Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is the name given to Her Majesty's Naval Base, Portsmouth that is open to the public. It actually encompasses a number of different museums and exhibits. It includes the National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior (1860), Mary Rose Museum, Dockyard Apprentice Exhibition, Trafalgar Experience, Action Stations - a centre containing interactive exhibits demonstrating various aspects of naval science as well as a number of simulators and Boathouse 4 (opened 2015), which tells the 'forgotten story' of the small boats of the Navy.
Timeline of Portsmorth Harbour. It was the secure location of the harbour that no doubt encouraged the Romans to build their fortress at the top end of harbour some time around 275 A.D and known as Portus Adurni. But in all probability the harbour was already well used for trade with the continent well before the erection of the fortresses, for why else would it have been built if not to protect trade and community. Only when the Saxon pirates became more adventurous and coastal settlements at risk did the walls begin to rise, to take its place in a line of Roman coastal forts that was to become known as “The Forts of the Saxon Shore” It would be prudent not to be content with this image of history, for one can hardly believe that the Roman Army who had a vast experience of warfare would be satisfied with this, for surely at the harbour entrance they would build a watch tower with a beacon close by to raise alarm of intruders entering Spithead or the harbour Channel, for only at the Point (old Portsmouth) can the harbour and the approaches to Spithead be clearly seen. It may well be that this was the origins of that early settlement at old Portsmouth, it is most certain the Romans would have seen its strategic value. With the demise of Roman Britain around 410 A.D. the fort fell into disrepair. The construction of Portchester Castle by Carausius, Emperor of Britain, as one of the “Forts of the Saxon Shore” which stretched from Norfolk to Portchester, was begun. Carausius was Emperor of Britain from 287 to 293 when he was assassinated. Portchester was the fleet base for the Roman galleys of the “Classis Britannica” … the fleet that guarded Britain.
In 897 King Alfred stationed some of his fleet in Portsmouth Harbour and it is said that some of the vessels were built here to his own design; they were not shaped after the Danish or Friesian mode; but were longer with 60 oars or more, swifter and steadier. Clearly these ships were larger than those of the northern countries who in the main only had 20 rowing benches. It was with this fleet that King Alfred won a complete victory over the Danes in the Solent and for a time ended the menace of the Dane. They would be back. Portsea Island was devastated by the Danes in 979 and Southampton sacked in 980. In 998 the Danes had returned and settled in the Isle of Wight.
King Harold (Godwineson) having seized the throne after the death of Edward the Confessor, mustered the fleet (we are told of 700 vessels.) at Portchester to cruise the Channel and ward off any planned invasion threatened by Duke William of Normandy. But after nearly four months and acting on force intelligence he dispersed the fleet and hurried north to deal with the over ambitious “Tosig” and King Harold of Norway (Duke William‟s brother-in-law) and crushed the invasion of the Norsemen at Stansted Bridgeon 25th September. On 28th September William of Normandy lands at Pevensey, Sussex. Harold with his army then made that magnificent forced march south where he fell, we are told to a Norman arrow at the Battle of Hastings 14th October. 1086 - William, “The Conqueror”, sailed for Normandy from Portsmouth harbour, never to return to England.
Robert, Duke of Normandy, William “The Conquerors” eldest son, and claimant to the English throne, landed at Portsmouth. After the death of William Rufus, killed by an arrow in the New Forest (you had to be careful of arrows in those days), Henry I was enthroned. Roberts Invasion army marched to Winchester and turned towards London. Henry I met him at Alton and settled an annuity of 3,000 marks which was paid until 1103. In 1133 Henry I embarked from Portsmouth on his last expedition to Normandy. In the same year Empress Matilda landed at Portsmouth to assert her claim to the throne. 1148, Matilda fled back to France. England remained in a state of anarchy until 1153 when the opposing parties signed the Treaty of Wallingford. In 1174 Henry II embarked for Normandy in August, returning, victorious, in May of 1175. That same year a Huge invasion fleet was assembled by Henry II at Portsmouth but later disbanded.
1180 - Foundation of the town of Portsmouth by Jean de Gisors. Richard was crowned at Westminster and after but a few months he left England to pursue his crusade to Palestine and the re-capture of Jerusalem. This Holy Crusade was beset with problems and bickering between the allied armies in particular with the French King Phillipe Auguste. Richard proved to be a fine soldier and a good military leader and came within sight of the walls of Jerusalem but with the disintegration of the allied armies was force to turn back. By this time Phillipe Auguste the French King had returned home and was creating trouble on the borders of Richard‟s French possession and at home his brother Prince John was planning insurrection hoping to supplant his brother. Richard and a small band of companions returned home but were apprehended near Vienna by Duke Leopard of Austria in the last month of 1192.
Richard was handed over in the New Year to the Emperor Henry VI who demanded 150.000 marks ransom. On Richard‟s return to England on 13th March 1194 the witch hunt began for John‟s supporters and French sympathisers, who were quickly rounded up and their land and possession confiscated by the crown. One such sympathiser was Jean de Gisors owner of the town and other parts of Portsea Island. In consequence his possessions in Hampshire fell to the crown including the town of Portsmouth. Richard’s exchequer was much depleted in respect of his ransom. To recoup his losses Richard set about selling all the confiscated land, but not Portsmouth and as is so clearly stated in the charter he granted Portsmouth on 2nd May 1194 in the second paragraph “Know that we have retained our Borough of Portsmouth In our hands, with everything pertaining to it”. There is but one possible explanation for retention of Portsmouth, control of his lines of communication between his French possessions and his English Kingdom, for the free movement of cargos, troops and munitions. Had it been sold these lines could have been interrupted by noblemen or wealthy merchants who may not in some future time see eye-to-eye with the Kings dreams. Legend has it that at this time Richard built a “Doc” at Portsmouth.
In 1206 King John ordered the Constable of Southampton: 'As you value our honour and the peace of our kingdom, as soon as You receive these letters you are at once without delay to visit Southampton, Portsmouth, Keyhaven, Christchurch, Yarnmouth And other places of your district. There you are to arrest all ships Suitable for our voyage and capable of carrying eight horses or more Manning them with good seamen at our expense. They are to be sent to Portsmouth without delay, to arrive by Whitsunday Eve or earlier if Possible. Every ship is to be equipped with brows (pontes) and hurdles (Cleie) * A list is to be made up showing the owners‟ name the number of Seamen in each ship and how many horses each carry. If any of the ships be laden with merchandise or anything else, you are to have her discharged and sent on our service at our expense as aforesaid…..' *This was for embarking horses, and for making stalls to keep them secure while at sea. The command was for a planned expedition to Rochelle which never materialized.
1212 - A Royal Dockyard is born. Geoffrey de Lucy disposed of 13 ships captured by his galleys between 25 April and 8 September. The ships carried 666 tons of wine, 936 quarters of corn, 2,640 quarters of salt and 860 salted hog carcasses. Most of ships and stores sent to aid King John in his campaign against the Welsh except that 2 old ships and 98 putrescent carcasses were left at Portsmouth. In this year King John founded the Royal Dockyard by order dated 20th May: - “The King to the Sheriff of Southampton. We order you, without delay, by the view of lawful men, to cause our Docks at Portsmouth to be enclosed with a Good and Strong Wall in such a manner as our beloved and faithful William, Archdeacon of Taunton will tell you, for the preservation of our Ships and Galleys: and Likewise to cause penthouses to be made to the same walls, as the same Archdeacon will also tell you, in which all our ships tackle may be safely kept, and use as much dispatch as you can in order that the same may be completed this summer, lest in the ensuing winter our ships and Galleys, and their Rigging, should incur any damage by your default; and when we know the cost it shall be accounted to you.”
By implication some sort of facility already existed before William Wrotham, keeper of the Kings ships and Archdeacon of Taunton started to build his walls and the lean-to sheds to store ships tackle and rigging. Part of the accounts of William of Wrotham, the same Arch-Deacon that was ordered to put the wall around the “Doc” at Portsmouth, for 1212 have survived : 'To the wages of seamen and workmen guarding the ships and galleys and Bringing them from Winchelsea to Portsmouth by the King‟s order: £122. 1s. 2d. To repair and equipment for the King‟s ships and galleys at Portsmouth, and the Wages of seamen in eight ships of the Cinque Ports…………..£64. 4s. 0d. To guard the wall made at Portsmouth for the protection of the galleys: £55. 9s. 11d.' Clearly by now it was an active establishment in the King's service.
In 1229 Henry III granted two charters to Portsmouth. A large army assembled here but disbanded, having achieved nothing. An order was issued for the repair of the Kings galleys at Portsmouth using 350 oaks from the Forest of Portchester. In 1266 The Barons of the Cinque Ports, jealous of the growing trade of Portsmouth and Southampton, starting seizing cargoes bound for those ports, they invaded and burned the town of Portsmouth, murdered those who put up a defence and stole the ships in the harbour. In 1295 the first Channel squadron was formed at Portsmouth. Sir William Leybourne was appointed 'Captain of the King's Sailors and mariners'. Three years later Edward I's son, in the King's name, issued orders to Gervase Alard of Winchelsea, Admiral of the Cinque Ports from Dover to Cornwall, to build a large galley fleet of over 100 ships. The Cinque Ports, Yarmouth and Portsmouth contributed ships. A galley cost between £200 and £500 to build and took between 18 and 44 weeks to complete. Galley building had been going on steadily since 1294.
In March 1327, French galleys, commanded by Nicholas Behuchet, burned Portsmouth and killed many of its people. The 1330's were to prove an even worse decade. In 1336 the French again sacked Portsmouth. Portsmouth was appointed the rendezvous for ships to resist the French, effectively becoming the battleground. The following year French galleys under the command of Nicholas Behuchet land at Portsmouth under the cover of an English flag; landing a body of troops near Portsmouth, they plundered and burned the town except for the Hospital of Domus Dei and the church of St. Thomas. Meanwhile, the fleet assembles at Portsmouth for service in the west against the Scots. The next year (this was becoming an annual tradition), the French plundered Portsmouth and killed many inhabitants. Then, in 1344, Edward’s fleet attack and defeat the Spanish fleet off the Sussex coast. The Battle was known as “Les Espagnols-sur-Mer” (The Spanish at Sea) and is said to be the first time that cannon was used at sea. But the tide was turning. In 1346 King Edward III assembled an army of 3,000 knights, 10,000 archers, 4,000 Welsh light infantry and 3,000 support troops here. Having reviewed his fleet of 700 ships he sailed to France on 11th July, landing near La Hogue to fight the Battle of Crecy on 26 August and capture Calais in September. Portsmouth contributed 5 ships and 96 sailors.
September 1369 - The French again burned Portsmouth. An English fleet sailed from Portsmouth in retaliation and sacked Limoges. In 1377 Portsmouth was razed to the ground by the invaders again, this time under Jean de Viene Admiral of France. On this occasion the inhabitants rallied and drove the Frenchmen back to their ships with great slaughter to them. But three years later Portsmouth was again burned by the French. Local building contractors must have been doing a roaring trade. In 1384, by charter of Richard II, Portsmouth fitted out a squadron to Harry the French, engaging the French of equal force in the Channel they took every vessel and slew all but nine people. Portsmouth squadron then entered the Seine where they captured four vessels and four ships. Among the prizes was the barge of Sire de Clisson, which was worth 20.000 florins, and was said to have no equal in French or England for beauty. In 1417 the Round Tower was built at the harbour entrance to defend the harbour and approaches, about time.
In 1492, while Columbus was off discovering America, a Brewery was ordered built by the King. Called the "Greyhound‟ it cost £145 and was probably situated in High Street. In 1495 disaster fell. “and in this year, the Friday the ninth of January, Master Adam Moleyns, Bishop of Chichester and Keeper of the Kings Privy Seal, whom the king sent to Portsmouth to make payment of money to certain soldiers and shipmen for their wages. And it so happened that with boisterous language, and also for the abridging of their wages, he fell in variance with them and they fell on him and they cruelly killed him. They did indeed. They took him out of the Domus Die, (Garrison Chapel) on to what is now the Parade Ground, and there they stoned him to death.” For this terrible crime the citizens of Portsmouth with the guilty soldiers and sailors, fell under the ban of Excommunication that was to lie upon the town for nearly half a century. The implications of excommunication were disastrous for the town and would have consequences for its growth. However it did not deter Henry VII from developing the Dockyard or the town defences.
That same year (1495) Henry VII bought 8 acres of land to build the first dry dock in the world. The designer of the Dock was Sir Reginald Bray who was described as a sage and grave person but a lover of justice. He was one of the trusted councillors of King Henry VII, being made Treasurer and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was also an architect and credited with St. Georges chapel at Windsor and Henry's chapel at Westminster. At first glance there seems to be no evidence to suppose Bray had any maritime experience. However in 1488 he was requested by Henry VII to dismantle the ship Henry Grace a Dieu and from the pieces construct a new ship to be called the Sovereign, having a displacement of 600 tons and carrying 141 serpentine cannon. It was this ship that was the first to use the Great Dock. The practice of dismantling wooden ships and building a new one from the pieces was a very common practice and continued well in to the 19th century. It was to Robert Brygandine who, as Clerk of the Ships and officer in charge of construction that the task of overseeing the new “Doc” fell.
The “Doc” was begun of 14th July 1495 and continued until 29th November when work stopped for the winter. Work started again on 2nd February when the great gates were built and hung. These great gates were staggered in their position at the entrance to the “Doc” and reached across the width of the “Doc”. The intervening space was filled with clay and shingle to form a watertight middle dam. All work was completed by 17th April 1496, the cost of construction was said to be a princely £193. 0s .6pence and 3 farthings. Then came the great day when on 25th May 1496 the Sovereign entered the Dry Dock. It took between 120-140 men who were employed for a day and a night before the ship was dry docked. The majority of the men were employed on infilling with the clay and shingle. The water was removed from the “Doc” by an”Ingyn” this was probably a bucket and chain pump worked by a horse-gin. Getting the ship out of the “Doc” was a more lengthy procedure as all the impacted clay and shingle had to be removed from between the great gates before they could be opened and we are told it took 20 men 24 days to open the “Doc”.
Although the precise site of the dock is not known it is generally thought to have been about 50 ft. astern of where HMS Victory lies today in No. 2 Dry Dock. During the enlargement of the Great Ship Basin in late 1790‟s the remains of an ancient dry dock were discovered in that position. However it is possible that these remains may be from one of the old 17th century dry docks although its construction would suggest otherwise. It is described in ”The Illustrated History of Portsmouth” by William G. Gate as being formed of timber and trunnelled together, the sides being composed of whole trees. On the removal of this, many large stone cannon-balls were found. It was called Cromwell's Dock, but it seems these remains were those of the dock of 1496. It was thus described at the time of discovery: Old dock of wood, length from head of pier to head of dock, measured along the side, 330 feet on each side; the bottom of the dock 395 feet long; depth 22 feet; the wharf on the outside of the piers 40 feet on each side and depth of 22 feet.
Presumably the piers were standing out from the dock sides and are where the gates were hinged from. No width of the dock is mentioned in the description but it may be possible to make a reasonably assumption. The difference in the lengths quoted is 65 feet and we are told that there were two Great Gates, one on each side of the dock entrance hinging in opposite directions. The inner most gate hinging outwards and the outer gate hinging inwards. When open the gates laid flat along the dock entrance wall. To achieve this the distance between to two gate hinges (in the dock length) would have to be at least the width of one of the gates, so we can assume the width of the dock to be in the region of 65 feet. The length of 330 feet would not have been the docks original length as we are told it was enlarged later in its life. What ever the faults of the Great “Doc” it was a vast improvement on anything that went before and can be seen as a turning point in the style and methods of ship construction and the way future dockyards would be laid-out and used. The Dockyard had come-of-age and for the foreseeable future only the materials of which the ships were built would have any serious impact on the way a dockyard was laid out and used. The dock was filled in 1623. In the harbour approaches the Square Tower and adjoining Saluting Platform to the south were built. The first map showing the town, harbour and dock date from this time. The first known ships launched from Portsmouth dockyard were The “Sweepstake”, costing £120 and “Mary Fortune”, costing £110. “Sweepstake” survived until 1511 when she was rebuilt as “Katherine Pomegranate”. The second ship in the dry dock was the “Regent”.
A Charter was granted by Henry VIII in 1511 and Portsmouth became a building centre for the Kings ships. He was the first king to build warships designed to repel an invasion fleet at sea. He inherited 5 ships, captured 13, bought 26 and built 46 ships to create the first Royal Navy of any size equipped with heavy cannons. 1513 saw facilities for victualling the fleet built at the town in the form of five brewhouses, “to supply the army and navy with “a good beverage” (a gallon per head per day). It was said that it was the building of these brewhouses that first gained Wolsey the favour of the king. Four of the brewhouses were built around a pond with a spring that supplied fresh water and close to the South Eastern wall of the town fortification and named the Lion, the Rose, the Dragon and the White Hart. Although we are told that the pond was frequently defiled by buck washing. The other brewhouse was known as the Anchor. Complementing these was also a bake house for the baking of bread known as the “Swanne, a King's bakehouse” that was situated at the Point. A heavy iron chain to draw across the harbour entrance was ordered by the King - Ye Mightie Chaine of Yron. (Some links of a later chain are on show in Southsea Castle Museum and in the Dockyard Trust Collection.) The first mention of this chain is found in a Navy account presented in February 1522: For the making of chains to be drawn over the Portsmouth Haven……….£40. 0. 0. Hiring of boats bearing the chains from 12th June until 31st January., At 8pence the ton month………….£21. 9s. 14d. It is generally believed that there were three chains laid across the harbour mouth at times of an invasion scare, in 1522, 1664 and 1801.
