National museum set to create major tourist attraction in Hartlepool

The  Maritime Experience.
The Maritime Experience.

A NATIONAL museum could be on the verge of taking over Hartlepool’s award-winning Maritime Experience.

The town’s jewel in the crown could be turned into a major national attraction with enhanced facilities, thousands more tourists, and a much bigger profile.

Talks have already begun between bosses at Hartlepool Borough Council and the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

It could see the NMRN leasing Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience and having an option to buy it.

Council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said the future for the Hartlepool Maritime Experience (HME) was already part of the ambitious Hartlepool Vision, which aims to revitalise key areas of Hartlepool.

But if the NMRN move pays off, it would transform HME from “a sub-regional offer to a national and international offer which will draw in large investment.”

Council chiefs believe it could see visitor numbers soar from 140,000 now to 340,000 a year in the future.

NMRN trustees will discuss the proposals at a board meeting on January 7.

The council has already highlighted the potential money-spinning deal at the Regeneration Services Committee held just days ago.

A report said: “Terms are being negotiated with the National Museum of the Royal Navy for them to take a lease with an option to purchase the existing HME subject to conditions requiring the facilitation of additional attractions to increase visitor numbers and enhance the facility to become a regional and national visitor attraction.”

Coun Akers-Belcher added: “Our ambition was to have a regional draw. If this takes off, it will be a national draw.

“People want to invest in something that is a major tourist attraction.

“When investors look at a return on their investment, they look at visitor numbers.

“People who are investing, it secures their money for the future.”

Denise Ogden, the Hartlepool Borough Council director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said the council would still be a major stakeholder and would still be an investor in the tourist attraction.

The National Museum already has a stronghold in Hartlepool.

In June, HMS Trincomalee became a full subsidiary of the NMRN, giving her the same national standing as HMS Victory.

The benefits of the Trincomalee’s new status are enormous. The ship’s financial future will be secured and it will remain in Hartlepool forever. It also means increased marketing, more funds, and more support with research.

It also means Hartlepool has become the only place on the North-East coast to have a subsidiary of a national museum.

But now, a further maritime boost could be on the way.

John Rees, chief of staff and strategic director for the NMRN, told the Hartlepool Mail that the museum’s relationship with Trincomalee had been established “because she is a largely important naval frigate.”

He added: “As a result of that, we have developed a working relationship with Hartlepool Borough Council, and we are now looking at how we might all collectively work together to both develop and deliver a better experience in Hartlepool.

“It would be fair to say that we are putting proposals to our trustees that we should develop such communications.

“But until there is a decision, at the moment no decisions have been made. We are working with Hartlepool to consider what options do exist.”

The Maritime Experience has won many awards down the years.

It was the Pride of Northumbria Small Visitor Attraction of the Year in 2003 and the Excellence in England Silver Award Winner in 2004.

It won gold as the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year in 2009, in the North East Tourism Awards.

Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience, (formerly known as Hartlepool Historic Quay) is a re-creation of an 18th century seaport.