£11.3m Derry Maritime Museum will not open until Spring of 2020

The former hospital bulding at Ebrington will be the site of the new Maritime Museum.

The former hospital bulding at Ebrington will be the site of the new Maritime Museum.

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The £11.3m Derry Maritime Museum will not now open until Spring 2020 - almost a decade on from a feasibility study being completed, it has now been confirmed.

Derry & Strabane Council bosses have said the submission of a planning application is now ‘imminent’ for the project.

The 'International sailor' statue uveiled in Derry during the 70th anniversary commemorations for the Battle of the Atlantic. The bronze statue was commissioned to represent all nations that took part in the longest battle of World War Two. Several hundred sailors from America and Canada were stationed in Derry during the second world war. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.

The 'International sailor' statue uveiled in Derry during the 70th anniversary commemorations for the Battle of the Atlantic. The bronze statue was commissioned to represent all nations that took part in the longest battle of World War Two. Several hundred sailors from America and Canada were stationed in Derry during the second world war. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.

The overall cost estimate has risen over the years from initial figure of around £8.5m.

The Maritime Museum and Archive Centre will celebrate Derry and Lough Foyle’s historic maritime importance over the centuries, including its role as vital naval base during and after the Second World War.

A spokeswoman for Derry City & Strabane District Council told the ‘Journal’ this week: “While the planning application has not been submitted, it is imminent.

“A design team and interpretative designer were appointed in 2015 and have developed detailed proposals for the Maritime Museum which will be in Buildings 45, 46 and 49 at Ebrington Square.

“The Maritime Museum planned for the city and region is scheduled to open in Spring 2020. It will be the only museum and archive of its kind in Ireland.”

The Council has confirmed that the estimated cost for the project is £11.3m, with funding secured from Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund. Tourism Northern Ireland. Other departmental funding will be confirmed following the Programme for Governance budget allocation, the spokeswoman said.

The Council has said that because there has been no EU funding for this project, the result of the Brexit vote is not expected to be an issue in this case.

Speaking about the type of features people can expect to see in the Maritime Museum, the council spokeswoman said: “The Museum will be a celebration of the city’s maritime heritage and be an important public resource that will help locals and visitors alike to understand, explore and appreciate the enormous influence the River Foyle and its wider connections have had on the region.

“It will bring to life the city’s rich maritime heritage and allow us to provide access to the city’s archive and genealogical collections.

“The museum will include exhibition galleries, archival reading rooms, dedicated learning spaces as well as a café, shop and other visitor facilities.

“Council view this as an important flagship scheme for the Ebrington site and something that will provide a much needed catalyst for the physical and economic regeneration of Ebrington, the city and region.

“It will be a ‘must see’ experimental museum and tourist attraction which tells the story of Derry’s maritime history.”

She added: “Derry City and Strabane District Council is unique in Northern Ireland, in that it holds the largest and most significant public archive outside of the Public Record Office NI.

“Council’s Archive and Genealogy Service holds a combined resource of over 400 years of archives alongside over one million family history records.”

The ‘Journal’ reported back in January 2010 that the Museum was “set to become one of the first features of a newly developed Ebrington site”.

At the time urban regeneration company Ilex, in partnership with the then Derry City Council were seeking tenders to carry out a feasibility study and economic appraisal into the establishment of a maritime museum at the former British army barracks site.

Lough Foyle has played a vital role in Irish and European history over the years, from prehistoric times when the first inhabitants set up home on its banks, through to its pivotal role during the Siege of Derry and the war between the Williamites and Jacobites, the mass emigration of impoverished local people, and on to the World wars and the Battle of the Atlantic.

As well as being vital to the export and import industry, the River Foyle is also an important environmental site, and its calm surface s belies the fact that it is the fastest flowing river in Europe for its size.

The River Foyle and tributaries are designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest, with one of the largest populations of Atlantic Salmon in England.