From the middle of the century Portsmouth declined, partly because of the new Chatham docks and partlly from a run of misfortune. In 1557 A “great and terrible ffyer” destroyed the Naval Storehouse in King Street destroying 26,000 cask hoops, coopers tools and 100 tons of empty casks. The King Street Bakery ceased operation. The following year Plague killed more than half of the population of Portsmouth and the surrounding area. The Navy list was 27 ships and pinnaces with 3,565 crew costing £1,436 per month in wages and £1,782 in victuals. On Queen Elizabeth accession to the throne she inherited a fleet of 35 vessels and the dockyards were working with vigour on repairing and rebuilding. At Deptford 228 men were working on 5 ships: at Woolwich 175 men were working on 8 ships while at Portsmouth 154 men were working on 9 ships. In 1563 the plague killed 300 inhabitants of Portsmouth and in 1570 the Dockyard was virtually destroyed by fire. Between 1559 and 1570 over £6,600 was spent on Portsmouth dockyard, by comparison £73,300 was spent on Deptford. In 1576 the Navy Storehouse in King Street was again destroyed by fire.
Naval shipbuilding at Portsmouth recommenced under the English Commonwealth, the first ship being the eponymous Fourth-rate frigate Portsmouth launched in 1650. A new double dry dock (i.e. double the standard length so as to accommodate two ships at once) was built by the Commonwealth government in 1656. As France began to pose more of a military threat to England, the strategic importance of Portsmouth grew. In 1689, Parliament ordered one new dry dock and two new wet docks (or non-tidal basins) to be built there; work began in 1691. (A building slip was also constructed, where the Mary Rose is now in No. 3 dock.) The dry dock (or "Great Stone Dock" as it was called) was entered via what is now known as No. 1 Basin (then called the "Lower Wet Dock"). It was built to new designs developed by the naval engineer Edmund Dummer, surveyor to the Navy Board. He substituted brick and stone for wood and increased the number of altars or steps. The stepped sides allowed shorter timbers to be used for shoring and made it much easier for shipwrights to reach the underside of vessels needing repair. Extensively rebuilt in 1769, the Great Stone Dock is now known as No.5 dock. As with all extensions, the new works were built on reclaimed land and the civil engineering involved was on an unprecedented scale. To empty the dry dock of water, Dummer designed a unique system which used water from the Upper Wet Dock to drive a water-wheel on the ebb tide, which in turn powered a set of pumps. (At high tide, an auxiliary set of pumps was used, powered by a horse gin.) The second ("Upper") Wet Dock was entered by way of a channel. In 1699 Dummer adapted the channel, enabling it to be closed off at each end by a set of gates, thus forming a second dry dock (the "North Stone Dock"), which was rebuilt in 1737 and is known today as No 6 dock. The Upper Wet Dock itself became a reservoir into which water from various nearby dry docks could be drained; vaulted and covered over at the end of the eighteenth century, it still exists today underground.
Between 1704-1712 a wall was built around the Dockyard, following the line of the town's 17th-century fortifications; together with a contemporary gate and lodge, much of the wall still stands, serving its original purpose. In 1733 a Royal Naval Academy for officer cadets was established within the Dockyard, the Navy's first shore-based training facility and a forerunner of Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. The second half of the eighteenth century was a key period in the development of Portsmouth (and indeed of the other Royal Dockyards). A substantial programme of expansion and modernisation was undertaken from 1760 onwards, driven (as would be future periods of expansion) by increases both in the size of individual ships and in the overall size of the fleet. Several of Portsmouth Dockyard's most notable historic buildings date from this period, including the three great storehouses (Nos 9, 10 & 11, built 1764-1785). The Double Ropery, over 1,000ft in length dates from the same period; it is, however, the sixth ropehouse (since 1665) to have stood on the site. Both its immediate predecessors were destroyed by fire (in 1760 and 1770) and the current building was itself gutted by fire in 1776 as the result of an arson attack. It is called a 'double' ropery because the spinning and laying stages take place in the same building (on different floors) rather than on two separate sites. In the 1760s the Wet Dock (No 1 Basin) was deepened, the Great Stone Dock was rebuilt and a new dry dock (known today as No 4 dock) was built alongside it. Further key engineering works were begun in the 1790s, overseen by Samuel Bentham. He further expanded the Basin, building over the old double dock in the process, and added three further docks built entirely of stone. (These, Nos 1, 2 and 3 docks, are still in place today, accommodating HMS M33, HMS Victory and the Mary Rose respectively.) He also made pioneering use of a "ship caisson" to close off the entrance to the basin. In 1799 a steam engine was installed (the first in a Royal Naval Yard); it not only powered pumps to drain the dry docks, but also drove machinery for woodworking.
In 1800, the Royal Navy had 684 ships and the Dockyard was the largest industrial complex in the world. The Industrial Revolution saw the world’s first steam powered factory, Portsmouth Block Mills, open in Portsmouth in 1802 to mass-produce ship pulley blocks. It was built alongside the 1799 steam engine house, over the newly roofed-over reservoir (the former Upper Wet Dock). Marc Brunel, father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, famously designed the machines, which manufactured the blocks through a total of fifteen separate stages of production. Horatio Nelson left Britain for the last time before his death at the Battle of Trafalgar when he embarked from Portsmouth on HMS Victory. From 1815 the system of Dockyard apprenticeship was supplemented by the establishment of a School of Naval Architecture in Portsmouth (for training potential Master Shipwrights), initially housed in the building which faces Admiralty House on South Terrace. Taking on students from the age of 14, this was the forerunner of Portsmouth Dockyard School (later Technical College) which continued to provide specialist training until 1970.
The adoption of steam propulsion for warships led to large-scale changes in the Royal Dockyards, which had been built in the age of sail. The Navy's first 'steam factory' was built at Woolwich in 1839; but it soon became clear that the site was far too small to cope with this revolutionary change in ship building and maintenance. Therefore, in 1843, work began in Portsmouth on reclaiming land immediately to the north of the then Dockyard to create a new 7-acre basin (known today as No 2 Basin) with a sizeable steam factory alongside; new Brass and Iron Foundries were also built soon afterwards. Furthermore, three new dry docks were constructed over the next 20 years, opening off the new basin, and another was built on reclaimed land west of the basin alongside a row of five new shipbuilding slips. Further developments in shipbuilding technology, however, meant that several of these new amenities had to be rebuilt and expanded almost as soon as they were finished. Technological change affected not only ships' means of propulsion, but the materials from which they were built. By 1860 wooden warships, vulnerable as they were to modern armaments, had been rendered largely obsolescent. The changeover to metal hulls not only required new building techniques, but also heralded a dramatic and ongoing increase in the potential size of new vessels. The Dockyards found themselves having to expand in kind. At Portsmouth, plans were drawn up in the late 1850s for further land reclamation north and east of the new Steam Basin, and from 1867 work was begun on a complex of three new interconnected basins, each of 14-22 acres. Each basin served a different purpose: ships would proceed from the repairing basin, to the rigging basin, to the fitting-out basin, and exit from there into a new tidal basin, ready to take on fuel alongside the sizeable coaling wharf there. Three dry docks were also constructed as part of the plan, as well as parallel pair of sizeable locks for entry into the basin complex; the contemporary pumping station which stands nearby not only served to drain these docks and locks, but also delivered compressed air to power cranes, caissons and capstans. This "Great Extension" of Portsmouth Dockyard was largely completed by 1881.
Before the end of the century, however, it was recognised that there would have to be still further expansion across all the Royal Dockyards in order to keep pace with the increasing likely size of future naval vessels. At Portsmouth two more dry docks, Nos 14 & 15, were built alongside the Repairing Basin in 1896; within ten years these, together with the adjacent docks 12 & 13, had to be extended, and by the start of World War I Dock No 14 was over 720 ft in length. The largest Naval ships were now too large for the interlocking basins, so to guarantee access to the new dry docks the intervening walls between the basins were removed to create a single large non-tidal body of water (No 3 Basin), with a pair of 850 ft entrance locks being built at the same time. These (C & D locks) were operational from 1914, and they, together with the enlarged basin and docks, have remained in use, largely unaltered, ever since. Alongside the new Basins new buildings were erected, on a huge scale, to accommodate new manufacturing and construction processes. These included a gun-mounting workshop (1881, producing gun turrets), torpedo workshop (1886), and the very large New Factory of 1905, to the east of No 13 dock, which was soon put to the task of fitting out Dreadnoughts. Electrification came to the Yard with the opening of a 9,800kW power station in 1906.
In 1900 the Third class cruiser HMS Pandora was launched, followed by the armoured cruisers Kent in 1901 and Suffolk in 1903. Two battleships of the pre-Dreadnought King Edward VII Class were launched in 1904—Britannia and New Zealand. The first modern battleship, Dreadnought, was built in 1905–06, taking one day more than a year. Further dreadnoughts followed—Bellerophon in 1907, St. Vincent in 1908, Orion in 1910, King George V in 1911, Iron Duke in 1912 and Queen Elizabeth in 1913. The largest vessel launched at Portsmouth during WWI was the 27,500-ton battleship Royal Sovereign in 1915. The only other launchings during the war were the submarines J1 and J2 in 1915, and K1, K2 and K5 in 1916. Some 1,200 vessels, however, underwent a refit at Portsmouth during the course of the War, and over the same period 1,658 ships were either hauled up the slipways or placed in dry-dock for repairs.
Be transported back in time to 1911 and become an apprentice for a day at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. During the 18th and 19th centuries Portsmouth Royal Dockyard was the greatest industrial complex in the world, employing over 25,000 workers. The Dockyard Apprentice tells the story of dockyard life in 1911, when the great Dreadnought battleships were being constructed. It is often said that the Industrial Revolution started in Portsmouth Dockyard in the early 19th century with the introduction of Marc Brunel’s block-making machinery. Originally housed in the Block Mills, these were the world’s first machines designed for mass-production and some of them can now be seen in the Dockyard Apprentice exhibition. The exhibition invites the visitor to become an apprentice for the day, clocking in at the Victory Gate and learning all about the crafts and skills which once made Portsmouth Dockyard the greatest shipbuilding centre in the world.
This attraction is situated in the rear of Boathouse No. 7, behind the Boathouse 7 Restaurant. Admission is free and it is open daily from 10:00 until 18:00. The exhibition is fully wheelchair accessible. Assistance dogs are welcome and there are toilet facities in the restaurant complex. This is a fascinating museum and should definitely be included in a trip to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. It is located close to the Victory Gate.
When Henry VIII became king in 1509 he only had a handful of warships at his disposal – usually, in times of war, merchant vessels would be loaded with guns and used. However, with threats both from the Scots to the north and the French to the south, Henry knew he needed a standing navy, available at a moment’s notice. Thus, he got to work building his ‘Army by Sea’, starting with two carracks, the Peter Pomegranate and her larger sister ship, the Mary Rose. Although a request for payment for two ships, ”the one ship to be of the burthen of 400 tons and the other ship to be of the burthen of 300 tons” was made on 25th January 1510, the earliest reference to the Mary Rose by name appears in a record of a payment made by Henry VIII for bringing the ship from Portsmouth to the River Thames. While it is often claimed that the Mary Rose was named after Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister, there is no evidence for this. It’s more likely the ship was named after the Virgin Mary, who was also known at the time as “The Mystic Rose”. For an excellent discourse on the origin of the name please click here.
Henry VIII’s Lord High Admiral was the 35-year-old Sir Edward Howard, who chose the newly built Mary Rose as his flagship. He had 18 ships in his fleet carrying over 5,000 men. Howard’s expedition led to the capture of 12 Breton ships and a four-day raiding tour of Brittany, where the English fought local forces and burnt a number of villages. The fleet returned to Southampton and was visited by Henry VIII before setting sail again for Brest. The English ships met a French-Breton fleet at the battle of St Mathieu, battering them with heavy gunfire. English troops boarded the Breton flagship, the Cordeliere, which caught fire and sank. Over 600 Breton sailors were killed in the battle, and English sailors raided more towns near Brest until storms forced the fleet back to England. In 1513 the Mary Rose took part in a race against other ships in the English fleet. Having won she was soon off on another mission against the French fleet near Brest. The French had recently reinforced their fleet with galleys from the Mediterranean. Howard made a daring attack on the French galleys, boarding one of them himself but losing his life in the process. Demoralised, the fleet limped back to Plymouth. Thomas Howard was appointed as the new Lord Admiral, and started planning a new attack. In August 1513 the Scots joined forces with the French, going to war against England. The Mary Rose was part of a fleet transporting troops to Newcastle, where they then went on to Northumberland to fight at the Battle of Flodden, where the Scottish King James IV was killed. The Mary Rose was involved in skirmishes against the French throughout the summer, but both sides were by now exhausted. The war was over by the autumn, thanks to a new treaty and the marriage of Henry’s sister Mary to the French King Louis XII.
Following the break with the Pope, Henry VIII was particularly isolated in Europe. In 1544 he agreed with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to attack France. However, Charles V made his own peace with France, leaving England even more isolated. In May 1545, the French navy gathered in the Seine estuary, intending to land troops on English soil. The English fleet mustered at Portsmouth under Viscount Lisle. In early July the French fleet set sail and entered the Solent with 128 ships on 16 July. The English had 80 ships in place to oppose them, including the Mary Rose, but retreated into Portsmouth harbour as the fighting vessels were most effective in sheltered water. The first day of the Battle of the Solent consisted of a long range cannonade between the French galleys and the English fleet in which neither side suffered any real loss. On the night of the 18 July 1545, Henry VIII dined on the flagship, the Henry Grace a Dieu, along with his admiral Viscount Lisle. During this meal, he presented George Carew with the Mary Rose as his flagship, making him vice admiral of the fleet. There are conflicting accounts as to what happened in the battle. According to the French, early in the morning of the 19 July, the French galleys took up the battle, trying to lure the English within range of their main fleet. The calm allowed the French to pound the English ships all too easily. Suddenly, much to the delight of the French, the Mary Rose heeled over and sank. Other accounts say that the French fleet attacked when Henry VIII was at dinner, and the Mary Rose sank towards the evening. What is certain is that hundreds of men aboard the Mary Rose drowned as she went down, with only around 34 survivors.
After the Battle of the Solent, a number of attempts were made to salvage the ship. Venetian salvage operators were hired to undertake the work, and on the 1st August it was reported that “By Monday or Tuesday the Mary Rose shall be weighed up and saved.” However, this confidence was premature. They failed in lifting the ship, and weren’t able to shift her into shallow ground either. Despite all the strenuous efforts, the Mary Rose remained stuck fast on the seabed, and eventually all attempts at salvage were abandoned. Eventually, the Mary Rose embedded herself deeply in the soft upper sediments of the seabed, resting on the hard clay below. For centuries she lay on her starboard side at an angle of around 60 degrees, and acted as a silt trap for the Solent currents. The surviving portion of the ship had filled up rapidly, leaving her port side exposed to the currents and marine organisms. Sometime during the 17th and 18th centuries the entire site was covered with a layer of hard grey clay, which sealed it off from further erosion. In 1836, pioneer divers John and Charles Deane discovered the site of the wreck and recovered a bronze demi cannon gun probably made at a foundry at Salisbury Place, London. After several guns and other objects were recovered, the site was reportedly destroyed, and the Mary Rose was lost once more.
There were 415 crew members listed in 1513, but during wartime operations there would have been more soldiers on board, with numbers perhaps swelling to around 700 men in total. Even with the normal crew size of around 400, conditions would have been very crowded. Not much is known of specific individuals who drowned on the Mary Rose. Only the names of the Vice Admiral, Sir George Carew and the Captain, Roger Grenville are known, but a study of the crew’s belongings and their bones suggests they were young and strong, and dressed with some comfort and elegance. One cabin contained a range of tools for carpentry, including a mallet, brace, planes, rulers and a mortise gauge. The carpenter also kept his prized pewter safely locked away in a chest, along with silver coins and jewellery, a book, an embroidered leather pouch and a sundial in an embossed leather case. This suggests that the carpenter was wealthy. Only someone with wealth and status would have owned such items, and have been able to justify having a personal chest which would have taken up precious room on the crowded ship. A group of six skeletons were found together near a 2-tonne bronze gun on the main deck. Five of the skeletons were strong men with big muscles. The vertebrae in the spines show signs of ossification, or the growth of new bone. This shows that they were involved in heavy work. Were the five men a complete gun crew, all of whom may have drowned at their battle station? Perhaps the smaller skeleton was a ‘powder monkey’, a young boy who carried gunpowder to the gun crews. Historians were able to identify the skeleton of the Master Gunner by the two jerkins he was wearing, which had been stained by the lid of the gunpowder dispenser he was carrying. He was in charge of all guns, shot and gunpowder. He had to prepare and secure the guns, and also trained the gun crews. He used a whistle to give commands, including when to fire the guns.
