The Devonport Naval Heritage Centre celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and has existed in various locations. It originated ‘behind the wire’ of the dockyard and was established by a former naval person. The original intention was as a dockyard museum, appealing largely to past and present workers.
The Centre has shrunk in footprint but not in the stories it tells. It’s now on the other side of the wire, so accessible to far more people, and highlights stories from beyond the dockyard to include naval battles, naval history and its impact on the local area. It has since been transferred as a collection to the National Museum of the Royal Navy which is based in Portsmouth.
A new temporary exhibition programme began just over a year ago and has seen the Centre host visiting exhibitions, and create its own. These have included the stories of the Chinese Labour Corps during WWI, Women and the Royal Navy, and LGBT stories from before and after the ban on homosexuals serving was lifted in 2000. It has also loaned a large collection of ship’s figureheads to The Box in a fantastic collaboration of heritage. You can find out more about these in a separate post later today.
The Centre usually offers museum tours throughout the year and, when it’s not undergoing maintenance as it is at the moment, you can book onto a tour of a decommissioned nuclear submarine. The Centre also gets involved in local history days, family days and anniversaries from Armed Forces Day to Devonport Park Family Day. It also offers a monthly evening talk on the first Thursday of every month.
Anyone is welcome to join a tour when the Centre re-opens, although advance bookings through the booking office is essential. The Centre is always keen to welcome new volunteers too.
There are plans to develop, expand and open to visitors on a more regular basis with a larger programme of Open Days in the future. Watch this space!