Our View of the Relocation of the Invicta Report

The Trustees of the Whitstable Museum & Gallery have this morning, emailed Democratic Services at CCC requesting that a report on the Relocation of the Invicta Engine should be withdrawn.

The report considers four locations for the Invicta:

  • The Beaney Museum and Gallery, Canterbury
  • The Poor Priests Hospital in Canterbury
  • Whitstable Community Museum & Gallery
  • Whitstable Harbour

This is an Agenda item in both of the next CAMP and WAMP meetings scheduled on the 8th and 10th January respectively.

This report is available as an attachment to both Agenda documents. The Original Report

The report has a significant number of inaccuracies / omissions and is so biased in favour of the Whitstable Harbour option that it unfairly reflects the true situation and will mislead members.

We do not believe that amending the facts of the report will be sufficient because these changes may have an effect on the conclusions drawn. We respectfully ask that this report is withdrawn.

With limited speaking times, it would not be possible to raise each of the concerns by publicly addressing the meeting, and it is likely that members will have read the report and formed an opinion prior to attending.

We are surprised that this report is being presented ahead of any decision by The Harbour Board on their plans for the South Quay shed. It would seem more logical to have a firm decision on the shape and funding of the Harbour development, prior to a decision on the Invicta being taken.

This report has been produced by the Principal Engineer (Maritime) Harbour Development, who has a vested interest in the harbour. This calls into question the impartiality of the report, which, despite requests, was not shared with Whitstable Museum before publication.

We have only concerned ourselves with the two Whitstable options considered in the original CCC report. Our assessment of each of these locations is detailed below.

Our views on the “Relocation of the Invicta Engine

 Whitstable Harbour

The Harbour location does offer a good combination of exposure and current visitor numbers, although not as good as the Beaney.

However, the plans for the South Quay Shed are still at an early stage, and a visitor centre is just “One of several proposals”. Previous plans for the development of the South Quay, and this has been going on for at least 10 years, have not been realised and there is a medium to high risk that this will not be delivered.

The South Quay has flooded many times as a result of high tides and storm waves in recent years. The longer-term projections for sea level rise indicate that average levels in the east of England will continue to rise and storms become more frequent.  The proposed visitor centre is 5ft (1.5m) BELOW the top of the sea defence wall which is behind the South Quay.  Land to the seaward side of the existing defences will be at risk from more regular flooding.

The glazed design, necessary for environmental protection removes the opportunity for visitors to properly connect with the Invicta. It becomes an object in a box. Interpretation is vital to engage visitors with the C&WR story.  The report does not consider this essential factor.  In any other situation, for example a bid to HLF, the engagement strategy would be analysed and costed in detail.  Would a static display in the harbour be considered sufficient?  Is an educational programme required?  Will the harbour employ staff to operate the visitor centre or will it create a new volunteer team?  The Williams report commissioned by CCC in 2012 (section 9.02) estimated a net cost to CCC of £4.27 per visitor.

The Harbour Board’s requirement for the South Quay Development to be income generating, makes a full-blown Heritage Centre  unsustainable. If, which seems likely, the Invicta is to be primarily used as décor, then it would make more sense to move the newly renovated Invicta replica to the Harbour, and use this to re-direct visitors to the Whitstable Museum. This supports the Harbour Commitment that Harbour activity should not cause significant detriment to local traders.

The development of the South Quay shed may well increase visitor numbers to the Harbour. However, the Invicta, used simply as a part of the décor, is unlikely to have a substantial impact on these numbers.

The Harbour does NOT have a professional museum team with the appropriate curatorial expertise. This would need to be “bought in” and would incur ongoing costs and may put sustainability at risk.

Moving the Invicta to the Harbour would cannibalise the existing heritage offer in the town, impacting the Whitstable Museum and indeed reduce visitor numbers to High Street and Oxford Street shops.

Historically there is little to tie the Invicta with the Harbour. The Invicta was built in 1829, delivered in January 1830 and could not have been delivered to the Harbour, which was not built until 1832.  Before the harbour was completed in March 1832, Invicta had been replaced by horses and subsequently a third stationary engine on the Church Street incline.  Invicta only worked the South Street to Bogshole section of the line and was not powerful enough to take wagons into the harbour.

