Historic Dockyard Chatham reveals "ship beneath floor" in £8.5 million development plans

By Culture24 Reporter | 29 August 2012
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A photo of various slabs of eroded wood crossing the stone floor of a maritime museum
A close-up of one of the timbers under investigation at Historic Dockyard Chatham
© National Maritime Museum, London
A ship instrumental in laying the foundations for the British Empire during the 18th century has been revealed as the mystery vessel beneath the floorboards of an £8.5 million development planned at Historic Dockyard Chatham.

The NAMUR, which served the Royal Navy during nine campaigns across 47 years, was found beneath the floor of the Wheelwrights’ Shop in 1995, and promptly pronounced the “single-most important warship discovery in Northern Europe since that of the Mary Rose” by archaeologists at the time.

The ship will be at the centre of the project, Command of the Oceans, charting the Dockyard’s place in supporting centuries of British naval supremacy.

“Today is a big day,” said Admiral Sir Ian Garnett, the Chairman of the Trust which runs the Dockyard, promising the development would create a “world-class arrival to this place”.

“Command of the Oceans comes 28 years after the closure of the Royal Dockyard and more than £50 million of investment in the site.

“It will orientate visitors, interpret what they see and tell a story of place, people and process that lead to Command of the Oceans. “

The NAMUR’s monuments and archaeology will signpost the story of the “Age of Sail” of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Dockyard has won initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and planners are formulating new fundraising efforts.

“There is a strong intent that the wider heritage of the area benefits as much as The Historic Dockyard,” explained Garnett.

“Today marks the start of our fundraising campaign to close the gap. We are hopeful that a significant element of that funding will be confirmed soon, following extensive negotiations with a partner, but more needs to be done.

“We will run a public fundraising campaign to raise £57,000 – the original cost of the ship beneath the floor – and will be approaching many other organisations for their support for this national treasure.“

Under the plans, the North and South Mast Ponds, constructed at the Dockyard in 1696 and 1702, will be reconnected with an adjacent feature, the “Mast Houses and Mould Loft”, as well as the Wheelwrights’ Shop.

“The Dockyard is an extraordinary sight,” said Stuart McLeod, of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, praising the “special insight” provided by the Kent attraction.

“The project will dramatically improve the visitor experience at Chatham and reveal ‘the ship beneath the floor’, exploring this important archaeological find for the first time.

“We are looking forward to seeing these exciting and innovative plans develop over the next few months.”

The free-entry visitor “gateway” will span four and a half hectares and be the starting point for a series of trails.

An award of £116,300 from the Fund will help further a bid for a full second grant of £4.5 million.

More pictures:

An image of an ancient oil painting of elegant tall ships crossing on a stormy sea
Sir George Pocock's flagship at the Capture of Havana, August 13 1762© National Maritime Museum, London
A photo of a brown slap of wood with various letters etched into it
A cross-section of the NAMUR
© National Maritime Museum, London
A photo of part of an old ship with scrawls and bits of stone around it
A close-up of one of the timbers on the gun deck
© National Maritime Museum, London
An image of an old monochrome illustration of tall ships passing each other on a stormy sea
The carpenters' marks on the boat are the same as the ones found on the HMS Victory
© National Maritime Museum, London
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