Museum Relaunches After £3.5m Revamp

The Royal Armouries unveils its state-of-the-art new museum at Fort Nelson on Saturday August the 6th.

In just under a year, this unique Victorian Fort has undergone a £3.5m redevelopment to create a museum fit for the 21st Century, supported by a grant of over £2m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Fort, on Portsdown Hill, near Fareham, has been open throughout the construction phase but now the waiting is over and the new facilities are officially launched.

Highlights include:

* A new glass-sided gallery - The Voice of the Guns - showcasing some of the Royal Armouries' most famous exhibits.

*New galleries, telling the history of the fort and the people and stories that shaped history.

* State-of-the-art education centre - allowing children to see the past spring to life in a historic setting, but harnessing the latest technology.

* Brand new visitor centre - including Café 1871, which is also open to passers-by and walkers.

The Royal Armouries - Britain's oldest museum - is hoping the major investment in Fort Nelson will attract tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Director General and Master of the Royal Armouries Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley said,

"This is a proud and historic week, even by Fort Nelson's standards.

"We are delighted to unveil this contemporary new museum, which still blends in perfectly with a traditional Victorian fort.

"I am sure it will entertain and educate hundreds of thousands of visitors for decades to come.

"I  would  also like to take this opportunity to thank all our partners and sponsors - in particular, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Hampshire County Council, without whom none of this would have happened."

Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the South East, said,

"Fort Nelson's new state-of-the-art galleries are a fitting home for its comprehensive artillery collection, enabling the story of Portsmouth's role in both World Wars to be told properly for the first time.  

"The Heritage Lottery Fund is proud to have supported this ambitious project which will help bring an important part of our military and social history alive for a 21st- century audience."

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Ken Thornber, added,

"Hampshire County Council is delighted it has been able to work with the Royal Armouries to help transform Fort Nelson and ensure the county continues to be a great place to visit.

It will undoubtedly help further develop Hampshire's £2.4bn tourist economy."

The building project to transform Fort Nelson started last August, when construction company Mansell were awarded the contract to build the new gallery and visitor centre.

With glass sides and high ceilings, the new Voice of the Guns gallery showcases 14 of the most famous exhibits, including two sections of the infamous Iraqi Super Gun, two anti-aircraft guns used to defend the South Coast, and the Great Turkish Bombard dating to 1464.

There are also social history galleries, new interactives, and a 19-acre fort to explore - plus underground tunnels and ramparts with panoramic views over Portsmouth and the Meon Valley.

Built in the 1860s, the Portsdown Hill Fort is home to the national collection of artillery and historic cannon, with over 350 exhibits from all over the globe.  The collection originated at HM Tower of London and has been on display in Hampshire since 1995.

Admission and parking at the museum are free.