The people behind the National Museum of the Royal Navy are about to bring their passion to a long-distance relationship.
At a ceremony tomorrow (September 22 2010) officials from the Portsmouth-based alliance will travel to Hartlepool for a celebration of their first ever affiliation aboard HMS Trincomalee, a towering frigate built in Bombay in 1817 which now lies at the heart of the Teesside town’s Maritime Experience.
Trincomalee is in the Core Collection of the National Register of Historic Vessels of the UK – a rundown of the vessels testifying to the country's rich naval history – and now it will share some of its gems and knowledge from the 18th and 19th century with its new partner in faraway Hampshire.
"The Navy story is a national one, but all four of our museums are in southern England," says NMRN Director General Dominic Tweddle, referring to the quartet of Pompey's Royal Naval Museum, Southsea's Royal Marines Museum, Gosport's Royal Navy Submarine Museum and the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset.
"Very early on we identified the need to be seen and to act nationally. Once that decision was made it seemed natural to go where the major naval attractions are."
Painstakingly restored in Hartlepool during an 11-year mission which ended in 2001, Trincomalee attracts more than 50,000 visitors a year.
The ancient ship was stored in Portsmouth at the start of the 19th century before travelling to North America, the West Indies and the Caribbean, seeing use for everything from subduing riots in Haiti to carrying cargo to British garrisons.
One of the first immediate rewards of the project will see Trincomalee reunited with a book kept by midshipman William Dawson between 1852 and 1854, containing a detailed log and tracking maps of journeys in a journal separated from the ship for more than 150 years since. Diaries written by the ship's owner, Geoffrey Wheatly Cobb, will also head north.
"Trincomalee is a wonderful survivor, and there is a fantastic team spirit up there," says Tweddle.
"The Hartlepool Maritime Experience is a splendid evocation of a late 18th century naval dockyard, and the ship's experience is embedded within that. The place tells a broader naval story, so our aim is to work with them to make that even more vibrant."
Bryn Hughes, the General Manager of the HMS Trincomalee Trust, says the link is "tremendously important".
"The affiliation effectively brings together arguably two of the most important ships in the Royal Navy's heritage that can still be boarded and enjoyed by the public," he points out.
"A strong liaison here will continue to inform the sector in ship conservation and in the lively and authentic presentation of our history."
Hughes feels the project will create a "huge promotional platform" for the story of the Royal Navy in the North-East, heightening the status of both organisations.
It could be the first of many – Tweddle says the NMRN is in "advanced discussions" with a further affiliate, who he expects to reveal soon.
"Our intention is not only to be called the National Museum of the Royal Navy, but to be that in reality," he adds. "We are at the start of an exciting voyage – let's see where we end up."