Progress as Old Grammar School changes into Gosport Museum and Art Gallery

Hard hat donned and hi-viz jacket on, Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas sees the progress being made to revamp the Grade II Listed Building at the western end of Gosport High Street…

OUTSIDE the Old Grammar School a few fences indicate building work is being carried out but inside the refurbishment is extensive.

The ground floor has been gutted, holes knocked in a wall for the new corridor, floors are being re-laid, various pieces of the building are being stored ready to be replaced, and there is even some painting of walls and door frames upstairs.

As reported in The Globe, the £1.4 million* project was delayed, “due to resource issues linked to the Covid-19 pandemic” but is now on course to reopen in October.

‘museum by the community, for the community’

Hampshire Cultural Trust’s Venue Manager Wendy Redman emphasised that the overall aim is to bring, “the community back in. We want to get the building back into use and the public back into the High Street.”

In particular, she said the museum on the ground floor is being “created by the community, for the community.”

It will focus very much on the history of Gosport and tell the story using eight themes such as transport including the O.E.C Motorcycles manufactured in the town.

Then local groups –  Motiv8, U3A and the Friends of Gosport Museum – were invited to get involved with a theme, selecting the objects to be displayed and writing the story of each one.

This, Wendy Redman sees as the way to attract people – especially young people – “who do not normally go to museums.”

As well as in the museum space, other historical artefacts will be displayed along corridors and rooms in the building.

Changes in layout plus a café and shop

There will be the one public entrance – from the High Street – leading into the reception area with the museum to the right and the café plus shop to the left while straight ahead will be a corridor leading to the gallery.

Two galleries in fact: the existing gallery for larger exhibitions and a room next door for smaller ones.

There will be family areas and rooms for hire downstairs and upstairs though the latter will be by appointment as the first floor will not be open to the public except by prior arrangement. This floor will also have research rooms – particularly for geology, archaeology and geography.

There is already a lift to the first floor and disabled access to the building will be improved with a ramp constructed at the main entrance. The toilets will include a ‘Changing Places’ facility.

Tiles raise more than £11,000

Accessed from the café, a courtyard is under construction and it will have 264 tiles which have been donated in ‘Tag-a-Tile campaign and added more than £11,000 to funding.

It has proved very popular with donors ranging from individuals who were students at the grammar school to groups such as Gosport Road Runners and the Gosport D-Day Fellowship.

Among the stories that came with the donations was one which read:

“We love Gosport and all it has to offer our family. We moved here 20 years ago due to the Navy and wouldn’t choose anywhere else. We wanted our children to have a permanent reminder to look at in the future as a reminder of all of the fun and happy times we’ve had as a family growing up and working here.”

‘the end is in sight’

Talking to those involved one gets a sense of relief the work is now progressing and a sense of optimism that the end is in sight.

Paul Sapwell, Chief Executive of Hampshire Cultural Trust, said: “Work to create the new museum, café, courtyard and excitingly, the walkway which will link the front of building to the gallery at the back, has already made good progress, and we currently anticipate that we will be opening our doors in early October.

“We are expecting the project to come in on budget and are extremely grateful to all our funders and supporters who have made it possible for this important and exciting project to come to fruition.”

And there will be a ‘bonus’ for those delivering letters and parcels – the building will have just one address whereas previously it had four.

* The HCT website states the £1.4 million cost is being funded by “Hampshire Cultural Trust, match funding has been contributed by Hampshire County Council and Gosport Borough Council. Funding has also been contributed by Historic England (via the High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme), Arts Council England, the Friends of Gosport Museum and a number of individual donors.”

Photograph (top): the ground floor looking to where the café and shop will be