top of page

The Isle of Wight Classic Boat Museum receives National Lottery support for its WW1 centenary exhibi

The Classic Boat Museum, in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, has received £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for “WW1 Isle of Innovation”, a project to explore the heritage that came from the innovations in maritime and aviation industries during the First World War (WW1) and took place on the island.

This has been made possible by National Lottery players through HLF’s “First World War then and now “programme.

The project will focus on the development of ships and aeroplanes hull and propeller design for high speed craft. Amongst many innovative inventions at the time this led to the first successful flying boat. These developments were the result of close cooperation between the Thorneycroft, Saunders and Sopwith families who lived and worked on the Island living in Cowes and Bembridge.

(All photos courtesy of Beken of Cowes)

The grant will be used to look in detail for the first time, at the links between these innovations and the development of successful shipbuilding, boating and maritime aviation industries on the Island leading up to and during WW1.

The project will enable local people on the Isle of Wight to come together to preserve the memories and heritage of the people who lived through WW1.

Volunteers from The Classic Boat Museum, together with students from local schools, will research records and collections from the Island and the mainland. They will collect photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, letters and photos to better understand the local maritime and aviation history.

With help from professionals, the volunteers will be trained in interpreting these archives and in the preparation of exhibition design and displays.

The information gathered will form a new archive and will be shared with the public in an exhibition at the museum to celebrate the armistice in November 2018. The archive will allow the public to discuss, contribute, share and research information about this important time in the history of Europe and the IoW.

Commenting on the award, Classic Boat Museum Chairman Mark McNeil said:

“We are thrilled to have received the support of the National Lottery. The Island has an interesting untold story during this important era. We will now be able to tell this story which shows how the Island industries grew and developed as a direct consequence of War. We shall be encouraging new volunteers from schools,

associations and the public and our aim is to put on a really good exhibition.”

Michelle Roffe, Head of HLF South East: “We are delighted to support this project, which, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, will mean that more people will be able to get involved with, protect, and learn about the exciting heritage right on their doorstep.”

Notes to editors:

About: The Classic Boat Museum

The Classic Boat Museum in Cowes, Isle of Wight was established in 1996 by Maurice Wilmot.

Maurice died in 2009 but the Museum and Gallery continue to go from strength to strength. The fine collection of classic and unique craft and artefacts reflects the on-going care and dedication of the Trustees and of the committed team of volunteers over many years.

The aim is to increase awareness of maritime craft and showing their historic development and how this relates to the development of the Island and its marine heritage.

The Museum exhibits restored boats and associated artefacts, with records of the part played in their construction and design by companies and people of the Isle of Wight.

The museum has over 60 yachts and boats plus photographic and printed archives and is currently developing a new exhibition site in West Cowes to add to the successful gallery in East Cowes.

Heritage Lottery Fund and support for First World War heritage

  • Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLF supported.

  • To date, £82million in HLF grants has been awarded to projects across the UK so they can mark the Centenary and explore all aspects of First World War heritage that matters to them. Through its First World War: then and now programme, HLF is making at least £1million available per year for six years until 2019. It is providing grants between £3,000 and £10,000 enabling communities and groups right across the UK to explore, conserve and share their First World War heritage and deepen their understanding of the impact of the conflict. To find out how to apply for funding visit If a group needs a grant of more than £10,000 for a First World War project, it can apply to HLF through its open programmes

  • To join the conversation on social media please use #understandingww1

Further information

For further information, images and interviews please contact:

Mark Mc Neill, Chairman, Classic Boat Museum

07790 777101

Rodney Ireland, Curator of the WWI project


bottom of page