Ambitious plans for the expansion of the National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool (NMRN Hartlepool) have received a huge boost today, Tuesday 21st June, with the announcement that the £3.4 million purchase of the neighbouring Vision Retail Park has been completed.

The 58,000 square foot, three-acre site, with 250 car parking spaces, lies alongside NMRN Hartlepool, and its purchase by the museum unlocks much-needed space for an ambitious expansion which includes new galleries, conservation workshops, reception and retail space.

In 2019, The National Museum of the Royal Navy entered into an agreement with Hartlepool Borough Council to embark on a project to jointly redevelop NMRN Hartlepool and the surrounding waterfront area, to support the regeneration of Hartlepool.

Hartlepool Borough Council secured £20m of funding from the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority (TVCA) to achieve the joint objectives of this partnership.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The National Museum of the Royal Navy said:

“Our long-held ambitions to create a northern powerhouse for culture and conservation in Hartlepool can now start to take shape with this very welcome news. As a museum we’ve responded to the national call for culture to be at the heart of the levelling up agenda and the National Museum of the Royal Navy is at the forefront of these plans in the region.

“This allows us to commemorate the incredibly rich heritage of the Royal Navy in the north east, to broaden its appeal to new audiences and support the modern Royal Navy.

“We have exciting partnership plans and working closely with Hartlepool Borough Council, we will create a vibrant, economically successful waterfront offer supporting the regeneration of the town and developing a must-see cultural hub at the heart of Hartlepool.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said:

“This purchase is fantastic news for the hugely popular museum, which brings the town’s naval heritage to life. It will help it to become bigger and better, attracting and entertaining more visitors than ever before, heavily supporting our ongoing work to transform the town.

“Alongside major events like Tall Ships and the Waterfront Festival, the museum is a huge part of what makes Hartlepool unique, which is why we pledged £20million to help regenerate the Waterfront.

“Now, as we set out to create the Hartlepool Mayoral Development Corporation, more massive, transformational plans are under way. These will help reshape the town centre, making it a great place to live and visit, while boosting local business and nurturing its brilliant assets like NMRN.”

Councillor Shane Moore, the Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, added:

“Securing the arrival of the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Hartlepool has ensured the town has a visitor destination of national significance and we are now building on that investment and progressing to develop the wider Hartlepool Waterfront site.

“This is such an exciting time for Hartlepool and the purchase of the Vision Retail Park will enable the National Museum to expand significantly.

“Our partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool is hugely important to us and I can’t wait to see these exciting developments take shape.”

Commodore Phil Waterhouse ADC RN Naval Regional Commander (North of England and Isle of Man) said:

“I am absolutely delighted that the NMRN’s White Ensign will again fly proudly in Hartlepool. These plans strengthens the NMRN’s reputation in the North East as an inspiring, thought provoking and fun attraction for the delivery of naval, maritime and local history alongside a stirring new nod to the future; we look forward to playing our part in the delivery of the attractions.  Well done to Hartlepool and to the NMRN for making this happen; Bravo Zulu.”

Following the acquisition of the retail park this former retail unit will be considerably upgraded to meet modern museum standards and the former shopping centre converted into new themed galleries large enough to permanently house Second World War rescue motor launch RML 497 which is currently temporarily based at the museum. Other large-scale items from the national collection will be dramatically displayed in the galleries as a must-see.

The building will also house a reception and ticketing point, retail area, offices, WCs and changing facilities. The ongoing vital conservation work carried out by the museum will be greatly enhanced with workshop areas for heritage restoration and interpretation purposes, along with education facilities and spaces, such as for STEM subjects. The wider scheme will extend to the refurbishment of the existing museum site and will see the creation of a new, more prominent entrance to the site appropriate for a national attraction of this scale. The NMRN is also in talks with other national museums to expand the offer further through the creation of partnership galleries.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) Hartlepool is a major tourism attraction situated in Tees Valley. The museum site is home to HMS Trincomalee, Europe’s oldest warship still afloat, built in Bombay (modern-day Mumbai) in 1817 and a recreated Georgian quayside around the dock.

Tickets for entry to the National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool are available at https://www.nmrn.org.uk/our-museum/hartlepool