HMS Warrior sparkles for Christmas

Grace Hutton after the cut
Pictures by Ellie Pilmoor

Grace, from Cosham, says goodbye to hair in memory of mum while Leanne, from Gosport, did the same for cancer charities

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WHETHER you see it from Portsdown Hill or The Hard, the sight of twinkly lights on HMS Warrior heralds that Christmas has arrived in Portsmouth.

The 150-year-old ship is one of the city’s greatest spectacles, but bathed in light, it is a sight to behold.

Christopher Marlow who is appearing in Aladdin at The Kings Theatre in Southsea, switches on the HMS Warrior Christmas lights with ships executive officer Tony Ford.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (143218-2)

Christopher Marlow who is appearing in Aladdin at The Kings Theatre in Southsea, switches on the HMS Warrior Christmas lights with ships executive officer Tony Ford.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (143218-2)

Stage actor Christopher Marlowe, who plays the Empress of China in the forthcoming pantomime at The Kings Theatre in Southsea, was full of fun as he had the honour of pressing the switch.

He said: ‘It’s a great honour and a pleasure – especially dressed like this!’

Christopher said he was looking forward to visiting the Victorian Festival of Christmas at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as rehearsals for Aladdin do not start until Monday.

Putting the lights up was the painstaking task of Ian Bell.

The 46-year-old has been rigging the lights since 1992.

‘We have been on it about three days,’ he said.

‘At this time of year we have been up against the weather.’

Jan Campbell, 59, from Ontario, Canada, was among a small crowd who gathered to see the switch-on.

She is on holiday and made a trip to the dockyard.

‘I love the lights,’ she said.

‘I love this town – it’s just beautiful and has so much history.’

HMS Warrior’s executive officer Tony Ford said: ‘It’s become a symbol for the whole of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Festival of Christmas.

‘People from miles around say it heralds Christmas for them.’

Jane Skinner, heritage and visitor operations manager at HMS Warrior, said: ‘People contact us to ask when the lights are going to be switched on. We have some lovely images over the years.’

‘‘HMS Warrior Christmas lights are quite symbolic for us. Obviously the formation of the Christmas tree shape on the rigging is absolutely brilliant. When people come in from Portsmouth Harbour railway station, it’s the first thing they see.’