Thursday, 2 December 2010

Historical ships in Portsmouth

A visit to Portsmouth (to see the Victory and the Mary Rose) was high on my father's priority list, so off we went on a family road trip, accompanied by my sister, who flew over from Germany to visit the pudding club. By the time we left, it took us most of the day to get there from Evesham (given a leisurely lunch stop), so we found a dodgy hotel (family room in a pseudo Tudor hotel – what a laugh) and planned our visit to the Historical Dockyards for Sunday morning.

By chance, we timed our visit for the weekend featuring a 'Victorian Christmas festival', meaning the site was swarming with costumed characters from such tomes as Oliver Twist, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland etc, as well as many street performances, food stalls and a Christmas market. This was merely a bonus for us, for we had come to see the ships!

The Victory
The Victory was Nelson's ship at the battle of Trafalgar, and history oozed from her timbers. We wandered up and down through her multiple decks, which included three decks of guns/cannons, Nelson's quarters, those of many others in her crew, and the workrooms of various craftsmen aboard the ship (carpenters, medics, blacksmiths, cooks etc).

The Mary Rose was Henry VIII's flagship, commonly believed to be one of the first dedicated English warships, which sunk just off the coast of Portsmouth in 1545. She was excavated in the 1970s and raised in 1982. Thousands of amazing artefacts from her are on display in the Mary Rose museum. I was particularly impressed by the longbows, which were found packed tightly in a box, and are in near impeccable condition. The raised hull of the ship is currently unavailable for viewing, since it's in restoration and a new museum is under construction around it.

The Warrior (with mud for mudlarking)
 We also looked over the Warrior, one of the first English steam warships. It has four massive boilers and two funnels, two decks of guns/cannons, plus loads of other quarters as well. Oddly enough, it also has a full rigging for sails, although the interior seems to support steam propulsion methods more.

We spent half a day at the Historical Dockyards on a freezing cold Sunday, bracing ourself against the cold (and a little snow). Next stop was Brighton.. .

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