Saturday, 5 October 2013


On 23rd September, we were passing through Portsmouth, and visited HMS Victory, Lord Nelson's flagship, which is preserved in dry dock in Portsmouth Dockyard. Clare had never been here before, and I hadn't been since around 1970, so it was a major experience for both of us.

As with the previously-mentioned Osborne House, the Victory is set up for self-guided tours that take you along a roped-off continuous route taking in all the decks, from poop deck (top stern 'bridge') to the hold. Unfortunately the uppermost levels were under renovation, but it was still a superb experience. It's not for the unfit or infirm, and it's bad enough if you're merely tall - there are steep steps, and the ceiling heights range from low to very low. We were a trifle worried about having our luggage with us, as this is a working dockyard with security issues. The Dockyard staff, however, were very helpful in recommending a couple of places where luggage can be left nearby, but there turned out to be no problems with our carrying it (we were travelling reasonably light).

When I was younger, I think I would probably have been chiefly interested in the naval aspects - the armaments, how the ship was steered, etc - but it proved oddly interesting to find the minutiae of infrastructure: how a large ship worked as a self-contained community. For instance, the toilets - the 'heads' - were far more sophisticated than I'd imagined; and the galley was a wonder. Brodie's Patent Galley was a surprisingly compact installation considering its capacity (with a suitably organised rota) to cook daily meals for hundreds of crew; there were 821 aboard the Victory. Its one central range is augmented with sub-stoves for individual cookery, and a large copper distiller for desalinating seawater for the surgeon's use.

Visiting is not cheap: it's £17 for an adult. But this covers a year's repeat visits, and - unlike the miserly Osborne House - there are no restrictions on photography. I can't recommend this visit too highly. Check out the official site

(Sincere thanks to Buddy for the loan of his tickets).

The head

Over the bows: a wonderful vista of historic and modern buildings

Brodie's Patent Galley
Brodie's Patent Galley

Out to modern Portsmouth: Number One Tower, Gunwharf Quays.
Clare and I call this the Death Star, because when we first saw it,
it was under construction, and rather recalled the half-constructed
new Death Star in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
- Ray

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