The historic heart of Stanley
Britannia House closed its doors to the public in March 2014 and re-opened at the Historic Dockyard Museum in September 2014.
Falkland Islands Museum & National Trust
Holdfast Road, where Britannia House was located, is also historically significant – it was here, on 14th June 1982, that Major General Sir Jeremy Moore ordered the British land forces to “Hold Fast” until he negotiated the surrender of the Argentine forces.
Museum & National Trust Ordinance
The M&NT was established by Ordinance in 1991, although the Museum itself had operated in various forms for many years, often run only by volunteers. The Trust was created to ensure that the fragile and fast-disappearing heritage of the Islands was protected, recorded and collected in a manner which was both funded and regulated.
However, the process of establishing a permanent museum for the Falklands began back in the early 1900s when Mrs. Allardyce, wife of the serving Governor, began calling for the colony’s history to be collected and protected.
Mrs. Allardyce achieved her goal shortly before the couple left the Islands and on the King’s Birthday, November 9th 1909, the Falklands’ first museum was formally opened by the Governor.
The “collection of curiosities” was housed in the old Infant School and featured a wide range of items (some with no Falklands connection whatsoever) including hair from a prehistoric Mylodon found in a cave in South America and donated by the Minister of Russia to Chile; an almost complete collection of local birds eggs; stones from the stomach of a sea lion; and a “fossilized shell new to science”.
The museum opened for two hours on a Sunday afternoon and daylight hours on days when the mail boat was in port.
After moving to the ground floor of the Town Hall, the museum continued to develop and amassed a particularly impressive natural history collection. Tragically most of the collection was lost when the building burned to the ground on April 16th 1944.
1960s to the 1980s
Reincarnated by the Chief Secretary W.H. (“Tommy”) Thompson in the 1960s a small volunteer-run museum was set up in one of the back rooms of the gymnasium building. It soon outgrew this small space and when the Falkland Islands Company offered two rooms in their Crozier Place building, they were gratefully accepted.
A small group of volunteers operated the museum and kept it running throughout this time and most would remain involved for many more years, including John Smith, Joan Spruce, Shirley Hirtle and the late Jim Lellman.
With no building available to display it, the collection was boxed up and stored for safekeeping during the Argentine occupation in 1982.
The organisation was set up again in 1987 after recommendations from Dr. Neil Cossens and Britannia House was earmarked for this use. Dr. Cossens had recommended the Government Dockyard as the ideal site for the new museum, but it was recognised that it would not become available for some time, whereas Britannia House was almost immediately available.
The building now known as Britannia House was a Brazilian prefabricated house constructed in 1981 for the Argentine airline L.A.D.E. which operated an air service to Stanley at the time. The kit was flown in by the Argentines and landed at Stanley Airport – this is now thought by many to have been a proving flight, testing that the runway could cope with a fully-laden Hercules.
After the Liberation the house was given its new name and was used by various Commanders of British Forces in the Falklands until Mount Pleasant Airport was completed in 1985 and the garrison moved out of Stanley.
It was after this that the house was made available for development as a museum and a great deal of work ensued with volunteers rallying to gather and clean items and put together displays until, on 13th February 1989, the museum was officially opened by former Governor, Sir Rex Hunt.