HMS Victory's Reconstructed Grand Magazine Is Unveiled

By David Prudames | 01 July 2004
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a photograph across the deck of a galleon with cannons and rigging visible in the foreground

Photo: Jon Pratty. © 24 Hour Museum.

A unique reconstruction of HMS Victory’s Grand Magazine has been unveiled at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

The magazine, used during the Battle of Trafalgar when it would have held up to 780 barrels of gunpowder, is the only example of a First Rate ship's magazine in the world.

It was unveiled alongside the newly restored ship’s hold, which held food and stores for 850 crew for up to six months at a time.

"The opening of the Grand Magazine and hold today is a great achievement and the most ambitious part of the restoration of HMS Victory," said Victory’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Frank Nowosielski.

"It has taken a lot of hard work and determination to ensure that every detail is as historically accurate as existing records allow."

The Grand Magazine is lined with copper, lead and plaster, designed to keep the powder dry, prevent sparks and keep out rats, which could have spread gunpowder throughout the ship.

Shows a photograph of HMS Victory's stern, which bears the sign 'Victory'.

Photo: Jon Pratty. © 24 Hour Museum.

Remains of the original were removed after HMS Victory was damaged by a German bomb during World War Two.

Together the Grand Magazine and hold make up 15% of the ship, meaning that from now on over 90% of HMS Victory will be accessible to visitors.

The completion of the work marks the culmination of five years of painstaking research, planning and construction and is the last major phase of an extensive restoration programme.

It was decided in the 1920s that the historic ship would be reconfigured to her Battle of Trafalgar condition, but this was overtaken in the 50s by the need to save the hull frame and planking, which had been devastated by death watch beetle.

The ship's Keeper and Curator, Peter Goodwin, was brought on board in the early 1990s as a historical adviser to ensure the accuracy of the restoration, which has gained momentum as more original sources have come to light.

It is hoped that the full restoration of the ship will be completed in time for the bicentenary of Trafalgar in 2005, although she will continue to undergo regular maintenance to preserve her condition for many years to come.

Shows a photograph of HMS Victory. Taken from the side it shows the ships gun doors open and the yellow and black markings of the Napoleonic Royal Navy.

Photo: Jon Pratty. © 24 Hour Museum.

An oak apron knee, in place on the Lower Gun Deck, is another recent addition.

The oak, from the Forest of Dean, was donated last month by the Forestry Commission and the Oak Society and had been planted on the recommendation of Admiral Lord Nelson, over 200 years ago, to ensure timber for future fleets.

HMS Victory is the flagship of the Royal Navy's Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent and is most famous for being a First Rate ship - in the front line of the fighting - at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The oldest commissioned warship in the world, HMS Victory still has a crew of Royal Navy officers and ratings.

A well-loved national treasure, the ship is visited by around 340,000 people a year and numbers are expected to rise during Trafalgar’s bicentenary year when HMS Victory will be the centrepiece of the national celebrations.

"I am delighted that HMS Victory is in such an excellent condition - both for the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar next year and for future generations of visitors to enjoy," added Lt Commander Frank Nowosielski.

"The Royal Navy is very proud of the role HMS Victory has played in our history and the place it holds in the heart of the nation."

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