The Nautical Museum: a transformational new visitor experience

The regeneration of the Nautical Museum is a transformative development project in the heart of Castletown.

Both the stories told at the Nautical Museum, and surrounding the Peggy and her creator George Quayle, are of great international significance and this exciting development will further contribute to the already rich cultural life of Castletown and the Isle of Man. It will also create a landmark venue to be proud of, housing a world-class, family-friendly visitor attraction with a broad appeal, highlighting the wider story of the maritime history of the Isle of Man.

The Peggy is one of the most precious artefacts in the Island’s National Collections, she is the oldest complete vessel on the UK National Register of Historic Vessels and has captured the imagination of all those who have seen her or heard her unique story.  Manx National Heritage (MNH) are committed to returning her to Castletown and enabling her to be showcased at the Nautical Museum, telling her unique story in the best possible light and raising the profile of her significance on an international scale.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Last updated: 27 July 2023

What is so important about Peggy?

The Peggy is a unique survival of international 18th century maritime history. She is the last intact surviving shallop and the oldest surviving schooner in the world. She is the oldest surviving vessel to have been fitted with sliding keels (dagger boards). Uniquely from this period, she survives nearly complete and unrestored and even more unusually, her masts and spars also survived with the vessel.

Whilst the Isle of Man is not part of the UK the significance of the Peggy is reflected in her extraordinary listing in the National Historic Fleet, a sub-set of the National Register of Historic  Vessels (NRHV) managed by National Historic Ships UK.

National Historic Fleet vessels are distinguished by:

  • Being of pre-eminent national or regional significance
  • Spanning the spectrum of UK maritime history
  • Illustrating changes in construction and technology
  • Meriting a higher priority for long term conservation

There are around 200 vessels in the National Historic Fleet which have been assessed for significance based on their age, design innovations, historical associations, level of originality,  condition and rarity.

How will visitors experience the Peggy and Nautical Museum when the project is completed?

The development of a vibrant world-class all-weather visitor experience will present the story of the Peggy and her owner/designer within the context of the Island’s wider maritime history. This redevelopment will create an accessible and immersive environment aimed to engage with a diverse visitor demographic, not just those with a maritime interest. Visitors will journey through the original buildings and encounter the spectacle of a fully-rigged Peggy beautifully and atmospherically displayed in a contemporary purpose-designed gallery.

Nautical Museum Concept Visualisations 2021

What is the relationship between Peggy and the Nautical Museum?

The Nautical Museum and the Peggy are irrevocably interconnected and interdependent in terms of their heritage values and significance:

  • The Peggy was designed and built for George Quayle who was from a prominent Manx family and who had a career in finance, commerce and politics
  • The land adjacent to Bridge House, now the Nautical Museum site, was acquired for the express purpose of running a sailing boat and it includes George Quayle’s original boathouse and
    private dock which were built specifically to suit the Peggy.

It is impossible to adequately tell the Peggy’s story without telling the story of George Quayle, the Nautical Museum and life in Castletown and the Isle of Man in the late 18th and early 19th centuries

Why is the George Quayle story so important to the Isle of Man?

George Quayle lived in Castletown between 1757 and 1835. His wider family played a key role in the administration and economy of the Isle of Man during a time of constitutional change,  Revestment. Four generations held the office of Clerk of the Rolls at Castle Rushen. The family were heavily involved in high politics as well as the military, economic and social life of the island. Quayle himself was a prominent Manx businessman and politician during the Napoleonic Wars and at the height of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

How will the project be funded?

A fundraising campaign will be developed with the target of raising at least 50% of the project costs. The balance will be requested from Government as a capital bid.

How has MNH arrived at the budget cost of £6.1m?

The costs are based on the concept designs which were calculated using assessments by a professional cost consultant and recent ‘actual’ exhibition design costs. Market testing will be undertaken when full design details have been agreed and the whole project cost is secured.

Why is the project going to cost so much?

