National Museums at Chatham - No 1 Smithery

Inside Chatham Historic Dockyard

The building is one of only three surviving naval smitheries in the country

Making a difference

How the project achieved HLF’s outcomes for heritage

  • A Grade II* listed building on the Heritage at Risk Register and the industrial equipment it contained are both in better condition as a result of the conservation and restoration work.
  • The building is better managed with a new sustainable use.
  • National collections that require special environmental conditions are better managed as a result of being displayed and stored to industry standards.
  • The heritage of the building, area and the model ship collections is better interpreted and explained through the exhibitions, documents, photographs, film and oral histories.

How the project achieved HLF’s outcomes for people

  • Visitors learnt about the heritage of the smithery and collections through new displays and interactive exhibits, enhancing their understanding of the Historic Dockyard as a whole.
  • Young people enjoyed inspiring learning activities exploring STEM subjects in a real-world context.
  • People enjoyed seeing major national collections of model ships, previously in store and not accessible.
  • Local people volunteered time, supporting visitors to use the study area.

How the project achieved HLF’s outcomes for communities

  • The organisation became more resilient due to the partnership between an independent museum and two national museums that enabled the sharing of heritage expertise.
  • Creating spaces that could be hired out enabled a new strand of income generation, further contributing to resilience for this independent museum.
  • The initiative helped boost the local economy by contributing to the regeneration of the Medway area, following the decline that followed the closure of the working naval dockyard. 

Lessons learnt

The partnership approach meant that the risks within the project were shared. However, this also added complexity to the management of the project, and trust between all partners was essential. It was vital that the needs of all three partners were seen as equally important and were taken into account from the very beginning of the process.

The inclusion of a temporary exhibition space that met national standards attracted high profile exhibitors that encourage repeat visits.  

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