Over 130 longbows and several thousand arrows were found on the Mary Rose, so she must have been carrying a number of longbow archers. Examination of the skeletal remains shows that many men had a condition called osacromiale, which affected their shoulder blades. Modern professional archers today have a similar condition. It’s caused by stress on the arm and shoulder muscles when shooting an arrow. The condition gives us a good idea of which of the men were archers. Surgeons were extremely important people in the crew as any infection in the crowded community could seriously affect the running of the ship. They were often highly skilled, and would have had to be able to perform surgery such as amputating a wounded limb or cauterising a wound to help it heal. The excavations found the remains of the surgeon’s cabin on the starboard side of the main deck. In his cramped cabin he would have acted as a doctor, dentist and pharmacist. The cabin had a large wooden chest which contained canisters filled with ointments, as well as peppercorns which were used as a medicine. He also had two metal syringes, some surgical tools and a bowl to collect a patient’s blood. His equipment included razors, a whetstone and a shaving bowl.
The cook was paid the same as the Master Carpenter and the Master Gunner, and was responsible for feeding over 400 men and preparing more elaborate meals for the officers. He worked in the galley, which was at the lowest area of the ship. Nearby were hundreds of plates, bowls and cooking tools. The Cook had two ovens. Built into the top of each was a very large brass cauldron, the content of just one, was enough to feed everyone on board. Some graffiti found on a bowl and a tankard suggests that the cook was named Ny Cop or Ny Coep. In a small store on the orlop deck, divers found the remains of a man now believed to be the purser. He was trapped here when the ship sank, along with his chest which contained a large number of gold and silver coins. The purser was responsible for paying and mustering the crew, keeping accounts of stores, buying supplies and issuing food and drink according to the rations list. The purser may also have been a money changer, as a small box was found on the upper deck with a set of scales for specific gold coins. Of the 50 chests recovered from the Mary Rose, 28 had personal possessions inside. Chests were the traditional storage containers for possessions belonging to the wealthier members of a ship’s crew – the officers and gentlemen. One chest contained an Italian carving and a lead token similar to ones used on the Continent. Was he a gentleman from Italy or Spain perhaps? One chest contained objects including two swords and a mould for making shot for swivel guns. Perhaps the chest’s owner was responsible for organising the ship’s fighting crew. He could have been a quartermaster, in charge of a quarter of the fighting men on board. In the Tudor period a fifth ‘quarter’ was recommended with a captain of the hold, responsible for all the mariners stationed below decks during a battle to fix any damage. This fifth quarter may explain why so many men were found below decks.
Fine pewter dishes, plates, tankards and spoons were found on the wreck, which were probably used by the officers. However, the site also contained lots of wooden bowls, dishes, plates and tankards, which are an extremely important find as these kinds of everyday domestic objects were normally just thrown away rather than kept for posterity. In the galley, down in the hold just in front of the step for the main mast, were two massive brick ovens. The crew’s food was cooked here in two large cauldrons supported on iron bars over a fire box. Smaller bronze, iron and ceramic cooking pots were also found nearby. The excavation also found casks containing meat bones, both cattle and pig. It looks as if the animals were butchered to meet certain standards – for instance, there were no marrow bones as presumably they would have gone off more quickly than other bones. The food remains were analysed early on in the excavation and give historians an invaluable insight into how much food was needed to run a ship like the Mary Rose. The findings have enabled ‘experimental archaeology’, where experts recreate the cooking facilities and the type and variety of meals that might have been on the Mary Rose.
Very little is known about the clothing worn by everyday people in Tudor times. Paintings depict people in court dress or special occasions. The Mary Rose gives us a unique insight into the day-to-day clothes of ordinary people. Deeply buried in the silt, wool, silk and leather survived well but sadly garments of linen have almost entirely disappeared. So the Mary Rose gives us an excellent collection of leather shoes, jerkins and knitted garments, but no undergarments as they would have been made of linen. One particularly important find is the collection of over 500 shoes. This allows historians to understand more about the particular style of shoe being worn at a specific time.
The objects found in the wreck show that in their spare time the men relaxed with books, music and games. Divers found a fine wooden backgammon set which still had some of its counters. There was also a nine men’s morris board scratched into the end of a barrel. Eleven dice made of bone were discovered in chests, which is to be expected as gaming was popular in the Tudor period. Musical instruments were also amongst the artefacts found on the Mary Rose. Three tabor pipes and a tabor, or drum, were found among personal chests on the orlop deck. A musician would have played a melody on the pipe while beating the rhythm on the drum with his other hand. Fragments of two fiddles were also found on board. The most exciting musical discovery was a shawm, an early form of oboe. This is the earliest one of its kind and is unique in having an extra hole for the thumb, giving it a wider musical range than later shawms. Perhaps there was a band of musicians on board the Mary Rose, employed to provide entertainment. Leather book covers have survived, although the paper pages have long since disappeared. Quill pens and ink pots were also found. But not everyone could read and write, which is why some objects are marked with their owner’s graffiti, a personal mark to show they own something.
The basic tools of navigation involve the measurement of time, distance, direction and depth. Equipment for measuring all of these factors was found on board the Mary Rose. Three compasses were found on the Mary Rose, including the earliest known gimbaled compasses found in the western world. There were also two pairs of dividers, with the earliest known dividers case in the west. The equipment gives us a very good indication of what Tudor navigators were able to do, and what they couldn’t do. For instance, there was no deep-sea navigational equipment found on board.
The new-look Mary Rose Museum gives you the best views of Henry VIII’s warship ever! With the ship in its final stage of conservation, the ducting and the hotbox walls have been removed, allowing you to see the Mary Rose without obstruction. As well as the ship, there are many of the 19,000 artefacts recovered from the seabed, which help tell the story of the men who lived, worked and died on board the Mary Rose. Once inside the museum, it takes between 90 to 120 minutes to go round, but you can take as long as you like. Please be aware that during school holidays they will be very busy, so expect some queues. Visitors’ guides are available in different languages, and we also provide children’s guides in Bengali, Chinese, Polish, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
The site and the museum itself are fully accessible by wheelchair, and the museum houses a wheelchair accessible toilet. Lifts are also available to move from floor to floor, and they have a number of wheelchairs available on site to ensure all areas are accessible. The Mary Rose Museum is located 500m (550 yds.) from the entrance to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. If you are unable to walk up the site, they can come and pick you up in their buggy, provided by Motorculture Ltd. Call them at the Mary Rose Museum to book in advance, or contact them when you arrive at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The museum has a fully accessible toilet with adult changing facilities. Information and guides are available in large print formats. They also offer sensory resources, including tactile plans and painting of the ship. Visitors are also welcome to handle certain artefacts, both historical objects and replicas. There is an audio loop system in exhibition spaces. They also provide transcripts and subtitles for the audio visual content in most areas. All guide and assistance dogs are most welcome. They offer hands-on experiences for visitors with learning disabilities, given by members of the team who are fully experienced and trained. They can also provide a short introductory guide in symbol-supported text. You’ll find baby change facilities on site, and they offer plenty of children’s activities too. The café has highchairs and staff will be happy to warm bottles for baby feeding. There are 15 disability parking bays in the Historic Dockyard car park which is approximately 400 yards from the main entrance/visitor centre. Carers admitted free.
Location : Mary Rose Museum, Main Rd, Portsmouth PO1 3PY
Transport : Portsmouth Harbour (National Rail) then 12 minutes. Bus Routes : 1, 16, and Solent Ranger X4 stop 10 minutes away.
Opening Times : Daily Summer 10:00 to 17:30; Winter 10:00 to 17.00.
Tickets : Adults £18.00; Seniors £17.00; Children/Disabled £13.00
Tel. : 023 9281 2931
On 7th May 1765 HMS Victory was floated out of the Old Single Dock in Chatham's Royal Dockyard. In the years to come, over an unusually long service, she would gain renown leading fleets in the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic War. In 1805 she achieved lasting fame as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Nelson in Britain's greatest naval victory, the defeat of the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar. For Victory, however, active service did not end with the loss of Nelson. In 1808 she was recommissioned to lead the fleet in the Baltic, but four years later she was no longer needed in this role, and she was relegated to harbour service - serving as a residence, flagship and tender providing accommodation. In 1922 she was saved for the nation and placed permanently into dry dock where she remains today, visited by 25 million visitors as a museum of the sailing navy and the oldest commissioned warship in the world.
In December 1758, the commissioner of Chatham Dockyard was instructed to prepare a dry dock for the construction of a new first-rate ship. This was an unusual occurrence at the time, as the Royal Navy preferred smaller and more manoeuvrable ships, and it was unusual for more than two to be in commission simultaneously; during the whole of the 18th century, only ten were constructed. Then Prime Minister Pitt the Elder placed the order for Victory on 13 December 1758, along with 11 other ships. The outline plans were based on HMS Royal George which had been launched at Woolwich Dockyard in 1756, and the naval architect chosen to design the ship was Sir Thomas Slade who, at the time, was the appointed Surveyor of the Navy. She was designed to carry at least 100 guns and was established with that number of guns; in practice, her armament varied from 104 to 106 guns and carronades. In January 1808, the Victory was reduced to a 98-gun second rate, but was reclassed as a 104-gun first rate in February 1817. The keel was laid on 23 July 1759 in the Old Single Dock (since renamed No. 2 Dock and now Victory Dock), and the name was finally chosen in October 1760. In 1759, the Seven Years' War was going well for Britain; land victories had been won at Quebec and Minden and naval battles had been won at Lagos and Quiberon Bay. It was the Annus Mirabilis, or Year of Miracles (or Wonders), and the ship's name may have been chosen to commemorate the victories or it may have been chosen simply because out of the seven names shortlisted, Victory was the only one not in use. There were some doubts whether this was a suitable name since the previous first-rate Victory had been lost with all on board in 1744.
Once the frame had been built, it was normal to cover the ship up and leave it for several months to season but the end of the Seven Years' War meant that she remained in this condition for nearly three years, which helped her subsequent longevity. Work restarted in autumn 1763 and she was finally launched on 7 May 1765, having cost £63,176 and 3 shillings. Around 6000 trees were used in her construction, of which 90% were oak and the remainder elm, pine and fir, together with a small quantity of Lignum Vitae. On the day of the launch, shipwright Hartly Larkin, designated "foreman afloat" for the event, suddenly realised that the ship might not fit though the dockyard gates. Measurements at first light confirmed his fears: the gates were at least 9½ inches too narrow. He told the dreadful news to his superior, master shipwright John Allin, who considered abandoning the launch. Larkin asked for the assistance of every available shipwright, and they hewed away enough wood from the gates with their adzes for the ship to pass safely through. Larkin petitioned the Navy for some reward for his decisive action, "he having a large family", but he was denied. He retired on a small pension in 1779, and died in 1803.
Because there was no immediate use for her, she was placed in ordinary and moored in the River Medway for the following 13 years until France joined the American War of Independence. She was commissioned in March 1778 under Captain John Lindsay but he was transferred to HMS Prince George in May 1778 when Admiral the Honourable Augustus Keppel decided to raise his flag in her, and appoint Rear Admiral John Campbell (1st Captain) and Captain Jonathan Faulknor (2nd Captain). The Victory was armed with smooth bore, cast iron cannon. Initially she carried thirty 42-pounders (19 kg) on her lower deck, twenty-eight 24-pounders (11 kg) on her middle deck, and thirty 12-pounders (5 kg) on her upper deck, together with twelve 6-pounders on her quarterdeck and forecastle. In May 1778, the 42-pounders were replaced by 32-pounders (15 kg), but the 42-pounders were reinstated in April 1779; eventually, in 1803, the 42-pounders were permanently replaced by 32-pounders. In 1782, all the 6-pounders were replaced by 12-pounders. Later, she also carried two carronade guns, firing 68-lb (31 kg) round shot.
Keppel put to sea from Spithead on 9 July 1778 with a force of around twenty-nine ships of the line and, on 23 July, sighted a French fleet of roughly equal force 100 miles (160 km) west of Ushant. The French admiral, Louis Guillouet, comte d'Orvilliers, who had orders to avoid battle, was cut off from Brest, but retained the weather gage. Maneuvering was made difficult by changing winds and driving rain, but eventually a battle became inevitable, with the British more or less in column and the French in some confusion. However, the French managed to pass along the British line with their most advanced ships. At about a quarter to twelve, Victory opened fire on the Bretagne of 110 guns, which was being followed by the Ville de Paris of 90 guns. The British van escaped with little loss, but Sir Hugh Palliser's rear division suffered considerably. Keppel made the signal to follow the French, but Palliser did not conform and the action was not resumed. Keppel was court martialled and cleared and Palliser criticised by an inquiry before the affair turned into a political argument.
In March 1780, Victory's hull was sheathed with 3,923 sheets of copper below the waterline to protect it against shipworm. On 2 December 1781, the ship, now commanded by Captain Henry Cromwell and bearing the flag of Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt, sailed with eleven other ships of the line, a 50-gun fourth-rate, and five frigates, to intercept a French convoy that had sailed from Brest on 10 December. Not knowing that the convoy was protected by twenty-one ships of the line under the command of Luc Urbain de Bouexic, comte de Guichen, Kempenfelt ordered a chase when they were sighted on 12 December and began the battle. When he noted the French superiority, he contented himself with capturing fifteen sail of the convoy. The French were dispersed in a gale and forced to return home. In October 1782, Victory under Admiral Richard Howe was the fleet flagship of a powerful escort flotilla for a convoy of transports which resupplied Gibraltar in the face of a blockade by the French and Spanish navies. No resistance was encountered on entering the straits and the supplies were successfully unloaded. There was a minor engagement at the time of departure, in which Victory did not fire a shot. The British ships were under orders to return home and did so without major incident.
In 1796, Captain Robert Calder (First Captain) and Captain George Grey (Second Captain), commanded Victory under Admiral Sir John Jervis's flag. By the end of 1796, the British position in the Mediterranean had become untenable. Jervis had stationed his fleet off Cape St Vincent to prevent the Spanish sailing north, whilst Horatio Nelson was to oversee the evacuation of Elba. Once the evacuation had been accomplished, Nelson, in HMS Minerve, sailed for Gibraltar. On learning that the Spanish fleet had passed by some days previous, Nelson left to rendezvous with Jervis on 11 February. The Spanish fleet, which had been blown off course by easterly gales, was that night working its way to Cadiz. The darkness and a dense fog meant Nelson was able to pass through the enemy fleet without being spotted and join Jervis on 13 February. Jervis, whose fleet had been reinforced on 5 February by five ships from Britain under Rear-Admiral William Parker, now had 15 ships of the line. The following morning, having drawn up his fleet into two columns, Jervis impressed upon the officers on Victory's quarterdeck how, "A victory to England is very essential at the moment". Jervis was not aware of the size of the fleet he was facing, but at around 0630 hrs, received word that five Spanish battleships were to the south-east. By 0900 the first enemy ships were visible from Victory's masthead and, at 1100, Jervis gave the order to form line of battle. As the Spanish ships became visible to him, Calder reported the numbers to Jervis, but when he reached 27, Jervis replied, "Enough Sir. No more of that. The die is cast and if there are 50 sail, I will go through them". The Spanish were caught by surprise, sailing in two divisions with a gap that Jervis aimed to exploit. The ship's log records how Victory halted the Spanish division, raking ships both ahead and astern, while Jervis' private memoirs recall how the Victory's broadside so terrified the Principe de Asturias that she "..squared her yards, ran clear out of the battle and did not return". Jervis, realising that the main bulk of the enemy fleet could now cross astern and reunite, ordered his ships to change course, but Sir Charles Thompson, leading the rear division, failed to comply. The following ships were now in a quandary over whether to obey the Admiral's signal or follow their divisional commander. Nelson, who had transferred to HMS Captain, was the first to break off and attack the main fleet as Jervis had wanted and other ships soon followed his example. The British fleet not only achieved its main objective, that of preventing the Spanish from joining their French and Dutch allies in the channel, but also captured four ships. The dead and wounded from these four ships alone amounted to 261 and 342 respectively; more than the total number of British casualties of 73 dead and 327 wounded. There was one fatality aboard Victory; a cannonball narrowly missed Jervis and decapitated a nearby sailor.
By late 1797, Victory was stationed at Chatham under the command of Lieutenant J. Rickman. In December, unfit for service as a warship, she was ordered to be converted to a hospital ship to hold wounded French and Spanish prisoners of war. However, on 8 October 1799, HMS Impregnable was lost off Chichester, having run aground on her way back to Portsmouth after escorting a convoy to Lisbon. She could not be refloated and so was stripped and dismantled. Now short of a first rate, the Admiralty decided to recondition Victory. Work started in 1800, but as it proceeded, an increasing number of defects were found and the repairs developed into a very extensive reconstruction. The original estimate was £23,500, but the final cost was £70,933. Extra gun ports were added, taking her from 100 guns to 104, and her magazine lined with copper. Her figurehead was replaced along with her masts and the paint scheme changed from red to the black and yellow seen today. Her gun ports were originally yellow to match the hull, but later repainted black, giving a pattern later called the "Nelson chequer", which was adopted by all Royal Navy ships after the Battle of Trafalgar. The work was completed in April 1803, and the ship left for Portsmouth the following month under her new captain, Samuel Sutton.
