Devonport Dockyard had a museum known as the Adelaide Gallery in the first half of the 1800s comprising a number of artefacts including figureheads and items such as flags from ships that served at Trafalgar. Sadly a fire in 1840 destroyed the majority of the collection. However, with the help of volunteers the museum was opened, within the Naval Base estate, in the disused Old Admiralty Fire Station in April 1969. Since opening, the ‘Devonport Collection’ has been enhanced by a group of willing volunteers who have accumulated artefacts of both local and national significance.
The current collection is made up of over 100,000 artefacts spanning the period 1588 to the present day. The collection includes naval stores, uniforms, medals, badges, personal kit and also model ships. It also includes silver, china and kitchenware, weights and measures as well as larger items such as figureheads. The total cost of the proposed gift is estimated at approximately £650,000.
The expansion of the collection is such that artefacts are now displayed in eight galleries across three buildings and is managed by a group of over 30 dedicated volunteers and uniformed staff. Currently, members of the public can only visit the collection by appointment.
Given the changes to the Naval Base site and the wider area under the Plymouth and South West Peninsula City Deal and the complexities associated with supporting such an extensive collection of historical material, I propose the gifting of the Devonport Collection to the National Museum of the Royal Navy in order that it can be suitably conserved and more widely displayed in Plymouth for current and future generations allowing greater access to the public.
The Departmental Minute, which I have today laid before Parliament, describes a gifting package to the National Museum of the Royal Navy that will comprise a number of historical items which need the continued support of the professional services that the Museum can provide.
Gifting is expected to be undertaken as soon as possible after the completion of the Departmental Minute process.