I am pleased to report that with a figure of 30,680, the total number of visitors to the Museum in 2017 exceeded that for 2016 by 23.1% with paying visitors up by a very welcome 24.8%. It is apposite in this context that 97% of the 160 reviews posted on the Trip Advisor website rated the Museum at either excellent or above the average, a combined score which gave us 3rd place for ‘Things to do in Chichester’. It was therefore no surprise to be awarded Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence once again. We also retained our Visit England accreditation as a ‘Quality Assured Visitor Attraction’ for the second year in succession.
Notable events during 2017 included the publication of a new book in April entitled ‘Tangmere’s Own: Pilots who served King and Country from a Sussex airfield, 1918-1958’ bringing together fifty-eight portraits-in-words of some of those who served at RAF Tangmere. We also we collaborated with Chichester University’s Professor Ross Wilson on a history project featuring the arrival of American aviators in West Sussex in 1918, the findings of this work being presented in September via an ‘Over Here’ Conference at the University’s Bishop Otter campus.
An exhibition on the Polish and Czech Pilots in the Second World War led by David Coxon, the Museum’s Deputy Director, ran for 44 days from 22 July to 3 September and drew an estimated 4,000 visitors, whilst a Summer Families Day held on Sunday, 6 August, was a great success with a wide range of activities being enjoyed by some 1,300 visitors young and old. Finally, two very well attended classic car days were held in association with Southern Classics Society. On quite a different tack was the legacy of £2.6M bequeathed to the Museum by a Mrs Ena Lopez who died on 2 March.
Without doubt, the year’s major event was the Museum’s receipt of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, announced by Buckingham Palace of 2 June. An English Crystal and the Citation associated with this prestigious award were presented formally to the Museum by the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Mrs Susan Pyper, at a ceremony on 26 September attended by the High Sheriff of West Sussex, the MP for Chichester, and a number of other dignitaries and special guests.
Sadly, we lost several good friends and colleagues during 2017. Amongst them, we were much saddened by the passing of our Patron, the 10th Duke of Richmond, who died on 1st September and to learn of the death, on 7th December, of Duncan Simpson who was our Honorary President from 2007 to 2013. We are grateful to the 11th Duke of Richmond for kindly agreeing to succeed his father as Patron
Finally, I offer my best wishes to all for 2018