I signed the petition yesterday after reading of the proposed closure with some sadness.
At the time when money was being raised, and a bid made to the Heritage Lottery to fund the opening of the museum, I was based at Woolwich, in Artillery Barracks, where the project team was based. I recall all the proposals and the great efforts to raise funds, not least from the serving regiments.
Woolwich Arsenal was one of two sites proposed for the museum and people were quite divided as to the best location in order to get the most visitors. It was realised even then that visitor numbers were going to be the lifeblood of the whole scheme. The other location was Larkhill, on Salisbury Plain, immediately adjacent to Stonehenge, where it was known that a brand new visitor centre was to be built. The Larkhill advocates felt that as Stonehenge was a world heritage site, with huge numbers of visitors, it was a no-brainer to locate the Firepower Museum there to catch the visitors from the adjacent focus.
The Woolwich advocates were obsessed with being near to the Royal Artillery Barracks (with the longest Georgian façade in Europe), the (then) ruin of the old Royal Military Academy, and the various heritage buildings in the old Royal Arsenal. They seemed to ignore that that part of South London was a sink area, with an increasingly diverse population of mainly immigrant origin, who had little interest in the British historical heritage around them. In the end the Woolwich 'option' won the day. The Larkhill advocates were remarkably prescient and predicted exactly what would eventually happen.
The rest, as they say, is history! I know a good many people who will be saying....we told you so. It was always going to be about location, location, location.
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