The vision for the site is ambitious but wholly appropriate if the Peggy is to be accommodated in a way that is suitable to maintain her in stable conditions and tell the story of the Peggy, her  owner George Quayle, and 18th century Isle of Man in a way that marks it out as a world class Heritage visitor attraction adding significant value to the wider visitor economy and contributing to Exchequer benefit for the Government The project is multifaceted and the budget cost includes the design, construction and development of the new boathouse for the Peggy at the Nautical Museum, together with the costs to conserve and redisplay the registered buildings, Quayle’s private dock and introduce a modern and engaging experience for all as part of the Nautical Museum Heritage visitor attraction. The opportunity exists to return the Peggy to public display in Castletown, within a vibrant world-class, fully accessible Heritage visitor attraction, for the enjoyment, engagement and education of current and future generations.

How does the approximate cost of £6.1m compare with similar projects?

  • The Newport Ship, Newport, Wales was reported in 2014 as requiring a minimum of £4m just to display the remains of the ship in a simple industrial building.
  • In 2016 a £5m makeover of the Mary Rose museum in Portsmouth was completed. This was in addition to previous £39m spent on conserving and displaying her.
  • Preservation and restoration of the SS Great Britain, the first iron screw propelled ocean going ship and her dry dock to include visitor facilities was completed in 2005 at a cost of £9.5m.
  • In 2014 the redevelopment of the Vasa Museum in Stockholm was completed at a cost of approx. 215million SEK at 2021 prices (approx.£17.8m)
  • The National Maritime Museum, Cornwall was completed in 2003 at a cost of £21.5m.
  • The Cutty Sark, the world’s last surviving tea clipper, was devastated by fire in May 2007 and a £50 million restoration project was completed in 2012.

Will the £6.1m include an overhaul of the Nautical Museum and a refreshed interpretation of the maritime history of the Island?

Yes. Without George Quayle we would not have the rich heritage of the Peggy, the Nautical Museum and Quayle’s archive available to invest in. These components are so fundamentally interwoven that the £6.1m has been planned to include investment across the whole Nautical Museum site. Re-development of the site will enable the Peggy and George Quayle’s story to be placed in the wider context of our Island nation’s maritime history and more specifically against the intriguing backdrop of late 18th century Castletown, Manx life, and commerce. Investment and development will maximise accessibility and for the first time parts of the historic complex that were not previously part of the visitor route will be readily accessible.

How much has MNH spent on the project to date?

Total costs of £594,015 includes the cost of:

  • removing the Peggy from the Nautical Museum to her temporary storage unit £100,645
  • temporary storage for the Peggy including capital costs £468,580
  • costs of renovation materials £4,850
  • cost of labour for renovation £19,940

Will this project generate jobs and further investment in Castletown?

Heritage projects are proven catalysts for regeneration. Castletown already has a concentration of Heritage attractions including one of the best preserved medieval castles in the world. The  development of a world-class fully accessible visitor experience at the Nautical Museum will add to the town’s attractiveness as a visitor destination and increase its appeal for further investment.

The addition of a fully accessible world-class visitor attraction, further enhances the tourism offer of the Island when promoting the Isle of Man more widely.  A vibrant visitor experience with wide appeal will encourage greater footfall and longer dwell time – with high appeal to the Travel Trade industry sector as well as independent travellers.

What will be the admission price when the Nautical Museum re-opens its doors?

Admission charges will be benchmarked against similar UK and other Island attractions.

Will MNH be approaching local companies for Corporate sponsorship/ support?

MNH will be seeking support for the project from a variety of sources as part of the fundraising campaign and would welcome enquiries from  individuals, groups or Corporates interested in making a contribution to the Peggy fundraising appeal.

Will it still be the Nautical Museum?

Redevelopment of the site will enable the Peggy to be placed in the wider context of our Island nation’s maritime history and more specifically against the intriguing backdrop of late 18th century Manx life, Castletown and the Quayle family. In addition many other MNH sites, including The House of Manannan and the Manx Museum, will continue to play an important role in telling the story of our maritime history.

Why is there a focus on George Quayle

Without George Quayle there would be no Peggy and historic boathouse. The direct associations between buildings, objects, archives and George Quayle are the dominant factor in determining the history and significance of the site. The Nautical Museum opened in the 1950’s at a time when far less was known and understood about the intriguing story of George Quayle and the Peggy. Redevelopment will enable both the story of the Quayle family and the context of the Island’s maritime history to be presented in a more coherent manner. At the same time the wider maritime history of the Isle of Man will also continue to be told at the House of Manannan and the Manx Museum.

