2010.