The team at Crofton Beam Engines had the pleasure of visiting two fascinating and contrasting heritage visitor attractions in Southampton last Saturday.
A party of 22 Crofton volunteers and staff spent the afternoon as guests of Marketing Director Nigel Philpott and the team at SS Shieldhall enjoying a memorable Solent cruise. Like Crofton, SS Shieldhall is a superb example of steam preservation. It is unique as a time capsule providing a working example of steamship machinery both above and below deck, typical of the cargo and passenger ships that plied the oceans of the world from the 1870s until the mid 1960s, by which time they were all but extinct. It is believed to be the largest working steam ship in Northern Europe, and is owned and operated entirely by voluntary effort.
Again like Crofton, SS Shieldhall is supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund so as well as having chance to tour the ship and see the wonderful boiler room and engines that power it, we were able to have some very useful and productive discussions about the commercial, visitor experience and quality management aspects of running a small heritage visitor attraction.
Earlier in the day the team was also able to visit neighbouring Royal Victoria Chapel, in the Royal Victoria Country Park as guests of the Hampshire Countryside Service. In 2015 the National Heritage Lottery Fund granted £3.1m to Royal Victoria for its “Uncovering the stories of Netley Military Hospital” project, with the aim of conserving the Grade II* listed chapel, which is all that remains of the former military hospital on the site. The Chapel is now open to give visitors a unique opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the patients, doctors and nurses of the once vast and imposing Royal Victoria Military Hospital. We were treated to a wonderful tour of the site by Learning and Participation Officer Ursula Pearce, topped off by a visit to the Chapel’s tower with its superb new tower interpretation and refurbished spaces which we were able to try out as shown in the photo.
Volunteers and staff from both organisations will be guests at Crofton later in the year in return for their generous hospitality.