Vice-Admiral Nelson hoisted his flag in Victory on 18 May 1803, with Samuel Sutton as his flag captain. The ship was not ready to sail, however, so Nelson transferred to the frigate Amphion on 20 May and left to assume command in the Mediterranean. Victory later sailed to Ushant to serve as flagship to Cornwallis, but was not required and so went to the Mediterranean in search of Nelson. On 28 May, Captain Sutton captured the French Ambuscade of 32 guns, bound for Rochefort. Victory rejoined Lord Nelson off Toulon, where on 31 July, Captain Sutton exchanged commands with the captain of Amphion, Thomas Masterman Hardy and Nelson raised his flag in Victory once more. Victory was passing the island of Toro on 4 April 1805, when HMS Phoebe brought the news that the French fleet under Pierre-Charles Villeneuve had escaped from Toulon. While Nelson made for Sicily to see if the French were heading for Egypt, Villeneuve was entering Cádiz to link up with the Spanish fleet. On 9 May, Nelson received news from HMS Orpheus that Villeneuve had left Cadiz a month earlier. The British fleet completed their stores in Lagos Bay, Portugal and, on 11 May, sailed westward with ten ships and three frigates in pursuit of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet of 17 ships. They arrived in the West Indies to find that the enemy was sailing back to Europe, where Napoleon Bonaparte was waiting for them with his invasion forces at Boulogne. The Franco-Spanish fleet was involved in the indecisive Battle of Cape Finisterre in fog off Ferrol with Admiral Sir Robert Calder's squadron on 22 July, before taking refuge in Vigo and Ferrol. Calder on 14 August and Nelson on 15 August joined Admiral Cornwallis's Channel Fleet off Ushant. Nelson continued on to England in Victory, leaving his Mediterranean fleet with Cornwallis who detached twenty of his thirty-three ships of the line and sent them under Calder to find the combined fleet at Ferrol. On 19 August came the worrying news that the enemy had sailed from there, followed by relief when they arrived in Cádiz two days later. On the evening of Saturday, 28 September, Lord Nelson joined Lord Collingwood's fleet off Cádiz, quietly, so that his presence would not be known.
After learning he was to be removed from command, Villeneuve put to sea on the morning of 19 October and when the last ship had left port, around noon the following day, he set sail for the Mediterranean. The British frigates, which had been sent to keep track of the enemy fleet throughout the night, were spotted at around 1900 hrs and the order was given to form line of battle. On the morning of 21 October, the main British fleet, which was out of sight and sailing parallel some 10 miles away, turned to intercept. Nelson had already made his plans: to break the enemy line some two or three ships ahead of their commander-in-chief in the centre and achieve victory before the van could come to their aid. At 0600 hrs, Nelson ordered his fleet into two columns. Fitful winds made it a slow business, and for more than six hours, the two columns of British ships slowly approached the French line before Royal Sovereign, leading the lee column, was able to open fire on Fougueux. Around 30 minutes later, Victory broke the line between Bucentaure and Redoutable firing a treble shotted broadside into the stern of the former from a range of a few yards. At a quarter past one, Nelson was shot, the fatal musket ball entering his left shoulder and lodging in his spine. He died at half past four. Such killing had taken place on Victory's quarter deck that Redoutable attempted to board her, but they were thwarted by the arrival of Eliab Harvey in the 98-gun HMS Temeraire, whose broadside devastated the French ship. Nelson's last order was for the fleet to anchor, but this was countermanded by Vice Admiral Collingwood. Victory suffered 57 killed and 102 wounded.
Victory had been badly damaged in the battle and was not able to move under her own sail. HMS Neptune therefore towed her to Gibraltar for repairs. Victory then carried Nelson's body to England, where, after lying in state at Greenwich, he was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral on 9 January 1806. Victory bore many admirals' flags after Trafalgar, and sailed on numerous expeditions, including two Baltic campaigns under Admiral Sir James Saumarez. Her active career finally ended on 7 November 1812, when she was moored in Portsmouth Harbour off Gosport and used as a depot ship. It is said that when Thomas Hardy was First Sea Lord, he told his wife on returning home that he had just signed an order for Victory to be broken up. She burst into tears and sent him straight back to his office to rescind the order. Though this story may be apocryphal, the page of the 1831 duty log containing the orders for that day has been torn out. Victory was largely forgotten, except for a brief period during 1833 when the queen in waiting, Princess Victoria, and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, visited the ship. In 1889, Victory was fitted up as a Naval School of Telegraphy. She soon became a proper Signal School, and signal ratings from ships paying off were sent to Victory, instead of the barracks, for a two-month training course. The school remained on Victory until 1904, when training was transferred temporarily to HMS Hercules, and in 1906 the whole school was moved to a permanent establishment at the Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth.
As the years passed, Victory slowly deteriorated at her moorings. In 1903, HMS Neptune was being towed to the breakers yard when she broke free and ploughed into Victory, holing her below the waterline. Emergency repairs prevented her sinking, but it was only the personal intervention of Edward VII that stopped the Admiralty from scrapping Victory. Interest in the ship revived in 1905 when, as part of the centenary celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar, she was decorated with electric lights powered by a submarine moored alongside. In 1910, the Society for Nautical Research was created to try to preserve her for future generations, but the Admiralty was unable to help, having become embroiled in an escalating arms race; thus by the time Frank H. Mason published The Book of British Ships in 1911, Victory's condition was described as "..nothing short of an insult". By 1921, she was in a very poor state, and the Save the Victory campaign was started, with shipping magnate Sir James Caird becoming a major contributor. On 12 January 1922, she was moved into No. 2 dock at Portsmouth, the oldest drydock in the world still in use, her condition having deteriorated to the extent that she could no longer safely remain afloat. During the initial restoration period from 1922 to 1929, a considerable amount of structural repair work was carried out above the waterline and mainly above the middle deck. In 1928, King George V was able to unveil a tablet celebrating the completion of the work, although restoration and maintenance still continued under the supervision of the Society for Nautical Research.
HMS Victory is a floating gun platform. The first decision taken when designing the ship centred on the number of guns she would carry. Once this was set at 100, the number of guns on the lower gun deck could be calculated, and the other dimensions of the ship were derived from this. On Victory, the gun is king. At the Battle of Trafalgar, the ship carried 104 guns spread over four decks. Whilst fewer than the 161 guns the British army had at the Battle of Waterloo, Victory’s guns were far larger and therefore more powerful; all of the cannonballs in Victory’s first broadside fired at the Battle of Trafalgar weighed 1.25 tons! Today, relatively few guns from Trafalgar survive, and due to Victory’s age the majority on board are replica – made of either wood or fibreglass. The ship, however, does still have 8 of the guns she used during her most famous battle. One of these, a 24-pdr weighing over 3 tons, is displayed on Victory’s middle gun deck. At the height of battle the gun’s 12-man crew achieved a rate of fire of one round every ninety seconds. In Battle this deck was surrounded by noise. Lewis Roatley, Victory’s 20-year-old 2nd Marine Lieutenant wrote ‘A man should witness a battle in a three-decker from the middle deck, for it beggars all description: it bewilders the senses of sight and hearing.’
The importance of food at sea cannot be overstated. Britain’s strategy in war relied upon her navy, and the efficiency of the navy was dictated by many things – none more important than ensuring the crew were well fed and therefore healthy. A significant portion of the 5,000 calories a seaman consumed each day came from the main meal of the day, which was either boiled beef with suet pudding, or boiled pork with peas. This one ‘hot’ meal – by the time the men sat down to eat it was probably cold – was cooked on Victory’s Brodie stove. Regardless of whether you were an admiral or an ordinary seaman, every member of victory’s 821-man crew ate food that had been cooked on this single, surprisingly small stove. The stove is also equipped with a small copper still, which produces fresh water from salt water. The very small quantities produced in this way would be saved for the men on the sick list. On the stove’s aft face, an automatic rotating spit powered from a fan in the stove’s chimney could spit roast chickens and pieces of fresh meat. Although not usually part of the ration – salt meat was more common - both officers and men could bring live animals on board to be slaughtered as required. In such a case, spit-roasting, resulting in a far tastier meal than boiling, would usually be employed.
Victory was usually in service as a flagship, meaning that she was the home of an Admiral in command of the whole fleet as well as of her Captain, who commanded the ship. Although life at sea could never be truly comfortable, with the constant damp and movement of the ship and the threat of sea sickness (from which even Nelson suffered), the Admiral at least had a light and spacious living space. Generally known as the Great Cabin, it occupies one quarter of the Upper Gun Deck and is actually in four separate parts. The Day Cabin was the Admiral’s office, where he planned battle strategy, commanded the fleet and wrote his despatches. It was at the breakfast table here that Nelson wrote his famous prayer before the Battle of Trafalgar. However, all is not as it seems; concealed in the quarter galleries on both sides are ‘seats of ease’ – private toilet facilities. There are also gunports carefully hidden by bulkheads and seats, ready to be used when the ship was cleared for action so that even the cabin became part of the fighting machine. The elegant Dining Cabin was used by the Admiral to entertain senior officers in style – it was here that over two consecutive nights in early October 1805, nelson explained his plan for battle to the captains of the fleet. Outside the Dining Cabin is an ante-room, known as the steerage where valets, clerks and secretaries worked, whilst the Bed place has Nelson’s made-to-measure cot swinging between two 12-pounder guns. The embroidered hangings of the cot are replicas of those made by his mistress, Lady Emma Hamilton.
The planks of the Lower Gun Deck deck are over 200 years old, etched by the feet and guns which have run over them in the course of two centuries of naval service. Standing on the Lower Gun Deck, alongside the massive 32-pdrs weighing more than 4 tons, it’s possible to get a glimpse of what it must have been like to live and fight in this little wooden world. Here the deckhead – ceiling – is lower, the light is dimmer, and the surroundings feel cramped. At meal times 600 men ate in this space, and at night 460 slept, hammocks interlocking so as to make any chance of privacy impossible. It is easy to concentrate on the harsh nature of life in the Navy at this time, but for these men the standard of living was relatively good: they were provided with plenty of food, a place to live, and had access to relatively good (by the standards of the day) medical treatment, on top of which they earned a reasonable basic wage.
It was to the cockpit, there on the orlop deck, that Nelson was carried by two seamen after being shot. The deck was already beginning to grow crowded with injured men requiring medical assistance – 40 seamen and several officers were patiently waiting to be seen by Victory’s Surgeon, William Beatty, when his attention was diverted by some of the wounding calling to him: ‘Mr Beatty, Lord Nelson is here: Mr Beatty, the Admiral is wounded.’ Nelson was certain of his own fate, exclaiming: ‘Ah, Mr Beatty! You can do nothing for me. I have but a short time to live: my back is shot through.’ Beatty laid Nelson upon a makeshift bed on the deck and examined the wound. He quickly found that the musket ball had penetrated deep into Nelson’s chest and broken his spine. Nelson explained to Beatty: ‘He felt a gush of blood every minute within his breast: that he had no feeling in the lower part of his body: and that his breathing was difficult, and attended with very severe pain about that part of the spine where he was confident that the ball had struck.’ Nelson spent the next three hours in great pain as the battle was fought around him. Slowly the noise of battle faded away until, at about 4.30, Lord Nelson died of blood loss, which had been exacerbated by spinal shock. The shock and upset felt throughout the Britsh Fleet, the Royal Navy, and Britain as a whole is perhaps best described by Nelson’s friend Captain Henry Blackwood: ‘In my life I was never so shocked or completely upset as upon me flying to the Victory, even before the Action was over, to find Lord Nelson was then at the gasp of death…such an Admiral has the Country lost, and every officer and man so kind, so good, so obliging a friend as never was.’
The Quarter Deck was the ship’s nerve centre. Officers directed operations from here, whilst the ship was steered by the wheel under the overhang of the Poop Deck. On the morning of October 21st 1805 Nelson emerged on deck to view the enemy fleet, stretched out in front of Victory in a line some 5 miles long. Later that day, whilst pacing the Quarter deck with Victory’s Captain, Thomas Masterman Hardy, Nelson was shot by a French seaman in the rigging of La Redoutable. The place where Nelson fell is now marked by a simple brass plaque. On receiving his wound, Nelson’s face and medals were covered by a handkerchief so as not to damage the morale of his crew, and the Admiral was carried below to Victory’s Orlop deck to receive what medical assistance was available. Today, standing upon the quarter deck, it is possible to get a sense of how a 1strate ship of the line such as Victory dominated the surrounding area – standing as she does so high out of the water. Nelson is not alone in having stood here whilst battle was waged. Keppel, Kempenfelt, Howe and Jervis also fought battles from this spot, whilst other great names in the history of the Royal Navy such as Parker, Hood and Saumarez commanded fleets from this deck.
The HMS Victory tour involves climbing several flights of fairly steep steps. A video tour is provided on the Lower Gun Deck for visitors who use wheelchairs or those who are unable to walk around the ship. Please ask at the Visitor Centre for the video tour. To reach the ship, follow the Special Access Route to the Victory Arena then proceed around the front of the ship (keeping the ship on your left). Please ask a member of staff at the bottom of the gangway who will be able to provide assistance up the ramp if required. They ask that babies are not carried on the ship in backpacks due to low beams. HMS Victory contains: Steep Stairs, Trip Hazards, Low Ceilings, Narrow & Low Doorways, Decks that are slippery when wet, Low light levels. Please be aware that: There are low ceilings and beams throughout the ship, but especially on the orlop deck near the place where Nelson died. There are trip hazards throughout the ship, but especially on the upper deck near the spot where Nelson was shot. The visually impaired should be accompanied by a carer. Assistance dogs are welcome. Toilets for disabled visitors can be found in: Historic Dockyard Car Park; Boathouse No.7; Victory Port Arena; National Museum of the Royal Navy and Action Stations. During the November - March period HMS Victory moves from free-flow to guided tours that last 50 mins with a capacity of 30 people for each tour. Your tour can only be booked in the visitors centre upon arrival. Easy Access tours are at 10:45am and 4pm and are only bookable on the day. Carers are admitted for free.
Location : HMS Victory, Main Rd, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ
Transport : Portsmouth Harbour (National Rail) then 10 minutes. Bus Routes : 1, 16, and Solent Ranger X4 stop 8 minutes away.
Opening Times : Daily Summer 10:00 to 18:00; Winter 10:00 to 17.30.
Tickets : Adults £18.00; Seniors / Disabled £17.00; Children £13.00
Tel. : 023 9283 9766
Britannia ruled the waves when Queen Victoria came to the throne. Wooden sailing ships were on the decline, making way for new maritime innovations like the paddle steamer, Great Western and the iron-hulled, screw driven SS Great Britain. The Admiralty had, however, grown complacent about Britain's command of the seas. Steam engines had been installed in some wooden ships of the line, and smaller vessels had been constructed with the new types of propulsion or iron hulls, but it was a shock when in 1858 the French started building La Gloire, the first armoured wooden-hulled ship. La Gloire was launched in 1859. The original intention of the French was to replace their whole fleet with iron hulls, but French industrial capacity proved incapable of delivering enough iron. Instead, almost all ships had wooden hulls clad with iron up to 5 inches thick above the waterline. Emperor Napoleon lll was certain his projected new-look Navy could out-manoeuvre and out gun the British. News of the construction of La Gloire and naval expansion across the Channel caused an explosion of anti-French feeling in Britain. The Press stirred fears of an invasion..
With the defeat of the French Fleet at Trafalgar, the RN had smashed its most powerful opponent at sea, but it would take another 10 years for Napoleon to finally be defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, in June of 1815. After 1815 the Royal Navy took on the role of the World's policeman - suppressing the slave trade, attacking piracy and helping to maintain the diplomatic balance in Europe. From the Bombardment of Algiers in 1816, the Navy flexed its muscles and the fleet was involved in innumerable actions over the next 4 decades. Ship design was also changing - on the declaration of peace in 1815 the largest of the Navy's sailing ships had been almost 50% larger than HMS Victory, thanks to advances in building techniques. Steam was introduced into the Royal Navy in 1821, and through the 1830's and 1840's the Navy gradually incorporated the new technology, initially with the paddle-wheel and by the 1840's with the propeller. France, constantly looking for any advantage, quickly embraced the steam engine and there were worries in Parliament that "Steam has bridged the Channel". The Royal Navy responded and by the early 1850's the Battlefleet had auxiliary steam and propellers.
The origins of the Crimean War lay in disagreements between Russia, France and the Ottoman Empire as to who was the protector of the Christian Faith in the Holy Land. Britain, concerned that Russia would become too powerful, watched closely. In November 1853 a Russian fleet armed with shell - firing guns destroyed a squadron of Ottoman ships at the Battle of Sinope. This provided Britain and France with a reason to declare war against Russia on the side of the Ottoman Empire. The Battle of Sinope demonstrated how vulnerable wooden ships were to shell-firing guns. The French set about designing floating batteries that were to be protected by iron-boxes filled with cannonballs. The Admiralty's Chief Engineer - Thomas Lloyd, saw this design and realised that as soon as a cannonball hit the box it would break open, the cannonballs would roll out, and the protection would be useless. He suggested to the French that they use 4.5" iron plate as protection, and the armoured floating battery was born. Britain was unable to complete any armoured-batteries before peace was declared, but the French batteries saw action at the Bombardment of Kinburn in October 1855 where they helped to destroy Russian Forts, proving the importance of armour protection.
