Museum plan may see Onyx winched ashore
Last updated at 13:18, Saturday, 19 June 2010
NEW plans could see a vintage submarine winched on to dry land. The sub has been in Barrow, but closed to the public for four years.
By Jon Simpson
The Evening Mail understands talks are taking place involving the owner of the former HMS Onyx, Barrow port owner ABP, the Submarine Heritage Centre group that wants to make it into a museum, and BAE, to see what should become of the diesel-powered vessel.
The submarine, which is tied up at a BAE mooring in Buccleuch Dock, is not taking part in this weekend’s Festival of the Sea in the neighbouring Devonshire Dock.
In 2006, when it had just arrived, it was displayed in the festival area but members of the public were not allowed on board.
BAE has allowed members of the Barrow-based Submarine Heritage Centre group of ex-submariners, which is responsible for Onyx, and the Submarine Heritage Centre project, to maintain it.
But BAE has not allowed the submarine to be opened to the public while moored in Buccleuch Dock because of concerns about health and safety issues.
The initial plan was for the 300ft long sub to be located in the empty dock at the front of the Dock Museum.
However, the huge cost of getting a channel dredged, the dock gate altered to get it in, fears from town hall officials about being charged with maintenance costs if the venture failed, and the failure to attract any big grants, have stymied that plan.
Now a source close to the project has told the Evening Mail the latest proposal is to winch the submarine ashore. Submarines of the same class have been winched ashore to become dry museums in Canada and Australia.
The 1,400 tonne boat would be winched on to Barrow Island if a suitable site can be agreed on, to a position where visiting liners and yachts using the proposed new marina access canal would see it as a landmark.
Members of the Submarine Heritage Centre would then hope to open it to the public.
The source said: “It would be a lot cheaper than putting it in the graving dock (at the Dock Museum).
“Something has at least started to happen.
“One of the first things people on a liner would see would be a ruddy great submarine sticking up.
“I have some confidence it will happen. I don’t think the money will be a problem like it would in the graving dock.”
He said the first move was to resolve whether the plan is feasible and what it would cost.
Talks were taking place this week about the plan and a possible site.
Onyx was formerly part of a naval museum in Birkenhead, which had to close when its dockside site was needed for housing.
Although built in Birkenhead and not at Vickers, it is an Oberon class boat, identical to several Oberons built in Barrow.
It was bought for the town by Barrovian businessman Joe Mullen, who now lives in Lincolnshire. Mr Mullen was not available for comment.
The source told the Evening Mail: “We have got people who go down there and keep it in a good state.”
If the submarine was winched ashore its array of heavy batteries would be removed first, lightening the winching load.
The source said interest has been shown in the Onyx in Scotland and abroad, if Barrow does not make good use of it.
Of its absence yet again from the sea festival, the source said: “From BAE’s point of view it is too risky to have the general public running around Onyx within their site. They just don’t want the insurance problems that arise.”
BAE said at the time of its 2008 festival: “While works are still under way preparing the vessel (HMS Onyx) in readiness for her debut as a museum piece, and with a potential 20,000 visiting the site over the course of the festival weekend, it was felt that in the interests of health and safety it would not be practical to allow such large numbers of people on and off what is a very confined space.”
Before it was towed to Barrow, Onyx was toured by hundreds of members of the public each month.
First published at 10:30, Saturday, 19 June 2010
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
Have your say
Last week I was in Sassnitz in northern Germany. There they have HMS Otis alongside in the harbour as a museum and it gets loads of visitors every day. Made me smile to see an ex RN sub advertised as an Unterseebooten (U-boat) museum. Shame we don't have that with HMS Onyx....As for the Invinvible, I just have to wonder who would have welcomed it after all the outcry there was about the "prison ship" aka Bibby Renaissance. After all, Invincible is much bigger and would have blocked a lot more views for Barrow Island than the Renaissance ever did...
Having served on HMS Onyx and taken her into decommission, it's quite distressing to think that she might be gotten rid of. You only have to read about the success of the Diesel Boat Reunions to realise that there are a large number of folk out there who look back with pride at the service they gave on these special boats. Have a look at this link http://gobigorgohomeblog.com/tag/submarine as a worst case scenario, could this not be considered here in the UK?
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