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PHOTO GALLERY: Muckleburgh Collection at Weybourne expands as it approaches 25 years

07:00 17 June 2012

Sir Michael Savory with the original bren gun carrier from which the Muckleburgh military collection grew at Weybourne. Photo: Bill Smith

Sir Michael Savory with the original bren gun carrier from which the Muckleburgh military collection grew at Weybourne. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2012

A major military museum is “bulling up” to parade its historic tanks, guns and uniforms for another season – but with a new polish after its first major revamp for 24 years.

The Muckleburgh Military Collection at Weybourne began life in 1988 with just 25 exhibits in the old Naafi buildings on a clifftop camp that had billeted troops in the first world war, and bristled with anti-aircraft guns in the second.

It now has 150 vehicles and thousands of other items from cap badges to huge howitzers in a complex that has added extra tank halls over the years – but has just undergone a major winter building programme and overhaul.

A new restaurant has a giant mural charting the history of battle tanks being painted by north Norfolk artist Eddie Goodridge, and leads on to a new viewing area for tank demonstrations. It will also house a nature talk area dominated by a stuffed 7ft bear brought back out of storage after demands from visiting children.

The museum overlooks a sea which now has a windfarm on the horizon, but is also deep enough inshore to make it a prime place for invasion – a threat which saw plans for a fort there dating back to the 17th century.

The new section also has an education room to host visiting parties including schools. And the knock-on effect has seen several of the previous displays revamped for the new season.

Owner Sir Michael Savory said the attraction, which currently draws about 38,000 visitors a year, was looking to step up to 50,000.

The new push was because he had only just got back to the family’s privately-run museum after retiring from a 40-year career in stockbroking.

“More than half our visitors have been here before, so we need to freshen things up. “We want to make it active and hands on. All our tanks are working, and you can feel and touch them unlike in some museums,” he explained.

These days he can be founded rolling up his sleeves doing electrical and engineering work as well as planning and managing the museum.

“It goes back to when I was a child brought up on Meccano and taking bicycles apart. I always wanted to be an engineer, but was told it was my duty to go and work in the City in 1961. Now I have got back to what I really love.”

Among the display halls is a “half track” armoured car that was bought from a Greek scrapyard in cut up bits and reassembled over two years – typical of the painstaking restoration work that goes on behind the scenes in the museum workshops, which are currently rebuilding a 1943 Comet tank.

Elsewhere on the site anti-aircraft gun emplacements that had been filled with rubble have now been cleared by offenders on probation and will have their guns reinstalled for a new exhibit. Buildings near an airstrip are being improved to accommodate up to 50 cadets on camps.

The family bought the disused camp intending to farm it – but after demolishing more than 200 old buildings found the old Naafi was ideal to house a small collection first housed in Scotland close to where Sir Michael’s father Berry – an ex Hurricane fighter pilot – did his training. The museum then “got in the way” and became the main focus, as the collection grew steadily over the years. It meant that fields the family initially planned to farm were only now hosting their first crop of sugar beet.

“We got around to it eventually – 25 years later,” said Sir Michael.

The Muckleburgh Collection hosts an annual military display weekend on June 23 and 24, with a full programme of tank demonstrations, tank driving, costumed re-enactors and vehicle rides from 10am to 5pm both days. For more information about the event and the collection call 01263 588284/588210 or visit www.muckleburgh.co.uk

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