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National Museum of the Royal Navy launches new opening model for HMS Caroline

Date published 08/05/2024
Written by National Museum of The Royal Navy
HMS Caroline afloat in Belfast's Maritime Mile

In 2022 the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) negotiated an endowment for the future operation and maintenance of HMS Caroline with the Department for the Economy NI and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Their vital support on the endowment, and on associated leases, enabled the Museum to reopen HMS Caroline to the public at Easter 2023 and has ensured that the ship’s future in Belfast is secure. 

The passion and dedication of the team at HMS Caroline was demonstrated through the ship’s long COVID closure and through the first year of opening when visitor figures were disappointing. However, now the first year of operation is complete the Museum has reviewed the assumptions in the current operating model to test whether this is the most effective and efficient way of providing public access to the ship, and whether it is consistent with long-term sustainability. This review has been part of managing the HMS Caroline Endowment following a period of high inflation and will help to establish a foundation that can allow the development of a strategy for future investment and development of the site

The Museum has now concluded a 15-day consultation period which has proposed a new opening model for the ship. The public will now be able to visit

Off Peak Weeks:  

Friday-Sunday with 4 guided tours led by our specialist staff each day

Peak Holiday Weeks:  

Wednesday-Sunday, with visitors using our exceptional audio guides to choose their own visit route.

There may be short-term disruption as the new model is adopted but bookings can continue to made using the booking calendar

This model will significantly reduce the cost of opening the ship to the public and the annual financial drawdown on the endowment, ensuring the longer-term preservation and presence of HMS Caroline in Belfast. Unfortunately, this does impact on a number of current job roles at HMS Caroline and there will be some redundancies within the team. The decision to adopt a new pattern of opening is no reflection of the skill and enthusiasm with which individuals have executed their roles, but a hard choice driven by the financial realities which the Museum faces. We recognise that this has been a difficult time for the team, some of whom have long-standing connections to HMS Caroline, and we are committed to providing as much support as possible during this period. 

Matthew Sheldon, Interim Director General of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, said, “This has been an exceptionally challenging period for the dedicated HMS Caroline team, but we are committed to implementing an operating model that will provide the most effective way of accessing this wonderful ship at different times of the year”. 

We want to make clear that there are no plans to close HMS Caroline and there are no plans to move HMS Caroline to Portsmouth. The National Museum of the Royal Navy is committed to maintaining HMS Caroline as part of the Museum’s collection and recognises the ship’s cultural significance to the nation as the sole surviving ship to have fought at the Battle of Jutland and to the people of Belfast.