Maurice Wilmot was passionate about restoring classic boats and his passion became the springboard for the foundation of the Classic Boat Museum. Whilst sailing Dragons in Cowes, he fortuitously met Brian Charlesworth, Ian Lallow and members of the Isle of Wight Council.
Having searched for a spot to locate his museum on the south coast, Maurice was fortunate in finding support on the Isle of Wight and was offered the Newport shed to house his burgeoning collection. Although Maurice deserves the credit for the founding the museum, his vision was more a boating and social club with emphasis on presenting restored classic yachts at rallies at home and abroad. Kim Lyle, one of the founding trustees ran the Boat Shed, worked arduously to build up a 150-strong Friends’ Group and applied for registration (the forerunner of accreditation) which enabled the museum to seek public funding. Rosemary Joy, another founding trustee, built up the Gallery in the Columbine Building, which soon became the “go to” location to donate and view maritime artefacts.
In 2012, the boats were moved to the Albany Building, East Cowes, and in 2018 were relocated to the current site at the Medina Yard, Thetis Road, Cowes (west). The museum retains the use of the Newport site for the storage and restorage of third-party boats. During these years, the boat collection has continued to expand and opportunities to restore craft increased. In the new premises, Green Light IOW offers wood-carving classes to vulnerable adults. The Gallery continues to grow in the Columbine Building. It has just undergone a major refurbishment with the entire ground floor now devoted to exhibition space. The archives and library have been reorganised on the upper floor with space for visiting researchers and yachting historians.
Maurice died in 2009, but the Museum continues to go from strength to strength. Collecting classic vessels and unique maritime artefacts reflects the on-going care and dedication of the Trustees and the committed team of volunteers over many years.
We would like to thank all the volunteers who have works so enthusiastically over the years to make the museum the exciting place it is today.