On January 1st 1857 Henri Dupuy de Lôme was appointed Directeur du Matériel of the French Navy. Having observed the successes of the floating batteries at Kinburn, and a keen proponent of the use of iron in shipbuilding, de Lôme quickly set about designs for an armoured sea-going ship - La Gloire. La Gloire was launched November 1859. The class were poor seaboats, suffered from unsound timber and generally failed to meet expectations. They were broken up in the 1860's. One of the greatest naval architects of his generation, de Lôme was hindered only by France's lack of industrial capacity - with French foundries incapable of producing enough iron, La Gloire was designed as a wooden ship, clad in iron 12cm (4.5 inches) thick. At 77.8m (255 feet) in length, and displacing 5,630 tons, La Gloire was 40% smaller than Warrior. La Gloire made an enormous impact on the world stage when commissioned in August 1860. With a crew of 570 men and some 36 muzzle - loading guns she was quickly hailed as a success, however there were some problems: The guns were close together, and the gun-ports were too close to the waterline - making them very difficult to fight in anything other than a calm sea. In addition, the timber used was of poor quality - unable to dry out because of the iron armour, the hull rotted quickly and she was scrapped in 1883.
Admiral Baldwin Walker, the Surveyor of the Navy, was not convinced that ironclad warships would ever completely replace wooden ones but he recognised that the safety of the country depended on bettering the French threat as soon as possible. The simple solution first suggested was to clad existing ships in iron. However Sir John Pakington, the First Lord of the Admiralty, supported the building of iron-hulled ships and, in November 1858, he commissioned a design. The new ironclad was to be called Warrior after a distinguished third rate ship-of-the-line which had recently been broken up. Warrior and her sister ship Black Prince were the fastest, largest, strongest and most powerfully- armed warships in the world, and confirmed Britain's place as the ruler of the waves. It was a time of transition from sail to steam and Warrior would prove to be one of the fastest ships of her day. "I often wondered how I mustered sufficient courage to order such a novel vessel" Sir John Pakington, First Lord of the Admiralty.
Isaac Watts, Chief Constructor to the Navy, and his assistant Joseph Large, developed an entirely new concept in warships. Their revolutionary idea was to house the main guns, boilers and engine in an impregnable armoured 'box' or citadel. This was to be constructed from 4 ½ inch thick wrought iron plates bolted to 18" inches of teak, then mounted on the 1 inch thick plating of the hull itself, behind which were the frames and timber lining. In all this represented a total thickness of some 2 feet. The bow and stern were added to each end of this well-armoured box and were constructed of wrought iron plates 1 inch thick. Watertight compartments were formed to limit the spread of water inside the ship, the first time this technique - soon to become worldwide practise - had been used in a warship. Portsmouth and Chatham Royal Dockyards were not equipped to build iron hulls, so the contract went out to tender and was won by the Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company based at Blackwall, London. The plan was to complete the ship in nine months, but delays added 10 months. The Thames Iron Works had to be rescued from bankruptcy by the Admiralty during construction and work was made even more difficult by the coldest winter for 50 years. "I often wondered how I mustered sufficient courage to undertake its construction".Mr Peter Rolt, Chairman, Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company.
As Warrior's sleek profile rose slowly from the (building) slip like some huge iron curtain the crowds gathered eagerly, fascinated by the ironclad's progress. Over 2,000 workers swarmed night and day over the wooden scaffolding which cocooned Warrior's vast hull, rising like a monolithic iron skyscraper. Newspapers and magazines reported with great enthusiasm on every development, one week waving the flag patriotically; the next, doubting whether she would ever float. A favourite topic was the cost which escalated to almost £400,000, twice that of a standard wooden ship-of-the-line. Only 4 months after La Gloire was commissioned, Warrior was ready for launching and to make the Royal Navy the envy of the world. Warrior was launched on 29 December 1860. It was the coldest it had been for 50 years and the dockyard, even the Thames, were covered in frozen snow. Sizable crowds gathered to watch as Sir John Pakington named the ship, but even though braziers had been lit down both sides of the ship the night before, Warrior remained frozen on the slipway. Extra tugs and hydraulic rams were used, while on the upper deck hundreds of men ran from side to side to rock her free. After 20 minutes, almost imperceptibly, she began to move, "God speed the Warrior" shouted Sir John, and broke a bottle of wine on her bow. The spectators cheered, hats were thrown in the air, tugs blew their whistles and the stern took the water 'as gracefully as any yacht'. Her Majesty's Ship Warrior was now afloat. She, and her sister ship, Black Prince, were to become the most feared ships afloat.
The morning after her launch, Warrior's red-painted hull sat high in the water as she was moved to the Victoria Docks for fitting out. A week after her launch the first member of Warrior's crew - Engineer William Buchan - was appointed to the ship, and by the end of January the Penn steam engine was part-assembled inside the ship. Steam was got up for the first time on March 1st whilst the fitting of the armour plates carried on for the next few months. Fixing the armour plates to the side of the ship was a complicated job - each one had to be bent to fit the curve of the ship's hull before being tongued and grooved in order to fit closely to the plates around. In all some 202 armour plates had to be put onto the ship, weighing a total of 960 tons. The masts and rigging were all supplied by Chatham Dockyard, and on April 15th the masts were lowered into the ship for the process of rigging to be begun on April 17th. When completed the 100-strong party of seamen sent from Woolwich had installed 25 miles of rope, 660 blocks and 80 hearts & deck eyes. Along with these works, the myriad of other tasks needed to convert the empty iron hull into the world's most advanced warship were being undertaken: everything from the gunpowder magazine to the sickbay, and from the galley range to the wallpaper of the officer's cabins had to be fitted. Captain Cochrane commissioned the ship on August 1st, and a week later Warrior moved out of the Victoria Docks under her own power, and anchored a few miles down river at Greenhithe to continue fitting out and take on her guns and stores. It was during her time at Greenhithe that Charles Dickens visited the ship, writing later "..a black vicious customer as ever I saw. Whale like in size, and with as terrible a row of incisor teeth as ever closed on a French frigate." With the finishing touches made, Warrior left the Thames for Portsmouth on September 19th 1861.
Warrior was first commissioned into the Royal Navy on 1st August 1861 whilst still being fitted out on the River Thames. The Honourable Arthur Cochrane, the third son of Admiral Thomas Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald, was her Captain. As she was a new and innovative ship the next few months were spent establishing her performance in trials. This led to some minor modifications and, in June 1862, Warrior was ready for active service in the Channel Squadron, patrolling coastal waters and making voyages to Lisbon and Gibraltar. Warrior was the focus of attention wherever she went and when she toured the British ports in 1863 as many as six thousand people a day came to marvel at this symbol of British Naval power. No wonder, as she was the largest, fastest and most heavily armoured and most heavily armed warship in the world. Not for nothing was she described as "The Black Snake amongst the rabbits in the Channel". Although not the first iron ship, nor the first to use both sail and steam, Warrior combined these and other technological developments together and presented the greatest advance in ship design for centuries. She kept the peace by deterring the enemy. All other warships were obsolete the day Warrior was launched.
Warrior kick-started a change in naval technology which went at a pace never seen before. When her first commission ended in November 1864 she spent two years in harbour before rejoining the Channel Squadron for another four years in 1867. To many on board it must have seemed that Warrior's career would go on forever. Foreign navies soon copied Warrior's design. Ships were built with ever thicker armour and ever more powerful guns. Engines too became increasingly efficient and, with coaling stations, and later oil, being established in many ports throughout the world, sails soon became obsolete. In only ten years, Warrior, once at the peak of Victorian technology was herself overtaken by progress. She was no longer a fearsome deterrent. In 1875 Warrior began life as a Coastguard and Reserve ship, taking the officers and men from HMS Royal Alfred. Having been in refit since 1871, Warrior's masts, rigging and decks had all been renewed, and a poop deck had been added at the stern as it had been intended to make her flagship of the Admiral commanding the Mediterranean squadron. This star role was not to be, however, and so she found herself moored at Portland harbour for the majority of the next six years, making a single extended voyage each summer in the company of the reserve squadron. The years passed largely uneventfully, apart from the sinking of HMS Vanguard in 1875, but in May 1881 Warrior again lost out to the Hercules - the ship that had ended up as flagship in the Mediterranean - when Rear Admiral the Duke of Edinburgh hoisted his flag in the latter ship, forcing an exchange of crews with Warrior. This latest change saw Warrior stationed at Greenock, where she would spend the remainder of her career in the coastguard. Warrior's sea-going service ended in May 1883, when during her routine pre-summer cruise refit it was discovered that her main and foremasts were rotten, and would need replacing. Time and money were against the ship, her place was taken by the armour-plated Shannon, and Warrior was relegated to rotten row.
Warrior was different from the sailing warships of the previous four centuries - like Mary Rose and Victory - in having one long stable gun deck rather than several stacked gun decks. Six hundred men lived here, divided into 34 messes, each with up to 18 men squashed into the space between two guns. They crammed around the simple mess table at mealtimes and at night slung their hammocks above. They were allowed small ditty bags or boxes containing day-to-day possessions. Despite the sometimes rigorous conditions, off-watch the crews' leisure time was spent singing, talking, playing cards, sewing and writing letters home. Some had musical instruments; others had pets such as parrots. The contrast between the social life of the crew and officers is evident. The Captain's cabin, with its rich décor and fine furniture, was very like the Victorian drawing room. Officers had individual cabins, which they adorned with personal possessions such as fishing rods, books and photographs. The Wardroom table is still magnificently set for formal dinner, gleaming with silver, crystal and embossed fine bone china. The Admiralty classification of ships was regulated by armament and Warrior, officially a third-rate frigate, would normally carry a crew of 300. However, when she set sail on her first commission, Warrior had a crew of approximately 700. The ship herself may have been revolutionary, but the day to day lives of her crew differed little from service in the great wooden warships. Manpower was still essential. To many on board it must have seemed, as it did to those at home, that Warrior's career would go on forever.
You can trace today's Naval command system back to Warrior and beyond. The Captain was the ship's undisputed ruler, answerable to the Admiralty for everybody and everything on board. His comfortable quarters were at the aft end of the main deck. They comprised day and sleeping cabins. He also had private heads (toilet) and a personal steward who worked from a nearby pantry. Beyond his quarters were the rudder yoke and propeller well. Number two was the Commander, who was responsible for the ship's day to day routines, fighting capability and general appearance. He was also Wardroom Mess President. His quarters were next to the Captain's as were those of the Master. His title was a throwback to when merchant ships and their masters were commandeered for naval use. The Captain could only enter the wardroom by invitation of the other officers. The wardroom was their mess. It was on the lower deck, with their 14 cabins, 6 feet by 10 feet, arranged around a central dining and leisure area. With the Royal Navy's new professional status some of the younger wardroom members would have graduated from the officer training school on Illustrious or later Britannia. The ship's chaplain was also the schoolmaster, teaching the ordinary crew and the junior ranks comprising 20 to 30 midshipmen and sub-lieutenants. These very young officers led a less formal life in the gunroom - their lower deck mess - where the chief gunner was in charge of the midshipmen. They slept in hammocks. Also sharing the lower deck were the engineers, the boatswain, gunner, shipwright (carpenter) and chief petty officers, all of whom had cabins and messes.
If you wanted to serve on board Warrior, you needed brawn rather than brain. 600 of the 700 men aboard had tough physical jobs. The ship herself may have been revolutionary, but the day to day lives of her crew differed little from service in the great wooden warships. The average sailor manned the guns, hoisted the sails, turned capstans, hauled on ropes, lifted and lowered boats, pulled on oars and cranked the massive pumps that moved water around the ship. "Knowing the ropes" was more than an idle phrase to the men who worked 180 feet up in the rigging day and night. A large number of the crew helped raise the ship's four anchors located at the bow and stern. Each weighed 5.6 tons, the heaviest ever in maritime history to be operated manually. Over 100 men hauled one anchor up at a time through linked capstans with its chain fed into cable lockers amidships to keep the ship balanced. The crew slept in hammocks slung above the guns, and lived and ate in messes between the guns. The lot of the Jack Tar was improving. Press gangs had been abolished. Instead, seamen would be recruited for a fixed period and could then re-enlist or take a pension.
Uniforms had been introduced in 1859, the year before Warrior's launch. The dress depended on the job and the time of day or week. The normal outfits comprised dark blue jumpers and white trousers. All white outfits were worn for drills. Stokers wore white suits of duck - a material similar to canvas, all the time and on Sundays, hats - black in winter and white in summer - were compulsory except in wet weather. Clothes were issued monthly from the Paymaster and the cost of the uniform deducted from the seaman's wages. Hat ribbons were offered at a cost of 1 shilling each, a day's wages to a second class ordinary seaman. The Paymaster was a key figure on the ship. He controlled the victualling, clothes and pay from his lower deck office. Pay parade was monthly and formal. Off-watch seamen reported to the pay office and, at the command, a seaman took off his hat so that his wages could be put in it. Pay levels ranged from the Captain's £1 a day to the sixpence (2.5p) paid to a Boy Second Class.
The stokers and trimmers had the worst jobs so were paid 50 per cent more. They toiled in the stokehold in appalling conditions, shovelling tons of coal and ash by hand in temperatures of about 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degree Centigrade). The air was thick with dust, and the noise was indescribable. Another vital task was coaling up. This took place every few weeks when suitable port facilities were available. The job was dirty and complicated, and involved all the crew. The gun deck was cleared with tables up, guns back and ports opened. Seamen and Marines filled two cwt (100kg) wicker panniers aboard the collier berthed alongside. The panniers were hauled through the gunports, lifted over the deck and emptied down six chutes to stokers in the bunkers below. Two full days were needed to load 805 tons of coal. The ship's resident 16 piece band played rousing melodies to keep the crew's morale up. Tons of dry coal blackened the gun deck to such an extent that it took a week to clean up afterwards. It is not surprising, therefore, that Warrior was the first warship to have washing machines!
Wooden warships had attained their optimum length, their multiple gun decks making them unstable. Warrior's ingenious design incorporated just one long, very stable gun deck - 100 feet longer than any previous warship. Her firepower could blow any other vessel out of the water. While wooden ships carried 32-pounder guns, Warrior had 68-pounders and 110-pounders. Of the two types of heavy gun carried by Warrior the 68 pounder was most numerous, with twenty six on board. This gun was designed in 1846 by Colonel Dundas, weighing 6 tons on its elm carriage. 18 men were required to man the position and could achieve a rate of fire of one round every 55 seconds. Although equipped with fitted sights, the trajectory was erratic. Due to the smooth bore nature of the gun effective range was limited to 2,000 yards. Complementing the 68 lb muzzle loading guns were ten 110 pound guns. The Admiralty opted for these relatively untried breech loading guns, designed in 1859 by Tyneside engineer, William Armstrong and weighing 4.1 tons. Again a gun crew of 18 men were required to discharge one round every 50 seconds. One innovation was the barrel's rifling. This made the shot fly true and spin so that the tapered point hit the target first. This heralded the introduction of the percussion fuse, which detonated the shell on impact. Another new feature was the loading method. The guns did not have to be drawn back into the ship; both projectile and charge were loaded through the breech screw and the chamber sealed with a block. Equipped with tangent elevated sights and a rifled bore, accuracy up to 4,500 yards was expected, making it far more efficient than any smooth bore gun in use at the time. The guns were not as impressive at sea as first hoped. It proved impossible to create a gas tight seal between the block and breech, reducing the ability to fire rapidly and safely.
Warrior is a 'hands-on' attraction where visitors are encouraged to touch and try things out - there are many sounds, smells and textures to be experienced. Working Dogs are welcome onboard. Visitors with disabilities or specials needs are most welcome onboard Warrior but this historic ship may present challenges for some visitors. Access is best achieved with the aid of another individual. Warrior has four decks, connected by steep steps. The upper deck is accessible to all visitors but some areas may be more difficult to access. These areas can now be experienced with their 'virtual' tour of the ship available to view at the Warrior reception area within the Visitor Centre. Due to the historic nature of the ship, access can be difficult. They recommend visitors contact them prior to their visit so that they can suggest the best time to gain access with ease. At certain times the tides may make the gradient of the gangways steep. Once on board ramps provide access on to the upper deck and, for those able to transfer, there is a stairlift giving access to the main gun deck where a manual wheelchair is available for use. Toilets with access for wheelchair users can be found in Boathouse No. 7, Action Stations, The Royal Naval Museum and Victory arena. Wheelchairs are available to use, free of charge, from the Visitor Centre, Mary Rose and Royal Naval Museum (a form of identity will be required). There is an audio guide available that has a hearing loop option. Warrior is a very accessible 'hands-on' ship and many tactile exhibits are available. Braille and large print deckplans are available at our reception desk. Guided Tours can be arranged for special needs audiences but these must be pre-booked and are subject to the availability of volunteer guides.
Location : HMS Warrior, Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3QX
Transport : Portsmouth Harbour (National Rail) then 5 minutes. Bus Routes : 1, 16, and Solent Ranger X4 stop outside Victory Gate.
Opening Times : Daily Summer 10:00 to 17:30; Winter 10:00 to 17.00.
