£100,000 grant for Gosport Diving Museum’s ‘exemplar’ project

By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas

GOSPORT’S renowned Diving Museum has been awarded a grant of £100,000 for an ‘exemplar’ project which will open up additional display space.

The museum is housed in the Grade II* Listed No 2 Battery at Stokes Bay and a condition of the peppercorn rent – it is rented from Gosport Borough Council – is that the Historical Diving Society must maintain the building.

In January – as  reported in The Globe – the borough council gave the necessary approval for the installation of a heating system which the council officer reported as comprising, “a mixture of thermal insulation and pipework, but principally would have a separating membrane from the fabric of the Listed Building and no part would be permanently attached.”

The £100,000 grant from the Department of Digital, Media, Culture & Sport’s £18.8 million  Museum Estate and Development Fund – operated by the Arts Council England – will leave the society to find an additional £15,000 to cover the expected cost of the project.

‘an exemplar use of heating system for old buildings’

Museum Director Kevin Casey explained the importance of the heating system: “About two-thirds of the building is not suitable for the general public due to the conditions because warm, humid air gets into the building in summer and causes damp.”

[The heating system] will reduce the impact of damp on the exhibits enabling more of our nationally important collection to be displayed.

“Local community and visitors will gain access to sections of the building previously inaccessible, giving a better understanding of No 2 Battery’s importance within the local historic landscape and allow us to offer a broader range of community engagement activities.”

Sensors will be installed to monitor the conditions and Mr Casey said: “The project is game changing as it will solve an environmental issue within an early Victorian building using an energy efficient green heat source that will serve as an exemplar for buildings with similar problems.

“It will only be used in summer and is very economical.”

With the permission and the money now in place, the next step will be to identify a contractor and award the contract for the work with the expectation being that the project will be up and running in time for the summer of 2024.

Next comes improving access

The Diving Museum is also waiting for the Arts Council England’s decision – expected in April – on a £237,000 bid to finance the installations of an access wheelchair ramp at the entrance to No 2 Battery and a platform lift inside, plus other repairs to the building. In total, these will cost £255,000.

The Diving Museum and the Historical Diving Society are both run by volunteers and the museum is only open at weekends and Bank Holidays between April and October.

But in respect of No 2 Battery, the commitment extends beyond displaying the history of diving.

As Kevin Casey told The Globe, the aim is to, “get the building off Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register”, which currently lists its condition as “poor”.

Photograph (top): The Diving Museum at Stokes Bay, Gosport