Plans for new U-boat story museum at Woodside

Plans for a new “international” centre as part of a £19.6m investment have just been revealed.

An application has been put in by Big Heritage CIC for a new U-Boat Story museum on the current site next to the Woodside Ferry Terminal in Birkenhead. The proposal is being funded by £19m of Levelling Up funding provided by the government to regenerate the area around Woodside.

According to documents attached to a planning application, the museum will have three storeys and include plans for a riverside café. The museum will be “designed as an immersive visitor experience, encompassing internal displays and exhibits together with the external enclosure, where the U-534 submarine will be encountered from multiple levels.”

The plans for the museum include “new large object displays, interactive and interpretive exhibits, visitor amenities including the café event space, and staff facilities.” There are plans for a café and event space opening onto a terrace “with spectacular riverside views.”

Architect Matt Giles from MGMA Architects said, “This is the first step in a series of exciting heritage projects for Birkenhead that will bring millions of pounds to the area, create jobs and put Birkenhead on the national map as a heritage hot spot for the UK”.

The current attraction contains a German World War II submarine, U-534, which is understood to be one of only four surviving U-boats in the world in preserved condition, and the only one in Britain.

However, it is currently closed and the public viewing terrace on the roof is “currently inaccessible due to defects in the roof covering and waterproofing.” Big Heritage said work was ongoing to preserve U-534.

For the plans to go ahead, it will need to get approval from Wirral Council and would involve the demolition of a single-storey extension to the Woodside Ferry terminal.

Big Heritage is an award-winning not-for-profit community interest company that was founded in 2011. They manage several museums including the Western Approaches museum which was a secret headquarters during World War II that tracked submarines like the U-534. People will be able to use one ticket to visit both museums.

According to planning documents, “the proposed development therefore seeks to retain U-534 as the heart of a visitor attraction, dedicated to the Battle of the Atlantic, connecting Birkenhead with this world-shaping story.

“Together with the sister venue at Western Approaches, a new campus across the Mersey will be formed, bringing together the Allied HQ with the enemy submarine, the hunter and the hunted.”

Big Heritage CEO Dean Paton said, “The spiritual home of the Battle of the Atlantic has always been the banks of the River Mersey, so we’re honoured to be building a fitting venue to tell that story in Birkenhead alongside Western Approaches in Liverpool where the conflict was directed from.

“From the superhuman efforts of Cammell Laird, the dockers of Bootle, the Wrens of Western Approaches and the hundreds of women who worked on the munitions lines in the area, this new centre is dedicated to their stories.”

All images: Plans for new U-Boat Museum. Credit: MGMA Architects

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