Tickets : Adults £18.00; Seniors £17.00; Children/Disabled £13.00
Tel. : 023 9277 8600
The origins of the Royal Navy parallel the evolution of the United Kingdom. Saxon boat burials at Snape (about 550) and Sutton Hoo (about 625) show that sophisticated warships were being built at this period. Northumbria conquered the Isle of Man and Anglesey in about 620 and sent an expedition to Ireland. The threat from Vikings or "The force" as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to them, increased significantly in the early part of the 9th Century and invasions became a serious menace in 835. The early battles may all have been fought on land. However, in 851 the Vikings overwintered. 350 ships appeared in the Thames estuary, “ruined Canterbury,” and "made the greatest carnage of a heathern army that we have ever heard of". Æthelstan of Wessex and ealdorman Ealhere “fought in ships” won a battle at Sandwich, Kent capturing 9 ships. Several other naval battles are recorded and in 882 Alfred himself fought against four ships, capturing two. In 896 Alfred had a number of "longships", "nearly twice as long as the others", built to his own design some having 60 oars, some even more, to counter raids along the south coast. Alfred’s victory later that year saw nine of his new ships trap six Danish ships. By the 930s English ship design had advanced over King Alfred's cumbersome ships, and in 934 King Æthelstan was able to launch an invasion of Scotland with a combined sea and land force. Under King Edgar annual musters and manoeuvres were held of allegedly up to 1,000 ships. Given the provision of ship soke (a method of jurisdiction), numbers of this size are implied, but seem unwieldy and may have included "boats" and merchant vessels. In 992 the fleet was concentrated in London against Olaf Tryggvason.
Although there is evidence of subsequent attempts to fund a national naval force, there was no opposition to the landings of Sweyn Forkbeard from 1003 onwards, nor to the takeover by Cnut in 1016. A large force was assembled by Ethelred the Unready in 1009 at Sandwich under the command of Brihtric, brother of Eadric Streona. However Brihtric accused his subordinate commander Wulfnoth Cild of Sussex (the probable father of Earl Godwin) of treachery. Whilst he vehemently denied this, he nonetheless led a mutiny and sailed off with a third of the fleet. Brihtric followed, but was overwhelmed by a storm. Wulfnoth's ships then returned and burnt the stricken vessels, before going into exile. Aelthred ordered the construction of a national fleet in 1008. Ethelred the Unready had significant problems retaining the loyalty of his naval commanders, with Aelfric being deprived of his position as Ealdorman of Mercia for betraying naval secrets to the Danes. He also attempted to mount an unsuccessful raid against Normandy. In the reign of Cnut an English expedition was mounted to support his policies in Norway. Thorkell the Tall defected to the English from the Danes with a ship of 80 men in 1012. Earl Godwin presented a ship of 80 men to Hardicanute also of 80 men, which seems to have then become the standard size of a warship. After 1016 Cnut had a standing navy of 16 ships including a 120 oared flagship. Edward the Confessor stood down the navy in 1050/1, paying off 14 ships, but then found it impossible to control Earl Godwin and his followers who were exiled following a dispute over his refusal to discipline the citizens of Dover. Godwin and his sons split their forces between Flanders and Dublin and were able to visit their estates in the Isle of Wight and South East England, eventually gaining sufficient support from the "butsecarles" (literally "boatmen") of Kent to sail to London and dictate terms to the King. In 1054 Earl Siward took a fleet to Scotland to defeat Macbeth while in 1063 Edward the Confessor sent a fleet from Bristol around Wales after Gruffydd ap Llywelyn.
William the Conqueror sent a fleet to Scotland in 1072 but by the early 12th century the fleet had almost disappeared. Yet in 1141 Henry II invaded Ireland, while a fleet of 167 ships sailed from Dartmouth on a crusade to capture Lisbon from the Moors. A further fleet was raised for the Third Crusade in 1190. The Norman kings had a regular need for cross-Channel transport and raised a naval force in 1155, with the Cinque Ports required to provide a total of 57 ships crewed by 21 sailors apiece. However, with the loss of Normandy by King John (who even so had a fleet of 500 sail in an attempt to regain it), this had to become a force capable of preventing invasion (e.g. the 1215–1217 French invasion of England) and protecting traffic to and from Gascony. In the first years of the 13th century William de Wrotham appears in the records as the clerk of a force of galleys to be used against Philip Augustus of France. In 1206 King John ordered 54 royal galleys to be constructed and between 1207 and 1211 £5000 was spent on the royal fleet. The fleet also started to have an offensive capability, as in 1213 when ships commanded by the Earl of Salisbury raided Damme in Flanders, where they burned many ships of the French fleet. An infrastructure was also developing - by 1212 a base existed at Portsmouth, supporting at least ten ships. Later in the 13th century ships begin to be mentioned regularly as support for various campaigns under Edward I, most notably in Luke de Tany's capture of Anglesey in 1282. Edward II of England attempted to blockade Scotland, but ineffectively. Naval expenses were considerable, with twenty 120-oared galleys being ordered in 1294 because of a fear of French invasion. In the late 13th century there were Northern and Western fleets commanded by "Admirals" who were responsible for raising and administering the ships. The post of "Lord High Admiral of England" was created in 1408.
The Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) included a number of cross-Channel raids both ways, mostly unopposed due to lack of effective communications. The navy was used for reconnaissance as well as attacks on merchantmen and warships. Prize ships and cargos were shared out. The Battle of Sluys in 1340 was a significant English victory, with Edward III of England's 160 ships (mostly hired merchant vessels) assaulting a French force in the Zwyn estuary and capturing 180 French ships in hand-to-hand combat. Les Espagnols sur Mer, fought in the Channel off Winchelsea in 1350, is possibly the first English major sea battle; the English captured 14 Spanish ships. The 14th century also saw the creation of the post of Clerk of the King's Ships, who appears from 1344 on as in charge of some 34 royal vessels. In the mid-fourteenth century Edward III's navy overall had some 700 ships. English fortunes declined in the 1370s, with merchants objecting to the continual borrowing of their ships. Merchantmen were impressed 22 times between 1338 and 1360. There was objection to the taxation to man the king's ships, and by the end of the reign of Richard II of England only four were left, and by 1409 only two. Henry V of England revived the navy, building a number of balingers and "great ships", increasing the fleet from six in 1413 to 39 in 1417/8. This included the 1,400-ton Grace Dieu (which still exists, buried in the Hamble estuary), and won victories in the Channel, reaching a high point in 1417 when the French fleet was destroyed. An invasion of France took place in 1415 which led to the capture of Harfleur and the victory at Agincourt. On Henry's death in 1422 the fleet was sold off and then the lands in France were lost except for Calais where there was a battle in 1458. Significant new construction did not occur until the 1480s, by which time ships mounted guns regularly; the Regent of 1487 had 225 serpentines, an early type of cannon. Henry VII deserves a large share of credit in the establishment of a standing navy. Although there is no evidence for a conscious change of policy, Henry soon embarked on a program of building ships larger than heretofore. He also invested in dockyards, and commissioned the oldest surviving dry dock in 1495 at Portsmouth.
Henry VIII ordered a major expansion of the fleet, which increased from five ships in 1509 to thirty in 1514 including the Henri Grâce a Dieu ("Great Harry") of 1500 tons and Mary Rose of 600 tons. Most of the fleet was laid up after 1525 but, because of the break with the Catholic Church, 27 new ships were built with money from the sale of the monasteries as well as forts and blockhouses. In 1544 Boulogne was captured. The French navy raided the Isle of Wight and was then fought off in the Battle of the Solent in 1545, prior to which Mary Rose sank. A detailed and largely accurate contemporary document, The Anthony Roll, was written in 1540. It gave a nearly complete account of the English navy, which contained roughly 50 ships, including carracks, galleys, galleasses and pinnaces. The carracks included famous vessels such as the Mary Rose, the Peter Pomegranate and the Henry Grace à Dieu. By the time of Henry's death in 1547 his fleet had grown to 58 vessels, although armed merchantmen owned by private individuals still comprised a large proportion of war-fleets. There was an Anglo-French war between 1543 and 1549 which saw a battle off the Channel Islands in 1549. In 1580 Spanish and Portuguese troops were sent to Ireland but were defeated by an English army and naval force.
In the late 16th century the Spanish Empire, at the time Europe's superpower and the leading naval power of the 16th century, threatened England with invasion to restore Catholicism in England. Francis Drake attacked Cadiz and A Coruña to delay the attack. The Spanish Armada finally set sail in 1588 to enforce Spain's dominance over the English Channel and transport troops from the Spanish Netherlands to England. The Spanish plan failed due to maladministration, logistical errors, blocking actions by the Dutch, bad weather, and the significant defeat by the English at the naval Battle of Gravelines. However, the bungled Drake-Norris Expedition of 1589 and the more successful raid by Lord Howard in 1596 prevented further invasion plans from occurring. A blockade of the Spanish coast was undertaken by John Hawkins and Martin Frobisher in 1590. Under the reign of Elizabeth I England raided Spain's ports and attacked Spanish ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean, capturing much treasure.
While Henry VIII had launched the Royal Navy, his successors King Edward VI and Queen Mary I had ignored it and it was little more than a system of coastal defence. Elizabeth made naval strength a high priority. She risked war with Spain by supporting the "Sea Dogs," such as John Hawkins and Francis Drake, who preyed on the Spanish merchant ships carrying gold and silver from the New World. The Navy yards were leaders in technical innovation, and the captains devised new tactics. Parker (1996) argues that the full-rigged ship was one of the greatest technological advances of the century and permanently transformed naval warfare. In 1573 English shipwrights introduced designs, first demonstrated in the "Dreadnaught," that allowed the ships to sail faster and maneuver better and permitted heavier guns. Whereas before warships had tried to grapple with each other so that soldiers could board the enemy ship, now they stood off and fired broadsides that would sink the enemy vessel. When Spain finally decided to invade and conquer England it was a fiasco. Superior English ships and seamanship foiled the invasion and led to the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588, marking the high point of Elizabeth's reign. Technically, the Armada failed because Spain's over-complex strategy required coordination between the invasion fleet and the Spanish army on shore. But the poor design of the Spanish cannons meant they were much slower in reloading in a close-range battle, allowing England to take control. Spain and France still had stronger fleets, but England was catching up.
After 1603 the English and Scottish fleets were organized together under James I but the efficiency of the Navy declined gradually, while corruption grew until brought under control in an inquiry of 1618. James concluded a peace with Spain and privateering was outlawed. Notable construction in the early 17th century included the 1,200-ton Prince Royal, the first three-decker, and Sovereign of the Seas in 1637, designed by Phineas Pett. Operations under James I did not go well, with expeditions against Algerian pirates in 1620/1, Cadiz in 1625, and La Rochelle in 1627/8 being expensive failures. Charles I levied "ship money" from 1634 and this unpopular tax was one of the main causes of the first English Civil War from 1642–45. At the beginning of the war the navy, then consisting of 35 vessels, sided with Parliament. During the war the royalist side used a number of small ships to blockade ports and for supplying their own armies. These were afterwards combined into a single force. Charles had surrendered to the Scots and conspired with them to invade England during the second English Civil War of 1648–51. In 1648 part of the Parliamentary fleet mutinied and joined the Royalist side. However, the Royalist fleet was driven to Spain and destroyed during the Commonwealth period by Robert Blake.
The execution of Charles I forced the rapid expansion of the navy, by multiplying England's actual and potential enemies, and many vessels were constructed from the 1650s onward. This second reformation of the navy was carried out under 'General-at-Sea' (equivalent to Admiral) Robert Blake during Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth. (Unlike the Royal Navy, the land forces are descended from a variety of different sources, including both royalist and Parliamentary forces.) The 1651 "Navigation Act" cut out Dutch shippers from English trade. Operations of the late 17th century were dominated by the three Anglo-Dutch Wars, which stretched from 1652 to 1674. Forty new ships were built between 1650 and 1654. Triggered by seemingly trivial incidents, but motivated by economic competition, they were notable as purely naval wars fought in the English Channel and the North Sea. In February 1653 the English Channel was closed to Dutch ships which were then forced back to their home ports. Finally the Dutch accepted the Navigation Act and the English bought up Dutch merchant ships. The Interregnum saw a considerable expansion in the strength of the navy, both in number of ships and in internal importance within English policy. The Restoration Monarchy inherited this large navy and continued the same policy of expansion of the navy, focusing on making a strong navy full of large ships in order to provide a strong defense under Charles II.
At the start of the Restoration, Parliament listed forty ships of the Royal Navy with a complement of 3,695 sailors. The administration of the navy was greatly improved by Sir William Coventry and Samuel Pepys, both of whom began their service in 1660 with the Restoration. While it was Pepys' diary that made him the most famous of all naval bureaucrats, his nearly thirty years of administration were crucial in replacing the ad hoc processes of years past with regular programmes of supply, construction, pay, and so forth. He was responsible for introduction of the "Navy List" which fixed the order of promotion. In 1683 the "Victualling Board" was set up which fixed the ration scales. In 1655 Blake routed the Barbary pirates and started a campaign against the Spanish in the Caribbean, capturing Jamaica. In 1664 the English captured New Amsterdam (later New York City) resulting in the Second Dutch War (1665–1667). In 1666 the Four Days Battle was a defeat for the English but the Dutch fleet was crushed a month later off Orfordness. In 1667 the Dutch mounted the Raid on the Medway, breaking into Chatham Dockyard and capturing or burning many of the Navy's largest ships at their moorings, which resulted in the most humiliating defeat in the Royal Navy's history. The English were also defeated at Solebay in 1672. The experience of large-scale battle was instructive to the Navy; the Articles of War regularizing the conduct of officers and seaman, and the "Fighting Instructions" establishing the line of battle, both date from this period. The Royal Navy gradually developed into the strongest navy in the world. From 1692 the Dutch navy was placed under the command of the Royal Navy's admirals (though not incorporated into it) by order of William III following the Glorious Revolution. The influence and reforms of Samuel Pepys, the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II, were important in the early professionalisation of the Royal Navy.
The Glorious Revolution of 1688 rearranged the political map of Europe, and led to a series of wars with France that lasted well over a century. This was the classic age of sail; while the ships themselves evolved in only minor ways, technique and tactics were honed to a high degree, and the battles of the Napoleonic Wars entailed feats that would have been impossible for the fleets of the 17th century. The landing of William III and the Glorious Revolution itself was a gigantic effort involving 100 warships and 400 transports carrying 11,000 infantry and 4,000 horses. It was not opposed by the English or Scottish fleets. Louis XIV declared war just days later, a conflict which became known as the War of the Grand Alliance. The English defeat at the Battle of Beachy Head of 1690 led to an improved version of the Fighting Instructions, and subsequent operations against French ports proved more successful, leading to decisive victory at La Hougue in 1692. In 1689 the French navy landed James II in Ireland and the Royal Navy failed in attempts to attack his supply ships and at a battle off Beachy Head. James's French invasion fleet could not exploit its victory. Although it burned the town of Teignmouth on its way home, the fleet was sunk by the Royal Navy off the coast of Normandy. Naval operations in the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–13) were with the Dutch against the Spanish and French. They were at first focused on the acquisition of a Mediterranean base, culminating in an alliance with Portugal and the capture of Gibraltar (1704) and Port Mahon in Minorca (1708). In addition Newfoundland and Nova Scotia were obtained. Even so, freedom of action in the Mediterranean did not decide the war, although it gave the new Kingdom of Great Britain (created by the Union of England and Scotland in 1707) an advantage when negotiating the Peace of Utrecht, and made Britain a recognized great power. Spanish treasure fleets were sunk in 1704 and 1708, and the Spanish Empire was opened up to British slaving voyages. The British fleet ended Spanish occupation of Sicily in 1718 and in 1727 blockaded Panama.
The subsequent quarter-century of peace saw a few naval actions. The navy was used against Russia and Sweden in the Baltic from 1715 to 1727 to protect supplies of naval stores. It was used at the Cape Passaro in 1718, during the Great Northern War, and in the West Indies (1726). There was a war against Spain in 1739 over the slave trade. In 1745 the navy transported troops and stores to Scotland to defeat the Jacobite Rising. The War of Jenkins' Ear (1739–48) saw various naval operations in the Caribbean under admirals Vernon and Anson against Spanish trade and possessions, before the war subsequently merged into the wider War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748). This, in turn, brought a new round of naval operations against France, including a blockade of Toulon. In 1745 the navy twice defeated the French off Finisterre but their convoys escaped. The Navy also defended against invasion by Charles Edward Stuart the "Young Pretender". By the end of the war, the Navy was fully engaged in the worldwide protection of British trade. The Seven Years' War (1756–63) began somewhat inauspiciously for the Navy, with a French siege of Minorca and the failure of Admiral John Byng to relieve it; he was executed on his own quarterdeck. Voltaire famously wrote that he had been shot "to encourage the others" (admirals). Minorca was lost but subsequent operations went more successfully (due more to government support and better strategic thinking, rather than admirals "encouraged" by Byng's example), and the British fleet won several victories. The French tried to invade Britain in 1759 but their force was defeated at Quiberon Bay off the coast of Brittany. Spain entered the war against Britain in 1762 but lost Havana and Manila, though the latter was given back in exchange for Florida. The Treaty of Paris that ended the war left Britain with colonial gains, but isolated strategically.
At the beginning of the American Revolutionary War (1775–83), the Royal Navy dealt with the fledgling Continental Navy handily, destroying or capturing many of its vessels. However, France soon took the American side, and in 1778 a French fleet sailed for America, where it attempted to land at Rhode Island and nearly engaged with the British fleet before a storm intervened, while back home another fought the British in the First Battle of Ushant. Spain and the Dutch Republic entered the war in 1780. Action shifted to the Caribbean, where there were a number of battles with varying results. A Spanish fleet was defeated at the battle of Cape Saint Vincent in 1780 while a Franco-Spanish fleet was defeated in the West Indies in 1782. The most important operation came in 1781 when, in the Battle of the Chesapeake, the British failed to lift the French blockade of Lord Cornwallis, resulting in a British surrender in the Battle of Yorktown. Although combat was over in North America, it continued in the Caribbean (Battle of the Saintes) and India, where the British experienced both successes and failures. Though Minorca had been recaptured, it was returned to the Spanish.