Why was the Peggy removed from the Nautical Museum?

To safeguard her from decay caused by high humidity and to protect her from damage caused by tidal flooding.

How many visitors does the Nautical Museum attract in an average year a) with the Peggy there b) after Peggy was removed?

a. In an average year in the last decade when Peggy was on the site = 6,389

b. In an average year after Peggy was removed = 6,192 (pre-Covid)

Does it have to be world class? Why can’t we compromise and accept lower standards?

Peggy is widely recognised as one of the most significant maritime objects in the world. The quality of her display and conservation must reflect this.  An updated and re-invigorated Nautical Museum will provide an engaging new visitor attraction with potential to provide a valuable and positive  economic impact for the Island and Castletown, creating additional promotional opportunities off Island.

Why does the Peggy have to be rigged, it could be seen without the mast? The fully rigged Peggy could be presented in visuals only, rather than build a building just to have the Peggy on display with full mast

The Peggy is important because she is the last complete surviving shallop hull and the oldest surviving schooner rigged vessel. It is in the  vombination of both these attributes that her significance, and her meaning, resides.  Displaying her physically, complete with her masts and sail rig will enable people to view, better appreciate and understand the boat. It will also create a vibrant visitor experience with high visual impact, attracting a wider demographic.

The Peggy is a boat; surely she is designed to be able to be in water?

The Peggy is over 230 years old and is constructed from timber with iron fixings. Her expected working life would have been about twenty years. Since then, salt water and high humidity have destroyed most of her fixings, badly weakening her structure. They have also resulted in rot and insect colonisation. The Peggy would need very extensive and invasive re-building in order to float, which is not in keeping with the agreed approach to her conservation.  Keeping her wet, like a traditional working boat would have been, would only serve to recreate the conditions from which we were obliged to save her.

Why can’t the Nautical Museum be adapted to provide the correct conditions to allow the Peggy to be displayed in the near future?

The Nautical Museum is a Registered Building and the interventions required to provide an environmentally stable space for the Peggy would by  necessity destroy or profoundly damage the historic building which represents a substantial part of the collective significance of the assemblage, and which offers great interest to visitors.  The space currently available is also very restricted and would not allow the Peggy to be viewed adequately or to provide an accessible facility for visitors.

Will MNH hold an open day/have a public display of plans somewhere to enable members of the public to view the proposals and provide feedback face-to face?

Once the design has been developed further and funding is secured MNH will make plans publicly accessible as part of the consultation process.

Open days will be held at the House of Manannan in Peel from 10am-4.30pm on Monday (July 31) and at Castletown Civic Centre on Thursday, August 3 and Friday, August 4 from 10am – 7pm and 9am – 5pm respectively.

Concept visual designs for the transformational redevelopment of the Nautical Museum in Castletown will be on display during the three open days hosted by Manx National Heritage.

Showcasing proposals to create an all-weather, accessible heritage visitor attraction at the site, there will also be a digital 3D model ‘fly-thru’ of the Nautical Museum buildings, providing a virtual tour of the design which incorporates extensive conservation works to bring the historic buildings back into a state of good repair, as well as re-purposing currently unused outbuildings.

This includes the new boat hall where the Peggy, one of the most significant items held by Manx National Heritage for the nation, will be returned and displayed.

Representatives of Manx National Heritage and the Project Design Team, Dannatt Johnson Associates, will be on hand to discuss the regeneration proposals and answer any questions.


How will investment in this project support or sustain the visitor economy of the Isle of Man?

The Island is renowned for its rich heritage and Castletown has a particularly strong concentration of visitor attractions at its heart.  Heritage and Culture is one of the top reasons visitors choose to come to the Isle of Man. The addition of an accessible world-class Heritage visitor experience with one of the most significant objects in the national collections at its heart, will add to this appeal.

As an example it has been estimated that the Newport Ship could attract up to 150,000 visitors a year to Newport, boosting the south Wales economy by £7m a year.

Will a sailing replica of the Peggy be built?

The option has been considered and outline costs of construction obtained. No final decision has been taken. The benefits vs costs (including ongoing costs and liabilities and operational logistics) of such a decision need careful research and evaluation as part of the development of the project.

There are three other MNH sites in Castletown; what will this project mean for them and Castletown businesses?

