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an award winning museum of naval firepower created within 18th century
buildings at the former naval ordnance depot of Priddy's Hard, Gosport,
purchased by the Board of Ordnance in 1760 to relocate the Navy's powder
magazine from Portsmouth.
The museum is housed in a group of listed buildings which centre around
the original powder magazine of 1777. These sit on the edge of a
delightful camber basin on the western shore of Portsmouth Harbour, with
views across to Portchester Castle, Whale Island and the Naval Base.
Explosion! traces the development of naval armaments from gunpowder
to the Exocet missile...but the museum is not just about big bangs!
The displays explore the 18th century origins of Priddy's Hard, its
historic buildings and earthworks, bringing alive the site's rich history.
There's a fascinating social history too, including the story of how 2,500
women worked on the site during its peak in World War 11. It describes the
role that Priddy's Hard played in naval operations worldwide for over 200
years, as well as its importance to the local Gosport community, which not
only armed the Navy but also fed and watered it. Nor are the human, social
and moral consequences of warfare forgotten -visitors will be provoked as
well as educated and entertained.
The museum's extensive and unique collection was mostly assembled by
superintendents of the former Naval Armaments Depot at Priddy's Hard. If
it hadn't been for their foresight, a large slice of naval history would
have been lost. Thanks to their efforts the museum boasts an extensive
collection which includes small arms, cannon and guns, shells and
munitions, mines, torpedoes and modern missiles. There's even an atom
bomb, whose ominous hulk visitors will see in the Missiles Gallery.
But alongside the hardware, Explosion! tells a human story - of the
designers, makers, seamen and thousands of female munitions workers who
worked with these armaments over the centuries. From the beginning of
exhibition, where a simulated locker room reveals Priddy's Hard through
the eyes of those who worked there, visitors experience a real sense of
the lives which this amazing story has touched.
Throughout the exhibition, the designers bring the story to life with
dramatic audio-visual effects and scene-setting, computer interactives and
hands-on displays. Visitors walk along the sea bed in the Mines gallery,
for instance, and stand on a heaving deck to feel what it was like to fire
one of the Navy's big guns.
Explosion! is a modern museum providing a complete visitor
experience with a full range of facilities and access for all visitors.
There is a shop selling books and souvenirs and a cafe overlooking the
camber and magnificent views of Portsmouth Harbour.
The galleries and displays which have been created represent a first phase
of development for the museum. It is intended that later phases will be
developed using the buildings which currently house the extensive reserve
collections opposite the Grand Magazine and the impressive 'E'-magazine,
sited in the ramparts and reputedly constructed from no less than three
These substantial buildings have the potential to house additional
galleries, including a multi-media naval battle experience adding further
dimensions to the Priddy's Hard story. There are also plans to convert
other buildings within the complex to provide a climate-controlled
environment for the museum's extensive archive (currently stored in
Winchester), and to enhance the museum's education facilities.
Many of these later developments provide exciting opportunities for
corporate sponsors and individual benefactors to become involved in the
project. Details of these and other sponsorship opportunities can be
Explosion! was created for £3.5 million pounds which was funded by the
Millennium Commission as part of the Renaissance of Portsmouth Harbour
Millennium Scheme and is the centre piece of 22 acre Heritage Area acquired by
Gosport Borough Council from the MoD in 1994.
A triangular peninsula bordered on two sides by Portsmouth Harbour, the
other by 18th century ramparts, the Heritage Area is made up of extensive
parkland and historic buildings.
n due course the buildings will house a range of leisure uses including
waterside bars and restaurants and an antiques/crafts centre, while
visitors will also be able to walk the ramparts and enjoy the site's open
Priddy's Hard is now linked to the main A32 by a new access road, and a
new pedestrian bridge, funded by Millennium Commission grant, which
connects the site to the rest of the Gosport waterfront and the town
centre, carrying the Millennium Promenade which runs for 3km to the
A Brief History of
In 1759 the Board of Ordnance purchased 40 acres of agricultural land from
Jane Priddy and others to construct an earth rampart as part of the
defences of Portsmouth Harbour and the Dockyard. Soon afterwards, the
Board decided to relocate the gunpowder stores from Portsmouth to Priddy's
Hard for safety reasons. Construction of the new powder magazine on land
within the ramparts commenced in 1769, together with an office, cooperage
and an adjoining camber basin. In 1777 the first powder barrels were
moved to Priddy's Hard from Portsmouth's Square Tower.
During the 19th century further magazines and buildings were added
including the installation of a narrow gauge railway system across the
whole site and the construction of piers on the Harbour. The site was
altered continuously during the early twentieth century and it was fully
utilised during both world wars when thousands of women workers filled
jobs vacated by men on active service. The site was last used for
significant naval activity during the Falklands Conflict in 1982, and was
vacated by RNAD Gosport in 1988 when it relocated to Frater further north
on the Harbour.
Please visit this wonderful
Museum when you
visit Gosport and see more of it's fascinating exhibits.
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