The French Revolutionary Wars of 1793–1802 and the Napoleonic Wars of 1803–15 saw the Royal Navy reach a peak of efficiency, dominating the navies of all Britain's adversaries. Initially Britain did not involve itself in the French Revolution, but in 1793 France declared war, leading to the Glorious First of June battle in the following year off Brest, followed by the capture of French colonies in the Caribbean. The Dutch Republic declared war in 1795 and Spain in 1796, on the side of France. Further action came in 1797 and 1798, with the battles of Cape St Vincent and the Nile, which brought Admiral Horatio Nelson to the public's attention. It was one of the most decisive battles ever fought and caused Napoleon to withdraw from Egypt. In 1800 Russia, Sweden and Denmark agreed to resist British warships searching neutral shipping for French goods and in 1801 the Danes closed their ports to British shipping. This caused Britain to attack ships and the fort at the Battle of Copenhagen. The Peace of Amiens in 1802 proved to be but a brief interruption in the years of warfare, and the Navy was soon blockading Napoleon's France. In 1805 French invasion forces were massed on the French coast with 2,300 vessels. The French fleet at Toulon went to the West Indies where it was intended to meet the Spanish one but it was chased by the British fleet and returned without meeting up. After fighting an action off Finisterre the French fleet withdrew to Cadiz where it met up with the Spanish one. The height of the Navy's achievements came on 21 October 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar where a numerically smaller but more experienced British fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson decisively defeated the combined French and Spanish fleet. The victory at Trafalgar consolidated the United Kingdom's advantage over other European maritime powers.
By concentrating its military resources in the navy, Britain could both defend itself and project its power across the oceans as well as threaten rivals' ocean trading routes. Britain therefore needed to maintain only a relatively small, highly mobile, professional army that sailed to where it was needed, and was supported by the navy with bombardment, movement, supplies and reinforcement. The Navy could cut off enemies' sea-borne supplies, as with Napoleon's army in Egypt. Other major European powers had to divide their resources between large navies, large armies, and fortifications to defend their land frontiers. The domination of the sea therefore allowed Britain to rapidly build its empire after the Seven Years' War (1756–1763) and throughout the 19th century, giving it enormous military, political and commercial advantages. Theoretically, the highest commands of the Royal Navy were open to all within its ranks showing talent. In practice, family connections, political or professional patronage were very important for promotion to ranks higher than Commander. British captains were responsible for recruiting their ship’s crew from a combination of volunteers, impressment and the requisitioning of existing crew members from ships in ordinary. From 1795 a Quota System was also applied, where each British county was required to supply a certain number of volunteers. Many nationalities served on British ships, with foreigners comprising fifteen per cent of crews by the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Americans were the most common foreign nationality in naval service, followed by Dutch, Scandinavian and Italian. While most foreigners in the Navy were obtained through impressment or from prison ships, around 200 captured French sailors were also persuaded to join after their fleet was defeated at the Battle of the Nile. The French revolution's anti-aristocratic purges caused the loss of most of the French navy's experienced commanders, increasing the Royal Navy's advantage over France.
The conditions of service for ordinary seamen, while poor by modern standards, were better than many other kinds of work at the time. However, inflation during the late 18th century eroded the real value of seamen's pay while, at the same time, the war caused an increase in pay for merchant ships. Naval pay also often ran years in arrears, and shore leave decreased as ships needed to spend less time in port with better provisioning and health care, and copper bottoms (which delayed fouling). Discontent over these issues eventually resulted in serious mutinies in 1797 when the crews of the Spithead and Nore fleets refused to obey their officers and some captains were sent ashore. This resulted in the short-lived "Floating Republic" which at Spithead was quelled by promising improvements in conditions, but at the Nore resulted in the hanging of 29 mutineers. It is worth noting that neither of the mutinies included flogging or impressment in their list of grievances and, in fact, the mutineers themselves continued the practice of flogging to preserve discipline. Napoleon acted to counter Britain's maritime supremacy and economic power, closing European ports to British trade. He also authorised many privateers, operating from French territories in the West Indies, placing great pressure on British mercantile shipping in the western hemisphere. The Royal Navy was too hard-pressed in European waters to release significant forces to combat the privateers, and its large ships of the line were not very effective at seeking out and running down fast and manoeuvrable privateers which operated as widely spread single ships or small groups. The Royal Navy reacted by commissioning small warships of traditional Bermuda design. The first three ordered from Bermudian builders—HMS Dasher, HMS Driver and HMS Hunter—were sloops of 200 tons, armed with twelve 24-pounder guns. A great many more ships of this type were ordered, or bought from trade, primarily for use as couriers. The most notable was HMS Pickle, the former Bermudian merchantman that carried news of victory back from Trafalgar. As a result of these wars Britain gained many overseas bases such as Ceylon, the Cape of Good Hope, Malta, and Mauritius. Between 1793 and 1815 the Royal Navy lost 344 vessels due to non-combat causes: 75 by foundering, 254 shipwrecked and 15 from accidental burnings or explosions. In the same period it lost 103,660 seamen: 84,440 by disease and accidents, 12,680 by shipwreck or foundering, and 6,540 by enemy action.
In the years following the battle of Trafalgar there was increasing tension at sea between Britain and the United States. American traders took advantage of their country's neutrality to trade with both the French-controlled parts of Europe, and Britain. Both France and Britain tried to prevent each other's trade, but only the Royal Navy was in a position to enforce a blockade. Another irritant was the suspected presence of British deserters aboard US merchant and naval vessels. Royal Navy ships often attempted to recover these deserters. In one notorious instance in 1807, otherwise known as the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, HMS Leopard fired on USS Chesapeake causing significant casualties before boarding and seizing suspected British deserters. The American navy on the other hand was in no shape or condition to forcefully claim the approximately 6,000 of its own citizens from aboard Royal Navy vessels. Of the men taken aboard the HMS Leopard and hung, two were later found to be of American origin. In 1812, while the Napoleonic wars continued, the United States declared war on the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and invaded Canada. Occupied by its death struggle with France, British policy was to commit only sufficient forces to the American War of 1812 to prevent American victory. On land, this meant a great reliance on militia and Native American allies. On the water, the Royal Navy kept its large men-of-war in Europe, relying on smaller vessels to counter the weak United States Navy. Some of the action consisted of small-scale engagements on the Great Lakes. A key element of the war was the battle for control of the Great Lakes. Without the support of ships to move soldiers, equipment and supplies, either side would be at a great disadvantage, especially against an enemy who was able to make full use of the lakes. A building contest resulted in British supremacy on Lake Ontario, and American supremacy on Lake Erie. All of the Royal Naval vessels on Lake Erie were captured at the decisive Battle of Lake Erie on 10 September 1813. The British Army, along with militia and Indian units, was now cut off from supplies and retreated Eastward. They were caught and defeated at the Battle of the Thames on 5 Oct. 1813, which gave Americans the control over western Ontario, and destroyed the Indian alliance the British Army had depended upon. In 1814 the British Army, bringing in veteran units from the Peninsular War, launched a major invasion of New York State under General Sir George Prévost. However, the supporting Royal Navy vessels on Lake Champlain were sunk by the American fleet at the Battle of Plattsburgh on 11 Sept. 1814, forcing Prévost to retreat back to Canada despite his much larger army.
At sea, the American War of 1812 was characterised by single-ship actions between small ships, and disruption of merchant shipping. The Royal Navy struggled to build as many ships as it could, generally sacrificing on the size and armament of vessels, and struggled harder to find adequate personnel, trained or barely trained, to crew them. Royal Naval vessels were often under-manned, without sufficient men to fire a full broadside. Many of the men crewing Royal Naval vessels were rated only as landsmen, and many of those rated as seamen were impressed (conscripted), with resultingly poor morale. The US Navy could not begin to equal the Royal Navy in number of vessels, and had concentrated in building a handful of better-designed frigates. These were larger, heavier and better-armed (both in terms of number of guns, and in the range to which the guns could fire) than their British counterparts, and were handled well by larger volunteer crews (where the Royal Navy was hindered by a relative shortage of trained seamen, the US Navy was not large enough to make full use of the large number of American merchant seamen put out of work, even before the war, by the Embargo Act). As a result, a significant number of British ships were defeated and, mid-way through the war, the Admiralty issued the order not to engage American frigates individually. There were also significant losses of merchant shipping to American privateers, a total of 1,300 vessels; however, the Royal Navy, operating from its new base and dockyard, off the US Atlantic Seaboard in Bermuda, gradually reinforced the blockade of the American coast, virtually halting all trade by sea, capturing many merchant ships, and forcing the US navy frigates to stay in harbour or risk being captured. Despite successful American claims for damage having been pressed in British courts against British privateers several years before, the War was probably the last occasion on which the Royal Navy made considerable reliance on privateers to boost Britain's maritime power. In Bermuda, privateering had thrived until the build-up of the regular Royal Naval establishment, which began in 1795, reduced the Admiralty's reliance on privateers in the Western Atlantic. During the American War of 1812, however, Bermudian privateers alone captured 298 enemy ships (the total captures by all British naval and privateering vessels between the Great Lakes and the West Indies was 1,593 vessels.)
The Royal Navy also occupied coastal islands, encouraging American slaves to defect. Military-aged males were enlisted into a Corps of Colonial Marines while their families were sent to the dockyard in Bermuda for the duration of the war, employed by the Royal Navy. These marines fought for the Crown on the Atlantic Seaboard, and in the attack on Washington DC and the Chesapeake. They also guarded the dockyard in Bermuda. When the members of the corps were offered re-enlistment into the British Army, most refused. After demobilisation, they were granted land to settle in the West Indies. Those who did transfer to the British Army were re-enlisted into West India Regiments and took part in the Louisiana Campaign (which included the Battle of New Orleans). Britain's liberation of enslaved Americans led to a post-war lawsuit, mediated by Russia through which the U.S. sought reimbursement. After British victory in the Peninsular War, part of Wellington's Light Division was released for service in North America. This 2,500-man force, composed of detachments from the 4, 21, 44, and 85 Regiments with some elements of artillery and sappers and commanded by Major-General Ross, arrived in Bermuda in 1814 aboard a fleet composed of the 74-gun HMS Royal Oak, three frigates, three sloops and ten other vessels. The combined force was to launch raids on the coastlines of Maryland and Virginia, with the aim of drawing US forces away from the Canada–US border. In response to American actions at Lake Erie (the Burning of York), however, Sir George Prevost requested a punitive expedition which would 'deter the enemy from a repetition of such outrages'. The British force arrived at the Patuxent on 17 August and landed the soldiers within 36 miles of Washington DC. Led by Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, the British force drove the US government out of Washington, DC. Ross shied from the idea of burning the City, but Cockburn and others set it alight. Buildings burned included the US Capitol and the US President's Mansion.
The Napoleonic Wars left Great Britain the most powerful naval country in the world, with no meaningful rivals. The country's economic and strategic strength was buttressed by the fleet; localized military action was a staple of the not-entirely-peaceful "Pax Britannica". In addition, the threat of naval force was a significant factor in diplomacy. The navy was not idle however; the 19th century witnessed a series of transformations that turned the old wooden sailing navy into one of steam and steel. After 1827 there were no major battles until 1914. The navy was used against shore installations, such as those in the Baltic and Black Sea in 1854 and 1855; to fight pirates; to hunt down slave ships; and to assist the army when sailors and marines were landed as naval brigades, as on many occasions between the siege of Sebastopol and the 1900 Boxer Rebellion. With a fleet larger than any two rivals combined, the British nation could take security for granted, but at all times the national leaders and public opinion supported a powerful navy, and service was of high prestige. The first action of the period was the bombardment of Algiers under Lord Exmouth, conducted in 1816. This was to force the freeing of Christian slaves. During the Greek War of Independence, at the Battle of Navarino (1827), the Turkish fleet was destroyed by the combined fleets of Britain, France and Russia. This was the last major action between fleets of sailing ships. Ottoman involvement continued, with the bombardment of Acre in 1840, and additional Mediterranean crises during the rest of the decade. Action was taken against pirates in the Levant, Borneo and China Seas. To stop slaving, ships were boarded at sea and slaving ports raided.
To try to prevent Russia gaining access to a warm water port, the Crimean War was fought in the 1850s. Britain (in concert with the Turks and French) sent 150 transports and 13 warships and the Russian Black Sea fleet was destroyed. The Crimean War became known as a testing ground for the new technologies of steam and shell. It was shown that explosive shells ripped wooden hulls to pieces, which led to the development of the "iron clad" ship. It also showed the need for a permanent pool of trained seamen. There were two Anglo-French campaigns against Russia. In the Black Sea, success at Sevastopol was paralleled by successful operations in the Baltic including the bombardments of Bomarsund and Sveaborg. The Chinese Government placed unilateral restraints on British trade with China. In 1839 a Chinese official impounded opium from India, but the British insisted on the British Empire being allowed to export to China and instituted a blockade of Canton, beginning the First Anglo-Chinese War (1839–42). There was a Second Anglo-Chinese War from 1856 to 1860. In 1857 the British captured Canton and threatened Beijing, thrown back by the Chinese in 1859 but succeeding the following year. As a result of these actions Britain gained a base at Hong Kong in 1839 and a base in Canton in the second war. In 1864 the bombardment of Kagoshima forced Japan to accept foreign traders. During the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) the British sent a fleet of battleships under Geoffrey Phipps Hornby to intimidate Russia from entering Constantinople. Over the next thirty years, only a bombardment of Alexandria in 1882 brought the fleet into action, carried out to ensure control of the Suez Canal.
Steam power was of interest to the Royal Navy from the beginning of the 19th century, since it neatly solved the difficult and dangerous sailing problems encountered in estuaries and other inshore areas. It was first adopted in the Comet of 1821, and in 1824 Lightning accompanied the expedition to Algiers. Steam vessels appeared in greater numbers through the 1830s and 1840s, all using side-mounted paddlewheels; screw propellers were introduced in the 1830s and, after some reluctance, were adopted in the mid-1840s (the famous tug-of-war between the screw-propelled HMS Rattler and the paddlewheeled Alecto was entertaining, but records show the Admiralty had already decided on and ordered screw ships). The first major steam warship was HMS Agamemnon. In the 1850s Naval Arms Race screw battleships and frigates, both conversions and new constructions, were built in large numbers. These ships retained a full capacity for sail as steam engines were not yet efficient enough to permit long ocean voyages under power. Steam power was intended only for use during battle and to allow ships to go to sea at will instead of being held in port by adverse winds. A triple expansion steam engine was introduced in 1881 which was more efficient than earlier ones. Iron in ship construction was first used for diagonal-cross-bracing in major warships. The adoption of iron hulls for ocean-going ships had to wait until after Admiralty experiments had solved the problem of an iron-hull's effect on compass deviation. Because iron hulls were much thinner than wooden hulls, they appeared to be more vulnerable to damage when ships ran aground. Although Brunel had adopted iron in the Great Britain, the Admiralty was also concerned about the vulnerability of iron in combat, and experiments with iron in the 1840s seemed to indicate that iron would shatter under impact. In 1858 France built the first seagoing ironclad, La Gloire, and Britain responded with Warrior of 1860, the first of the 1860s Naval Arms Race—an intensive programme of construction that eclipsed French efforts by 1870.
When armoured ships were first introduced, in-service guns had very little ability to penetrate their armour. However, starting in 1867, guns started to be introduced into service capable of penetrating the armour of the first generation iron-clads, albeit at favourable angles and at short range. This had already been anticipated, and armour thicknesses grew, resulting in turn in a gun calibre-race as larger guns gave better penetration. The explosive shell was introduced in 1820. In parallel with this there was a debate over how guns should be mounted on ship. Captain Cowper Coles had developed a turret design in the late-1850s as a result of experience in the Crimean War. Initial designs, published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1859 were for a ship with far more than 10 turrets. Consequently, a range of coastal-service turret-ships were built in parallel with the seagoing iron-clads. Because of agitation from Captain Coles and his supporters, the issue of turret-ships became deeply political, and resulted in the ordering of Captain an unsatisfactory private design by Lairds and Captain Coles. The rival Admiralty design, Monarch, had a long and successful career. However the need to combine high-free-board at the bow with sails meant that both these ships had very poor end-on fire. The Admiralty's next seagoing mastless turret-ship design Devastation solved these problems by having very large coal bunkers, and put the 35 ton guns in turrets on a breastwork. Tank testing of hull models was introduced and mechanical calculators as range finders. The torpedo came in during the 1870s and the first ship to fire one in battle was HMS Shah. This led to the development of torpedo boats and torpedo boat destroyers (later called just destroyers).
At this time, 80% of merchant steamships were built in British shipyards. The rate of French construction was low, and construction times were stretched out. For instance, the last of the three French 1872-programme battleships was not completed until October 1886. Many of these long-delayed ships were completed in the second half of the 1880s, and this was misrepresented as the French having more new battleships than the Royal Navy in various publications including the famous 1884 articles in the Liberal magazine Pall Mall Gazette, which alarmed the public just before the General Election, and helped create an increased market for books on naval matters such as the Naval Annual, which was first published in 1887. The age of naval dominance at low cost was ended by increased naval competition from old rivals, such as France, and new ones such as Imperial Germany and Japan. These challenges were reflected by the Naval Defence Act 1889, which was instituted on May 31, 1889, to increase the United Kingdom's naval strength and formally adopt the country's "two-power standard". The standard called for the Royal Navy to be as strong as the world's next two largest navies combined (at that point, France and Russia) by maintaining a number of battleships at least equal to their combined strength. That led to a new ship building programme, which authorised ten new battleships, 38 cruisers, and additional vessels. Alfred Thayer Mahan's books and his visit to Europe in the 1890s heightened interest even more. When Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone held out against another large programme of naval construction in 1894, he found himself alone, and so resigned.
