Cash boost for HMS Victory and the Mary Rose

Poppies at Fort Nelson. Picture: David George

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THE trust fund set up to save HMS Victory from ruin has received a £5m boost from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The cash comes after Lord Nelson’s famous flagship received a £50m windfall in March in a deal which saw the Ministry of Defence hand Victory over to a charitable trust controlled by the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

The £5m grant must be used as an endowment to attract a further £15m of private donations – swelling Victory’s coffers as heritage officials embark on one of the biggest restoration projects in the vessel’s 247-year history.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, director-general of the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), welcomed the £5m grant.

But he warned there is a long way to go in the project to secure Victory’s future.

He told The News: ‘Our first task with Victory is to make her waterproof – she leaks like a sieve when it rains.

‘Secondly, we’ve got to stop the structure moving.

‘She’s slipping downwards and she’s slipping backwards very, very slowly.

‘Once we’ve got the water out and the movement stopped, we need to do a whole raft of surveys to understand what we are dealing with and why we’ve got the problems we have.

‘Only then can we can put a systematic programme together.’

Prof Tweddle said the restoration project will cost around £2m a year, but would not put a date on when he thinks the work will be completed at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

He said: ‘There’s so much we do not know about Victory and we have to find out before we create a work programme.

‘It’s almost an act of madness to forecast when the works will be finished.’

Stressing that the ship will remain open to visitors throughout the work, he added: ‘There will be lots of interesting things to see in the conservation of a ship like this which has not been seen in public before, and the inside of the ship looks great.’

The restoration of the ship began last year with the removal of her top masts.

Work is taking place to plug holes in her top deck before structural engineering can begin to stop Victory rotting and falling apart in the dry dock cradle she’s been in since 1922.

The Heritage Lottery Fund also announced yesterday that the Mary Rose Trust had received a £1m grant.

It comes as a new state-of-the-art £35m museum is constructed around the wreck of the Tudor warship at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.