Explosion! is the Museum of Naval Firepower situated in the former Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Priddy's Hard, in Gosport, Hampshire, England. It now forms part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy. In 1750 the Board of Ordnance purchased 40 acres of agricultural land from Jane Priddy (hence Priddy’s Hard) and others to construct an earth rampart as part of the defences of Portsmouth Harbour and the Dockyard. The defences, which included two demi-bastions, a moat and a covered way, were completed in 1756. Soon afterwards, the Board decided to relocate the gunpowder stores from Portsmouth to Priddy’s Hard for safety reasons and in 1771 a magazine, office and cooperage were constructed with an adjoining camber basin on land within the ramparts. Officer’s houses and large gardens were added in 1777. As the Navy grew in size and importance, Priddy’s Hard Royal Naval Armaments Depot was one of a network of ordnance yards and gunwharfs established close to the Royal Dockyards to supply war ships with their guns, ammunition and associated services. Historically, the depots were the responsibility of a Board of Ordnance.
In 1805 the Grand Magazine on the site was used to store Gunpowder that was delivered to Priddy’s Hard from Waltham Abbey. Gunpowder was transported from this Magazine to the Trafalgar Fleet via a Camber Dock, the Fleet included Nelson’s Flagship HMS Victory. Later in the century an office building and houses for the officers, workers cottages, a cooperage and stables were added. During the Napoleonic Wars the magazine complex was extended and in 1848 a laboratory complex was built to the south of the office block specifically for testing the quality and condition of gunpowder. Between 1850 and 1860 as a result of the technological advances of the industrial revolution, breech loading guns and iron-clad warships were developed. In 1860 HMS Warrior and HMS Black Prince were launched, iron ships armed with Sir William Armstrong’s breech loading guns. These ships rendered all wooden warships obsolete within a year. To service the new type of ammunition purpose-built shell filling rooms were built along Forton Lake.
In 1861 “C” Magazine was built and in 1879 the largest magazine, “E” Magazine was built. During the 1860s the fortifications were strengthened incorporating brick gateways, carponniers and or covered firing positions to cover the moats, Armstrong guns were fitted to the two demi-bastions. By 1886, further magazines and buildings were added following the adoption of cordite as the main propellant and the need to separate the most dangerous testing and filling operations from the storage areas. This also required the installation of a narrow gauge railway system across the whole site to transport ordnance. The new Powder and Shell Piers on the Harbour superseded the camber and Rolling Way to the magazines. The site was altered continuously during the early twentieth century to meet the evolving needs of naval ordnance technology and to improve the security of the site from both landward and seaward attack. The site was fully utilised during the Second World War with the introduction of 2,500 women workers who filled jobs vacated by men on active service. The site was last used for significant naval activity during the Falklands Conflict in 1982, and was vacated by RNAD Gosport in 1988 when it relocated to Frater further north on the Harbour.
The museum is housed in a group of listed buildings which centre around the original powder magazine of 1771. These sit on the edge of a delightful camber basin on the western shore of Portsmouth Harbour, with views across to Portchester Castle, Whale Island and the Naval Base. Explosion traces the development of naval armaments from gunpowder to the Exocet missile...but the museum is not just about big bangs! The displays explore the 18th century origins of Priddy's Hard, its historic buildings and earthworks, bringing alive the site's rich history. There's a fascinating social history too, including the story of how 2,500 women worked on the site during its peak in World War II. It describes the role that Priddy's Hard played in naval operations worldwide for over 200 years, as well as its importance to the local Gosport community, which not only armed the Navy but also fed and watered it. Nor are the human, social and moral consequences of warfare forgotten - visitors will be inspired as well as educated and entertained.
The museum's extensive and unique collection was mostly assembled by superintendents of the former Naval Armaments Depot at Priddy's Hard. If it hadn't been for their foresight, a large slice of naval history would have been lost. Thanks to their efforts the museum boasts an extensive collection which includes small arms, cannon and guns, shells and munitions, mines, torpedoes and modern missiles. There's even an atom bomb, whose ominous hulk meets visitors on arrival. But alongside the hardware, Explosion tells a human story - of the designers, makers, seamen and thousands of female munitions workers who worked with these armaments over the centuries. From the beginning of exhibition, where a simulated locker room reveals Priddy's Hard through the eyes of those who worked there, visitors experience a real sense of the lives which this amazing story has touched. Throughout the exhibition, the exhibits are brought to life with dramatic audio-visual effects and scene-setting, computer interactives and hands-on displays.
The Museum has complete wheelchair access to all of its permanent galleries within the Museum and in the Museum Conference Hall. The Museum and Conference Hall also are equipped with disabled toilet facilities for both Men and Women. The Museum Ticket Desk and Conference Hall are also equipped with an Induction Loop service. Although the Museum is unable to provide an interpreter to assist you within the galleries, the Museum is able to offer use of its audio manuscripts that contain text interpretation of all Museum audio and sound displays. If you are blind or partially sighted, the Museum can arrange for a member of staff or volunteer to assist you around the galleries. Please note this service must be prebooked in advance of your visit. During busy times and school hoildays, the Museum may be unable to allocate a member of staff or volunteer to assist you. Assistance dogs are welcome. Arrive in style on board the Waterbus Service linking Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower and Royal Navy Submarine Museum - only available with an All Attraction ticket.
Location : Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower, Heritage Way, Priddy's Hard, Gosport, Hampshire PO12 4LE
Transport : Portsmouth Harbour (National Rail) then ferry to Gosport + 20 minute walk. Bus Routes : Eclipse 1 and SD5 stop 20 minutes away.
Opening Times : Daily April to October 10:00 to 17:00; Saturday + Sunday only November to March 10:00 to 16:00
Tickets : Adults £10.00; Seniors £9.00; Children (5 - 16) £6.00; Disabled (Carer Free) £6.00
Tel. : 023 9250 5600