History of the Emsworth Maritime and Historical Trust and Museum
The Emsworth Maritime and Historical Trust and Emsworth Museum were the brainchild of David Rudkin. He lived in Thorney Road as a child at the end of the 1st World War and could see the oyster fleet of J.D. Foster at their berths in Hendy’s Quay (at the bottom of King Street).
He and his friends would play near the Slipper Millpond and got to know the fishermen who manned the oyster smacks. David left Emsworth for many years, but eventually made his home here later in life.
When he returned the oyster fleet was still in the harbour, but derelict and rotting. The last oyster smack to be built was never rigged or used, and had been left moored alongside the larger oyster storage pen in the middle of the harbour, known as The Ark. David hoped to be able to save the hulk and use it as a museum, either afloat or onshore.
In 1975 he held an informal meeting of like-minded people to form an association with this object in mind the Emsworth Maritime Trust was formed.
By 1982 the original project, to save the hulk, had been abandoned through lack of funds. Chichester Harbour Conservancy declared the wreck a danger to navigation and an order was obtained to remove the hulks from the harbour. Various artefacts had been salvaged together with other items and documents, so the emphasis was to establish a museum to preserve and display these items. At that year’s A.G.M. the Emsworth Maritime Trust became the Emsworth Maritime & Historical Trust.
David spent many hours looking for suitable premises for a museum and eventually Havant Borough Council offered a lease of the hall of the old Council Offices above the Fire Station in North Street. The Museum was established as a small independent Museum run and funded by volunteers, who must pay a membership fee to belong to the Trust. The first President was the late Earl Bessborough (of Stansted Park) and he opened the Museum in 1988. Founding members who contributed funds to launch the project are commemorated on a board in the reception area.