Command of the Oceans Galleries Open at The Historic Dockyard Chatham

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Artelia has project managed the latest permanent display to The Historic Dockyard of Chatham – Command of the Oceans. The remarkable galleries are built around the 260 year old skeleton of the HMS Namur, preserved where she was discovered and still lies. The Namur was one of the Royal Navy’s most significant warships of the Age of Sail.

The Command of the Oceans project was one of our most ambitious and challenging to date.

The £9m project developed by Architects, Baynes & Mitchell, has seen the upgrade of a substantial area of public realm, insertion of a new entrance building between the Mast Houses & Mould loft and Wheelwrights Shop, all Scheduled Ancient Monuments, whilst at the same time creating a new undercroft from which visitors can get up close and personal to see and smell the ancient timbers of the HMS Namur.

Our Project Management team had to ensure the ‘ship beneath the floor’, HMS Namur, was not damaged during the building of a new structure above it. Innovative techniques involving tensile wires, more commonly associated with bridge construction, were used to create a platform above the timbers, avoiding any damage to this archaeological find from scaffolding, as works progressed around it.

Command of the Oceans will be the starting point for telling the story of the Dockyard’s role in British Naval supremacy, from the 16th Century, when Sir Frances Drake learned his skills at Chatham, through its golden period of the ‘Age of Sail’ from 1700-1820 when the Dockyard’s shipwrights designed and built ships that transformed the British Navy into the most powerful sea force in the world.

Project Manager, Steve Prowse, has been at the centre, co-ordinating budgets, planning, design & construction activities from the outset and comments:

“The team has delivered a huge step change in the Dockyard’s history, one which the Dockyard, all the committed funders and team can be truly proud of. From the moment visitors arrive they will be taken back through time to arrive within the new facilities where they will find a truly unique and atmospheric experience. The old and new sitting so comfortably together is a credit to the Architect and design team. It is an emotional journey as you move through the museum, from national pride to reflective sobering moments when you appreciate the lives changed and lost during the creation of our naval history. The Command of the Ocean is a true national treasure which will engage the public of all ages and I am very proud that Artelia has been part of it”.