IT WAS lucky Friday the 13th for Ramsgate Maritime Museum – after four years of closure it is to reopen thanks to Thanet District Council and the Steam Museum Trust finally signing a new 25-year lease.
The trust is now racing against time to get the museum ready to open for the May Day holiday.
Michael List Brain, chairman of the trust, admitted: "It had been so long I was beginning to think it wasn't going to happen. Even now I can't belive it. It has been a long slog."
He added: "We are confident Ramsgate Maritime Museum will become a centre of excellence and a substantial visitor attraction."
The new agreement covers the Clock House, Smeaton's Dry Dock, Unit 30 in Military Road and other facilities in Ramsgate's Royal Harbour.
Responsibility for the repair and maintenance of the Clock House and Smeaton's Dry Dock will be transferred from the council to the trust to save the public purse. Work on the Grade II listed Clock House must be completed within eight years.
Council leader Clive Hart said: "I am delighted that the public will soon be able to see the artefacts in the Maritime Museum again."
He added: "Moving quickly on this matter became absolutely essential to ensure the museum could open in time for the May bank holiday weekend and to prevent the permanent loss of such an important community asset. Signing this agreement means a significant collection of maritime-related historic and cultural artefacts will remain in the same place. The public will once again be able to enjoy the displays that detail the work, courage and sacrifice of our maritime nation's seafarers."
Displays include 18th century "Jack Tars" of Nelson's navy aboard the HMS Stirling Castle sunk on the Goodwin Sands; brave 19th century lifeboat men and the 20th century servicemen during the Second World War.
Mr Hart said: "From England Expects to the Dunkirk Spirit, they all deserve to be remembered and honoured by the people of today and future generations."
Jocelyn McCarthy, chairman of the Ramsgate Society, said: "This is brilliant news. It is absolutely fantastic.
"We had been hoping for this and now it is finally going to happen. Hopefully, there will be lots of visitors.
"Signing the lease has also ensured the Dunkirk Little Ship Sundowner will be able to represent Thanet in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames on Sunday, June 3."
The museum was opened 25 years ago but was closed by the East Kent Maritime trust in 2008. Residents launched a petition calling for Thanet council to help save it.