Free day out for all the family... new-look Fort Nelson is unveiled - Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Royal Armouries unveils its state-of-the-art new museum at Fort Nelson on Saturday (August 6) – home to the big guns.

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 (HLF).

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.

Admission and parking are free – offering a great day out for all the family during the school holidays, and all year round.

Highlights include:

The Royal Armouries – Britain’s oldest museum – believes the major investment in Fort Nelson will attract tens of thousands of visitors every year – boosting tourism and the local economy generally. Museum entry is free, ensuring the national collection is accessible to all.

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 has guaranteed “wow factor” and 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, exciting new interactives, and a 19-acre fort to explore – plus all the old favourites such as 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 museum’s new galleries tell the fascinating stories of the objects, their history and the people who used them.

The collection originated at HM Tower of London and has been on display in Hampshire since 1995.

For more information about Fort Nelson:

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Little girl wearing a hat and an actor dressed as Lord Nelson
Lord Nelson and visitor

Lt-Gen Jonathon Riley in No2 dress uniform standing in the new gallery.
Lt-Gen. Jonathon Riley

boy and girl sitting on world war II artillery gun
Young visitors sit on a big gun

Media contacts

Andrea Long
Royal Armouries Head of Communications

Joss Loader
Primary PR
07838 379599

Laura Bates
HLF press office
0207 591 6027

Notes to Editors

Download the PDF press release.