The strategic situation changed rapidly in the mid-1890s; between a Russian-French alliance, an ambitious program of German naval construction, and both the United States and Japan expanding their spheres, Britain found herself isolated and insecure. Both naval construction and naval strategizing became intense, prompted by the development of torpedoes and submarines (from 1901), which challenged traditional ideas about the power of battleships. At the same time the Dreadnought committed to the "big gun only" concept and caused a shift in thinking around the world, giving Britain the undisputed lead. This ship had ten 12 inch guns with a top speed of 21.5 knots. The British were aided in this development by having Naval Observers aboard the Japanese fleet at the battle of Tsushima straits in 1904 where the Japanese decisively defeated the Russian fleet. They had concluded that during an engagement, 12 inch guns proved the most decisive, possessing the greatest range and firing power. Homogeneous batteries had the added advantage of facilitating the more accurate salvo firing method. Another innovative (though ultimately unsuccessful) concept was the battlecruiser, fast and light but still hard-hitting. However, to achieve this the ship's armour was sacrificed. The result was a potentially fatal weakness. This was exploited by the Germans at the battle of Jutland. At the same time, there was much dispute within the Admiralty about how to operate the modern navy, with Winston Churchill advocating various changes. The Royal Navy began developing submarines beginning on 4 February 1901. These submarines were ordered in late 1900 and were built by Vickers under a licensing agreement with the American Electric Boat Company. The first British Holland No. 1 (Type 7) submarine (assembled by Vickers) was 63 feet 4 inches long. Four other models of this type soon followed in rapid succession and entered the fleet.
Major reforms of the British fleet were undertaken, particularly by Admiral Jackie Fisher as First Sea Lord from 1904 to 1909. During this period, 154 obsolete ships, including 17 battleships, were scrapped to make way for newer vessels. Reforms in training and gunnery were introduced to make good perceived deficiencies, which in part Tirpitz had counted upon to provide his ships with a margin of superiority. Changes in British foreign policy, such as The Great Rapprochement with the United States, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and the Entente Cordiale with France allowed the fleet to be concentrated in home waters. By 1906 the Royal Navy's only likely opponent was the Imperial German Navy. Also, around this time, an important new development was under way. It was the steam turbine, invented by Charles Parsons, demonstrated by the Turbinia in 1899. Rosyth Royal Dockyard was opened in 1909. In 1910, the existing Naval Intelligence Division (NID) was shorn of its responsibility for war planning and strategy. Outgoing First Sea Lord Fisher created the so-called Navy War Council as a stop-gap remedy to criticisms emanating from the Beresford Inquiry that the Navy needed a naval staff—a role the NID had been in fact fulfilling since at least 1900, if not earlier. Some countries from within the British Empire started developing their own navies. In 1911 the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy came into being. In 1941 the New Zealand Division became the Royal New Zealand Navy. All these reforms and innovations of course required a large increase in funding. Between 1900 and 1913 the Naval Estimates nearly doubled to total £44,000,000.
During the two World Wars the Royal Navy played a vital role in keeping the United Kingdom supplied with food, arms and raw materials and in defeating the German campaigns of unrestricted submarine warfare against Allied commerce. The navy also took part in many other operations right across the globe, opposing the Italian and Japanese fleets. In the inter-war period the Royal Navy was stripped of much of its power. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 imposed limits on individual ship tonnage and gun calibre, as well as total tonnage of the navy. The treaty, together with the deplorable financial conditions during the immediate post-war period and the Great Depression, forced the Admiralty to scrap all capital ships from the Great War with a gun calibre under 13.5 inches and to cancel plans for new construction. The G3-class of 16-inch battlecruisers and the N3-class of 18-inch battleships were cancelled. Three of the Admiral-class battlecruisers had already been cancelled. Also under the treaty, three "large light cruisers"—Glorious, Courageous and Furious—were converted to aircraft carriers. New additions to the fleet were therefore minimal during the 1920s, the only major new vessels being two Nelson-class battleships and fifteen County and York-class heavy cruisers.
The London Naval Treaty of 1930 deferred new capital ship construction until 1937 and reiterated construction limits on cruisers, destroyers and submarines. As international tensions increased in the mid-1930s the Second London Naval Treaty of 1935 failed to halt the development of a naval arms race and by 1938 treaty limits were effectively ignored. The Navy made a show of force against Mussolini's war in Abyssinia, and operated in China to evacuate British citizens from cities under Japanese attack. The re-armament of the Royal Navy was well under way by this point however, with the King George V class of 1936, limited to 35,000 tons and 14-inch armament, the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, and the Illustrious-class carriers, the Town and Crown Colony classes of light cruiser and the Tribal-class destroyers. In addition to new construction, several existing old battleships, battlecruisers and heavy cruisers were reconstructed, and anti-aircraft weaponry reinforced. During this period the Royal Navy was used for evacuation and gunboat diplomacy. There were significant pay cuts in the 1920s, culminating in the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931. The crews of various warships refused to sail on exercises, which caused great shock. This led to changes and the pay rates were restored in 1934. However, life for ordinary seamen remained hard. There were 97,000 men in the navy in 1930.
The museum is housed in a row of three buildings which face HMS Victory. No. 11 Storehouse dates from 1763, and the adjacent No. 10 Storehouse from 1776; both are Grade I listed. The Victory Gallery is a purpose-built museum building of 1938. The museum ship HMS M33 is in a dry dock alongside. No. 11 Storehouse contains various exhibition spaces relating to the Age of Sail. The restored No. 10 Storehouse opened to the public in 2014 as the Babcock Galleries, housing a new permanent exhibition telling the story of the 20th- and 21st-century Navy, as well as temporary exhibition spaces. It also houses the Trafalgar Sail (the fore topsail of HMS Victory, said to be the largest surviving single original artefact from the Battle of Trafalgar). A new glass atrium links the two historic storehouses.
A trip to the Victory Gallery is the perfect accompaniment to a visit to HMS Victory. The Gallery’s exhibitions tell the story of the famous ship from the laying of her keel in 1759 to her restoration and preservation. They also focus on the amazing stories of the people who lived, worked and fought in her. Experience the multi-media show ‘Trafalgar!’ This presentation based on historical research, introduces you to Nelson and Napoleon, puts you in the middle of the smell and noise of a gun deck during the Battle and in the cockpit as the Surgeon treats the wounded. You can see the artist William Wyllie’s amazing 42 feet long painting 'The Panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar' and more of his finest oil paintings and a recreation of his studio. Get your hands on the activities on the quarter-deck. Meet William Rivers the ship’s Gunner and see how quickly you can learn to load, aim and fire Victory’s guns. Walk among the beautiful carved giants in the ‘Spirit of the Figurehead’ display which showcases the Museum’s wonderful collection of ship figureheads from the late 18th century.
The Nelson Gallery features the story of Horatio Nelson. The Sailing Navy Gallery is housed in a splendidly restored C18th Naval storehouse - complete with original floor made from timbers taken from captured French and Spanish ships. The exhibition offers an entirely new view of the Sailing Navy, based on the very latest research. It challenges the traditional view that life in the great sailing warships was 'Hell Afloat' and offers a more balanced picture. Interactive and very much 'hands-on', it is specially designed to engage the interest and imagination of visitors of all ages and abilities. The 74 gun ship - a computer interactive which enables you to take command of a sailing warship and sail her into battle. Have you got scurvy? A light-hearted look at how this key health problem was eventually solved by the Royal Navy. Hand-to-hand fighting - A chance to feel the hand weapons used on board and to see how they were used. The hidden messages of portraits - a display of some of the Museum's fine portraits of naval officers with a sound and light show revealing the hidden 'messages' they contain. The Yardarm - for younger visitors to learn how to furl and reef a sail.
HMS M.33 is a unique survivor. Launched in May 1915 she is the sole remaining British veteran of that year’s bloody Gallipoli Campaign and the only British warship from the First World War that is open to the public. The ship sits in No.1 Dock alongside HMS Victory in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, and uniquely visitors start with a 6 metre descent into the bottom of the dock before stepping aboard. New interpretation, including a stunning immersive battle experience, brings alive HMS M.33’s history, the stories of the men who served on board, and the bloody history of the Gallipoli Campaign. The Campaign claimed over 100,000 lives of personnel from all round the world. This little survivor, a ‘Monitor’ of 568 tons with a shallow draft allowing it to get close-in to shore and fire at targets on land, carried two powerful and oversize 6” guns, but was a basic metal box lacking in comforts. The 72 officers and men who sailed for the Gallipoli Campaign were crammed inside and away from home for over 3 years.
HMS – Hear My Story is a major exhibition situated in the brand new Babcock Galleries at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Opened in April 2014, it tells the undiscovered stories from the ordinary men, women and ships which have made the Navy‘s amazing history over the last 100 years, the century of greatest change. There are also special exhibitions such as the current “36 hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War". The Battle of Jutland, in 1916, was the greatest naval battle ever, involving 250 ships and 100,000 men. For each of those brave men, there’s a story to be told. Of their lives, their heroic actions in the heat of battle when, in a heartbeat lives were lost and families left to grieve. Now see the largest collection of Jutland artefacts ever assembled.
The museum is located in three buildings. Entrances to all buildings are level, apart from the Babcock Galleries, which has a ramp. There are automatic doors in the Victory gallery and staff are available in other buildings to assist entry. Most galleries are located on the ground floor with lifts available to all areas. Visitors should be aware that the museum is in old buildings and the floor is uneven in places. Staff are available in every gallery. Please ask if you require help. Baby change facilities are available in both male and female toilets in the Victory gallery and 11 storehouse. Guide and assistance dogs are welcome. Dog bowls and water are available from the main reception desk. Sound is used throughout the gallery displays, the majority have induction loops. A portable induction loop is available upon request. All lifts have Braille buttons and audio instructions. Seating is provided throughout the museum. Some staff have been trained in basic British Sign Language. Please ask at reception. Accessible, female and male toilets are located on the ground floor in the Victory Gallery and 11 storehouse. Throughout the galleries are displays, interactives and objects that can be touched. Handling sessions are available for groups by prior appointment. Contact 02392 727 562. All areas of the museum are accessible to wheelchair users. Wheelchairs are available upon request from the main reception desk or the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard visitor centre. Carer admitted for free.
Location :National Museum of the Royal Navy, HM Naval Base (PP66), Portsmouth PO1 3NH
Transport : Portsmouth Harbour (National Rail) then 10 minutes. Bus Routes : 1, 16, and Solent Ranger X4 stop 3 minutes from the visitor centre.
Opening Times : Daily Summer 10:00 to 17:00; Winter 10:00 to 16.15.
Tickets Navy Museum: Adults £13.00; Seniors £12.00; Children/Disabled £8.00
Tickets M33: Adults £10.00; Seniors £9.00; Children/Disabled £7.00
Tickets Jutland : Adults £10.00; Concessions £8.00; Children £5.00
Tickets Jutland All Attraction: Adults £30.40; Seniors £26.24; Children/Disabled £20.40
Tel. : 023 9272 7582
Boathouse 4 is a great new family attraction within the Historic Dockyard, with exhibitions, hands-on children’s activities and a brand new indoor mast climbing experience. The building was constructed in the rearmament period before the Second World War and has also been restored and converted into a Boatbuilding Skills Training Centre and will soon be home to the International Boatbuilding College Portsmouth and Highbury College. These two colleges will be training a new generation of students in the techniques of traditional boatbuilding and other related skills that are still very much required today to build and conserve wooden boats.
Built within this magnificent historic building, overlooking the Boatbuilding Skills Training Centre is a new exciting exhibition “The Forgotten Craft” which tells the heroic stories of the small boats which were the backbone of the Royal Navy. From the wooden cutters that ferried Lord Nelson to and from his flagship, to the Cockleshell Heroes in their canoes and the powerful motorboats that helped to win the Second World War. For those visitors feeling extra courageous, you can put your wits to the test by scaling their amazing ‘Mast & Rigging’ experience to see if you have got what it takes to make it to the top of the crow’s nest! (small extra fee applies. Minimum height limit is 1.1m). Admission to Boathouse 4 is free. The boathouse is wheelchair accessible and assistance dogs are welcome.
Action Stations is a high-tech, interactive indoor attraction housed in Boathouse 6. The boathouse itself was built between 1845 and 1848, and like the technology it now features inside, it was once at the forefront of design and innovation in the Victorian era. Action Stations was officially opened by the Duke of York in 2001, and features a unique series of physical challenges, simulators and technological experiments, which put visitors at the heart of the modern naval experience. At Action Stations visitors can reach dizzy heights when they attempt to scale the tallest indoor climbing tower in the UK. Soaring to a height of 8.4 metres (over 27 feet), a built-in LCD timer and differing degrees of difficulty are available, assess your own speed and agility, as well as compete against friends and family. Action Stations has worked closely with the UK’s number 1 laser tag brand to create an exhilarating experience for players aged 6+. Set over 2 floors which represent the bridge of a hijacked container ship and a pirate stronghold, Laser Quest provides challenges inspired by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, with lighting effects, billowing smoke and a heart-pounding atmosphere (additional charge applies). Sky Tykes is a rope course with little ones in mind, designed specifically for children ranging in age from 2-7 years old (Max height 48” / 122cm). The Sky Tykes course puts agility to the test with rope bridges and balance beams, and has no set route or time limit - you're limited only by your imagination.
Take your seats for Command Approved, their state of the art large-screen film and projection technology bring you 25 minutes of heart-pumping action fit for James Bond himself, as the fictional HMS Monarch combats gold bullion pirates in the South Seas. This is the Royal Navy at its best in an action-packed drama combining excitement, danger and intrigue. Command Approved was specially made on location in the Bahamas aboard HMS Montrose and HMS Marlborough, two of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates. Then ride the movie in the 19-seat, 6-axis motion simulator where visitors can take a white-knuckle trip in a rigid raider boat with the Royal Marines, defy gravity in a Sea Harrier, or let Helen, the Lynx helicopter pilot in Command Approved, take you on a hair-raising escape from those rebel pirates. NinjaForce, their new assault course, opened in May 2016. Release your inner Ninja and jump, swing, climb and balance your way through the 40 metre course, designed for ages 7 and up. Can you beat the record time of 36 seconds? Ninja Force is the first course of its kind in the UK based on the popular Ninja Warrior TV series. Generally Action Stations is fully accessible to visitors who use wheelchairs. There is a lift between the ground and first floor. To access Action Stations please use the walkway to the left of the mast pond.
Portsmouth is still the home of the modern Royal Navy and taking the Harbour Tour offers unrivalled views of Britain’s modern frigates, destroyers and helicopter carriers, as well as historic buildings and the dramatic skyline. The history of the British Navy at Portsmouth dates back 1,200 years to its earliest days under King Alfred the Great in the 860s. This wide natural inlet in the coastline is a flooded river valley protected by a deep narrow entrance on two sides of the dockyard, here and at Gosport, which makes an ideal natural harbour.
Roman and Saxon strongholds were constructed on the northern shore to defend against Viking attacks and to protect trade, but the harbour’s first permanent fort, Portchester Castle, was built after the Norman conquest in 1066. Portsea Island, at the entrance to the harbour, was used as a mustering station for armies during the wars with France, and by the late 12th century a small town had grown on the south-western corner of the Island to accommodate workers and to service troops. In 1194 King Richard I granted this town, known as Portsmouth, a Royal Charter to construct a dockyard, and in 1212 King John protected the new dockyard with a great wall. On the 45 minute Harbour Tour you will see many of the fortifications that were built to protect Portsmouth over the centuries, in particular the Round Tower at the harbour entrance and the Solent forts which formed the centre of a string of fortifications along the coast during the Napoleonic Wars. There are two wheelchairs on board the large Harbour Tours boat. There is no access for motorized wheelchairs or scooters. Assistance dogs are welcome.
An All Attraction Ticket Includes The Following: The Mary Rose; HMS M33; HMS Victory; HMS Warrior 1860; Royal Navy Submarine Museum (off site, based in Gosport); National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth; Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower (off site, based in Gosport); Royal Marines Museum (off site, based in Eastney); Action Stations; Harbour Tour; Waterbus service to Gosport - subject to timetable. There is a special offer on the All Attraction tickets and they are definitely the best value for money.
Location : Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ
Transport : Portsmouth Harbour (National Rail) then 6 minutes. Bus Routes : 1, 16, and Solent Ranger X4 stops nearby.
Opening Times : Daily Summer 10:00 to 17:30; Winter 10:00 to 17.00.
Tickets Action Stations: Adults £18.00; Seniors £17.00; Children/Disabled £13.00
Tickets All Attraction (see above): Adults £23.10; Seniors £20.12; Children (5 - 15) / Disabled £16.10
Tickets All Attraction + Jutland: Adults £26.60; Seniors £22.96; Children (5 - 15) / Disabled £17.85
Tel. : 023 9283 9766