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Royal Artillery Museum will move to Wiltshire

Written by Alastair McKenzie on 19 April 2015.

Royal Artillery 105mm guns firing

Plans are at an early stage for a major new attraction on Salisbury Plain.

At a social media travel conference in Salisbury this weekend*, VisitWiltshire Chief executive, David Andrews, revealed that Wiltshire may become the new home for the Royal Artillery's Firepower Museum when its current home at Woolwich Arsenal in London, is sold in 2017.

"The plan application hasn't gone in yet, but there is a bid for a significant amount of Heritage Lottery Funding and we should know the result in May," he says.

When Woolwich Arsenal is closed, the existing museum exhibits will be moved to the Royal Artillery's base at Larkhill, but the lottery funding will make a difference to the way they are presented and the scale of the attraction. If they get the funding it'll be a fabulous attraction says David, "it's overlooking Salisbury Plain so you'll be able to see troops operating on the ranges!"

Woolwich's loss is potentially Wiltshire's gain.

Many locals in the Woolwich & Greenwich area are disappointed to see the museum go and have been petitioning for it to stay but the writing has been on the wall for a while. It came close to closure for lack of funding in 2007, and according to reports it has consistantly failed to meet its own target of 200,000 visitors annually - David Andrews suggests the number is nearer 6,000.

Meanwhile, perhaps with one eye on neighbouring Dorset's popular Bovington Tank Museum, Wiltshire is acutely aware of its own shortage of major tourist attractions. Wiltshire is a day trip, explains David Andrews. Tourists come from London to visit Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral (with its copy of the Magna Carta) then they return to London or move on to Bristol, Stratford, or the South West for their first overnight stop.

"The coach companies keep telling me, if we had one more major attraction, that overnight stop could be in Wiltshire," he says.

So he is keeping his fingers crossed that the funding comes through.

* Social Travel Britain

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