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Biggest change to HMS Victory in nearly a century

Biggest change to HMS Victory in nearly a century
21 March 2016
New colours, a new journey and a new experience. The Victory visitors once knew has changed - for the first time in decades.

The new journey comes hot on the heels of the ship’s new paint job, inside and out, gloriously returning her to her Georgian heyday.

Visitors will now get to experience HMS Victory through Nelson’s eyes, as the drama of the battle unfolds, deck-by-deck, hour by hour, as the ship sets sail on September 14th, 1805.

And now for the first time ever, they will be able to ascend on to the Poop Deck and see stunning views of the naval base and surrounding Historic Dockyard. 

They will also be able to walk around Nelson’s Great Cabin, access the carpenter and bosun’s store and see Captain Hardy’s Cabin displayed for the very first time as the working accommodation of a Captain. 

The length of the visitor route on board has been increased by as much as 80%, accessing areas previously not seen.

“This is the most exciting transformation of one of the world’s most iconic ships in nearly a century,” said Head of Historic Ships at The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Andrew Baines.

“The story of HMS Victory, and of Nelson, is now being told in a completely fresh way. The idea is to show visitors the ship as Nelson would have seen her, as part of an exciting new journey around his flagship.

“We also hope to bust old myths that have been talked about for years.”

Now people can see her in a completely new light. Visitors will get to experience her anew, and see all of the wonderful areas of the ship that could not have been accessed until now

Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN)

Some of those myths being exploded include where Nelson slept. For example, did you know Nelson didn’t actually sleep in a cot, and the drapes weren’t actually sewn by Lady Hamilton as previously believed?

There were also no – or very few - Weevils in biscuits. Any sign of food being infested or going off would not have been issued and subsequently condemned. 

To coincide with the greatly improved visitor experience on board, new and untold stories of Nelson’s flagship can be seen in a brand new exhibition 'Sparring with Time' in The National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Victory Gallery, which is based in the building just opposite Victory. 

It tells the story about the ship as an object and historical artefact and the ongoing work to build on the legacy of the ship. Victory is now facing a new battle - the battle against time – and it is currently undergoing a multi-million pound conservation programme. 

Visitors can also find out more about her history, her different colours and take a closer look at how she is put together.

Director General of The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), Professor Dominic Tweddle, said, “Victory is iconic and it is very much cherished by the thousands who visit her every year. In fact, 28 million people have seen her since she arrived at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

“Now people can see her in a completely new light. Visitors will get to experience her anew, and see all of the wonderful areas of the ship that could not have been accessed until now.

“They will be able to follow in the footsteps of Nelson, and get a real picture of what life was like on board Victory as she went to Trafalgar.”

Visitors can walk the gangway into Victory, where the 821-strong crew are getting ready for the Battle of Trafalgar, on September 14th, 1805. As part of the new experience, visitors will move through the quarterdeck and climb up to the Poop Deck, for the first time ever. They will then descend into Hardy’s Cabin, dress for the first time as an authentic working environment for the captain of the ship.

The route to Trafalgar continues down to the Upper Gun Deck, where facts about how the crew on board stayed healthy can be learned. Contrary to popular belief live animals were not kept on this deck despite as many as 50 live bullocks being delivered to the ship regularly.

And for the first time, visitors will get to walk around Nelson’s Great Cabin, a space where Nelson discussed plans for the battle with his officers on September 29 and 30, where “no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy”.

As visitors move through further through the ship, time is ticking for Nelson in his heroic hour. Victory gets battle ready on the Lower Gun Deck, with every gun primed for action, and sailors are on the brink of an event that will change history forever.

Amid the chaos of war, visitor can follow the mortally-wounded Admiral as he speaks his last words on the Orlop Deck.  This area has been simplified and is more in keeping with 19th century sentiment to avoid retrospective memorials to Nelson.  The Devis painting of “The Death of Nelson” has been removed for conservation and redisplay off the ship. 

The experience continues through the gunner’s store, where little has changed since the early 1800s and through to the carpenter’s store – again a first for visitors - as they learn about the toll war has taken on Nelson’s flagship.

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