The combined appeal of these heritage attractions in one location with the development of a world-class visitor experience at the Nautical Museum will create increased footfall, dwell time and visitor spend at all sites and for businesses in Castletown.

Will there be disabled toilets in the building?


Will there be a retail offer in the building?


Will there be a café in the building?

This is not envisaged with the current design and space options available.

How accessible will the building be?

The building will be made to be as accessible in all senses as it is possible to achieve within the constraints of the registered building and historic fabric. A detailed access and equality audit will guide the design process.

Will new jobs be created?

It is envisaged that there will be a requirement to create new posts to fulfil the demands of the main tourist season.

How realistic is the completion date of 2025?

The completion date is achievable but it should be recognised that external factors, including the ongoing impact of the pandemic, will present  challenges. Any delays, however short, in developing and obtaining approvals and securing funding for the scheme would prevent completion within that timescale.

Why can’t the Peggy be returned to the Nautical Museum now? Wouldn’t this cost less?

For the same reasons the Peggy was removed in 2015; the Nautical Museum site cannot provide the appropriate environmental conditions in which to accommodate the Peggy nor to prevent exposure to periodic tidal inundation. If she were returned to the Nautical Museum site MNH could not continue to conserve the Peggy into the future and would not be meeting its professional standards for her as an accessioned object or for the site as a museum.

Who has assessed the Peggy and the Nautical Museum as being of exceptional international significance?

The significance of the Peggy has been assessed by National Historic Ships UK.

The UK’s Advisory Committee on National Historic Ships was established in 2006 as a non-departmental public body reporting to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with a specific remit to advise the UK Secretary of State and other public bodies on all matters relating to historic vessels in the UK.

Further research and assessment of significance of the Nautical Museum site and the Peggy as an historic assemblage has been informed by:

Conservation of Peggy reviewed by Specialist committee:

Charles Barker, Mary Rose Trust
John Kearon, Master Shipwright & Historic Vessel Conservator
Andy Wyke, Boat Collection Manager, National Maritime Museum Cornwall

And the George Quayle Legacy Statement of Significance peer reviewed by:

Dr Eleanor Schofield, Head of Conservation, Mary Rose Trust
Stephen Beresford, Senior Conservation Boat Builder (Windermere Jetty Museum)
Hannah Cunliffe, Director National Historic Ships UK
Ross Brazier, Registered Building’s Officer (DEFA)
Louise Brennan, Regional Director, Midlands (English Heritage)
Sarah Kay, Cultural Heritage Curator (The National Trust)
Professor William Pettigrew, Department of History (Lancaster University)

Statement of Significance

How much more conservation work is required for the Peggy?

Peggy requires some cosmetic work to replace poor 20th century fillings, pacify rusting fixings and clean her paintwork. Rigging her will require planning and ingenuity. The timing of the completion of this work will be part of the overall project timetable.

What conservation work has been undertaken to the Peggy since she was removed from the Nautical Museum?

Since having been taken to her conservation facility in 2015 Peggy has undergone extensive survey and scientific analysis of her timbers, fixings, paint and rig. The relative humidity in the facility has been slowly reduced to 55% to bring the moisture content of the timbers to 14%. This is to prevent further rot and insect attack, and to reduce the rate of iron corrosion in her remaining fixings. Control of the ambient humidity to 55% will be an essential part of her redisplay.

Is the plan to display the Peggy rigged preventing her from being returned to Castletown earlier?

No, the height of the display space is not the issue.  The pre-eminent constraints preventing the Peggy from being returned to Castletown are the wholly inadequate environmental conditions and the high risk of tidal inundation which have contributed to her deterioration to date.

What other design concepts have been considered before recommending the options in the Report?

Design concept options for the Nautical Museum site have been articulated as part of the Report.  The option to display the Peggy within a new or existing building in or close to Castletown has been referred to but no concept design has been undertaken as this is not consistent with the objective to return her to the Nautical Museum site.

Why open at the end of the summer season?

The site will be opened at the earliest opportunity. The draft proposal delivers a late summer opening which will provide the opportunity to make the new facility available to our island audience first. This will also allow opportunities for the off-island Travel Trade sector representatives to conduct familiarisation visits during the winter months prior to promoting the attraction widely ahead of the following year’s Tourist season.

Project Documents

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