The Transport Trust requirements include:

  1. Protection from external elements, particularly if in a marine environment:
  2. A humidity and temperature controlled environment around the engine itself:
  3. Security and protection from damage through anti-social behaviour or vandalism

The Harbour option does not explain how these requirements are to be delivered.  Meeting these requirements would have a large capital cost and the cost ongoing support is not considered.

The report lists Environmental Sustainability/Biodiversity implications and states that the Whitstable Harbour development would incorporate the latest developments in renewable energies such as solar PV and thermal panels, with rainwater harvesting and possibly marine source heat pumps for a container heating network.”  As no decisions have been reached on whether this will be a refurbishment or new build this can only be speculation.

Conclusion:

Whitstable Harbour is least able to satisfy the requirements of the Transport Trust, other than high footfall.

There are very real environmental risks associated with the harbour location, particularly from the increasing risk of flooding.

This plan for the South Quay shed is only one of several being considered, and no final decision has as yet been made by the Harbour Board.

The Invicta is a nationally important artefact and requires high-quality interpretation for children, adults and expert visitors. The Harbour does not have its own resources to deliver an interpretation strategy and has not explained how they would achieve this.

Locating the Invicta at the Harbour would have a negative impact on the newly taken over Whitstable Community Museum and the town.

The Harbour option is therefore High Risk.

Whitstable Community Museum

There is a good case for locating the Invicta in Whitstable given the engine’s important place in both town and harbour history. The engine and related artefacts have the potential to tell a strong and often untold story about Whitstable and the industrial revolution and the roles played by three key figures – Stevenson, Telford and Brunel.

The Council has previously indicated support for the idea of moving the engine to Whitstable, and more specifically to the Whitstable Museum.

The museum already tells the story of the Invicta and the town’s industrial and maritime heritage.

The Transport Trust requirements include

  1. Protection from external elements, particularly if in a marine environment:
  2. A humidity and temperature controlled environment around the engine itself:
  3. Security and protection from damage through anti-social behaviour or vandalism

The exiting Whitstable Museum building provides protection from the external elements in environmentally controlled spaces and is the home to a large collection of historically significant artefacts, many relevant to the Invicta story.

WCM&G has environmental monitoring systems in place and has Arts Council accreditation for both the environmental conditions and care of the collection.

The WCM&G has at least two staff on duty whenever the museum is open and has museum grade fire and intruder alarm systems.

Whitstable Community Museum proposes to complete this project in 2 stages.

Stage 1(Option 2 in the report) would be to locate the Invicta in the main hall, which would require relatively minor structural alterations to the western elevation.

CCC estimated the cost of this work to total £70k.

As with the other options £25k of council funding is available for transportation costs and WCM&G have set aside £35k in reserves for this project. The remaining £10k will be raised in a number of ways including

  1. Grant applications based on the project
  2. Donations
  3. Crowd funding

Further we have development budgets of £4k to fund interpretation and education.

Stage 2 (Option 1 in the report) Once the Invicta was on display work could then start on the final stage of the full project which would totally reshape the museum and allow us to overcome the access, space and environmental issues that we currently face in our commitment to protect, preserve and display the collection.

Sustainability has to be a major consideration and for WCMG revenue costs are low as we have over 60 trained volunteers and can provide two duty staff when the museum is open.  Other teams operate the shop, perform cataloguing, renovate the whelk boat, curate major exhibitions and run the schools programme.

Conclusion

The WCM&G is best placed to satisfy all of the requirements of the Transport Trust although at present it offers less public visibility than the Harbour or The Beaney.

In addition, the museum is being improved by the Trust. Since taking over the running of the museum visitor numbers have increased by over 300%.  Having the Invicta at the museum would undoubtedly further increase visitor numbers and provide a focal point for the museum.  The recently introduced education and outreach programmes are certain to further increase visitor numbers.  Our target is 30,000 visitors pa. (Over 32,000 visitors in a year have been achieved in the past).

Museum opening time has been extended each year since we first opened and has increased by 50%, with a target of 7 days a week.

The majority of the funding required to complete stage 1 is available, and the work is straightforward. There is a high probability of a successful outcome.

The Whitstable Museum option is Low Risk.