Portsmouth Historic Dockyard------the home of HMS Victory, Mary Rose and HMS Warrior 1860(1)

This summer I had long holiday in China, so I could not afford another one in the UK financially speaking. However I was desperate for a break to cheer me up. Inspired by one of my friends I decided to visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Brief information about Portsmouth Historic Dockyard:

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a great place to experience 800 years of British naval history. Back to 1194 King Richard I started to construct the dockyards. In 1495 Henry VII ordered the construction of the world’s first dry dock around which Henry VIII built a fleet construction centre as well as the famous Mary Rose. In 1670 the Royal Navy was formed and the docks then became the Royal Dockyard. Consequently it grew to be the largest industrial complex in the world and played a very important role in the industrial revolution in 19th century as well as in both world wars.

Today it is the most visited attraction in the South of England and an important part of Portsmouth. The visits to these attraction have been divided into six areas: HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860, Mary Rose Museum, Royal Naval Museum, Harbour Tour and Action Stations. You can pay for the attractions separately. You can also purchase an all inclusive ticket that allows you to visit all. Currently it is £19.50 for an adult and £16.50 for a senior citizen and children. One thing to bear in mind is all inclusive ticket only allows you to have unlimited admission to HMS Warrior 1860, Action Stations, Dockyard Apprentice and Royal Naval Museum.

Personal experiences:

As I know it would be a long day I arrived the visitor centre by 11am. There was a long queue, but just two staff served us. Waiting for about 10 minutes I got my passport. Because the entrance to HMS Warrior 1860 is just set inside the centre I decided to pop over the ship first.

ID: The only surviving member of Queen Victoria’s Black Battle Fleet.

My first impression on HMS Warrior is that the ship is really huge. In fact when it was originally built in 1860 it was largest, fastest and more power warship in the world. As the world’s first iron-hulled, armoured warship powered by steam and constructed of wrought iron, it became the ultimate deterrent, although it never once fired a shot in anger.
When I was onboard I was surprised with the spaciousness of the Upper Deck. Walking from one side to the other side I felt like on a busy street. So many things to see and the views are so beautiful, last but not least you can see how it would have been when it was a warship. That said it cost £8 million, the most complex and costly ship restoration ever attempted, to restore its original condition.

It was my first experience with a warship, so everything was new and interesting to me. I burned with curiosity over what was inside the ship. There are four decks: upper deck, main/gun deck, lower deck and boiler & engine rooms. At the upper deck you can see the 26-ton propeller which could be raised via a well in the stern. This operation may well have required up to 400 of the crew to achieve.

At the main/gun deck, the heart of the ship, you can see over 30 guns enclosed within the armoured citadel. I was told only 2 guns among them are original, however I didn’t have enough time to figure out. 36 messes for 655 men or ratings were arranged between the guns. Approximately 18 men were detailed to each mess, where they ate, slept and relaxed. In the centre there was a galley where food were prepared for all the crew, including the officer.

Walking forward to the back of the deck, first I came across the Master’s cabin, who was in charge of sailing and navigation. Next it is Captain’s cabins. Warrior’s first captain was the Honourable Arthur Cochrane. I saw his day cabin which is furnished in the style of a drawing room of the period, sleeping quarters, his own toilet and a walking area. The cabin on the other side belonged to the Commander who was the Captain’s number two and responsible for the ship’s fighting ability and appearance.

The lower deck which is full of the tag of the sea air was mainly used for the crew and other lower officers as a central dinning and relaxation area. There are two parts of the deck were more interesting to me. One is the cells that was used for seamen who committed serious crimes, such as absence over leave, sleeping on watch, etc; another one is the issue room that was for issuing each sailor’s food allowance on.
The boiler & engine room is in the lowest deck. As I mentioned earlier HMS Warrior 1860 was a pioneer steam ship, so you can see many boilers at either side of the hull. However the work condition here was really dreadful. Warrior’s stokers and trimmers would spend hours each day shovelling coal and ash by hand in the temperatures that could reach over 48.9 degC. It reminded me of a film named The Legend Of 1900. Luckily they got paid 25% more than able seamen.
It was at midday. I spent approximately 1 hour on HMS Warrior 1860 and felt a bit tired. I decided to take the harbour tour next as I can sit on a seat for a break. Also the weather was not good, so I wanted to finish the tour before the shower or rain. However the next boat would start at 1pm, so I took the chance to have a quick visit to the Action Stations.

Action Stations

Before you walk close to the Action Stations you will have to pass a bridge. It is at Boathouse No 6, which was built in 1846. There is a reception to check visitor’s ticket. The idea of the Action Station is to bring the modern Royal Navy directly to their visitors with computer games, short films, physical activities and technological experiments. I have tried some games and found it’s not very appealing to me. Because I don’t play computer games, so at beginning I even felt a little difficult to pass. I also was on aboard of a helicopter simulator in which you can fly a Merlin for three minutes. However I was not very impressive with it except felt a little uncomfortable. I think the Action Stations is more suitable with kids, especially who are interested in fighting games. After realizing it I left the station for the Harbour Tour.
Harbour Tour

When I arrived the Harbour it was ten to 1pm, there was a long queue. However I was lucky to sit on the top lever as the boat can contain over 250 passengers. The Harbour Tour is a 45 minute tour around Portsmouth Harbour. There is a guide providing the information of the ships that you are passing. That includes warships and commercial ships too. Although I didn’t totally understand what he said I still enjoyed the views along the harbour. Also I can imagine what would be like inside these modern warships based on the pictures I got from HMS Warrior 1860. The only problem is I felt HMS Warrior 1860 is not as huge as I first saw it.
Before the tour finishes the boat has a short stop at the Gunwharf Quays where you can get off here and pop to the shopping centre. It’s also available for people to take the ride to the dockyard. By the way there is a licensed bar on board which also sells snacks.

It’s really an enjoyable tour especially if the weather is good. I was not lucky as at the end of my tour the rain was coming. So without taking any picture of the boat I rushed to Mary Rose Museum.

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