New exhibition in Portsmouth tells tale of the Royal Navy's doomed 'Ferrari' of the seas HMS Invincible

NAVAL museum chiefs have opened their first new exhibition since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to tell the extraordinary tale of the doomed ‘Ferrari’ of the Royal Navy.
Pictured: A model of HMS Invincible
Photo: Sarah Standing (221020-6273)Pictured: A model of HMS Invincible
Photo: Sarah Standing (221020-6273)
Pictured: A model of HMS Invincible Photo: Sarah Standing (221020-6273)

The National Museum of the Royal Navy has finally cut the ribbon on the new display at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which reveals the tragedy behind the sinking of HMS Invincible.

The 18th century 74-gun warship – seized from the French by the British – sunk in the Solent in 1758 after she ran aground.

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For centuries the wreck of the mighty vessel remained untouched at the bottom of the sea until a major excavation project was launched to recover artefacts from Invincible.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy has opened its first new exhibition since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on the doomed "Ferrari" of the Royal Navy, HMS Invincible. The display, called Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744 tells the tale of how the ship sank in the Solent and the effort to help recover lost artefacts from it.

Pictured is: Alice Roberts-Pratt, curator (exhibitions).

Picture: Sarah Standing (221020-6236)The National Museum of the Royal Navy has opened its first new exhibition since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on the doomed "Ferrari" of the Royal Navy, HMS Invincible. The display, called Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744 tells the tale of how the ship sank in the Solent and the effort to help recover lost artefacts from it.

Pictured is: Alice Roberts-Pratt, curator (exhibitions).

Picture: Sarah Standing (221020-6236)
The National Museum of the Royal Navy has opened its first new exhibition since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on the doomed "Ferrari" of the Royal Navy, HMS Invincible. The display, called Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744 tells the tale of how the ship sank in the Solent and the effort to help recover lost artefacts from it. Pictured is: Alice Roberts-Pratt, curator (exhibitions). Picture: Sarah Standing (221020-6236)

Now items from the wreck, alongside the tale of the warship’s demise, have taken centre stage for the first time at the new exhibition, entitled Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744.

Dr Eileen Clegg, community archaeology producer who has led the project, was thrilled to have finally opened up the display.

She said: ‘It’s incredible to finally open up. It’s been a lot of hard work. We’ve had an army of volunteers beavering away behind the scenes, doing everything online at first. I didn’t think we’d be able to do it.’

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Visitors watch the process to excavate the wrecked warship

Picture: Sarah Standing (221020-6204)Visitors watch the process to excavate the wrecked warship

Picture: Sarah Standing (221020-6204)
Visitors watch the process to excavate the wrecked warship Picture: Sarah Standing (221020-6204)
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Inside, families can see first hand items recovered from the ship, ranging from weaponry and trinkets, to the captain’s own wig curlers.

Visitors can also find out about how divers excavated the ship, as well as see images of the Invincible on the seabed.

Archaeologist Giles Richardson was part of the team of divers from the Marine Archaeology Sea Trust who worked on Invincible.

The 36-year-old Royal Navy reservist from Oxford said: ‘It’s been amazing to see Invincible go from lumps of wood to something where people can walk in and go “oh wow, that’s cool” brilliant.’

Lost artefacts on display next to a model of HMS Invincible 
Picture: Sarah Standing (221020-6265)Lost artefacts on display next to a model of HMS Invincible 
Picture: Sarah Standing (221020-6265)
Lost artefacts on display next to a model of HMS Invincible Picture: Sarah Standing (221020-6265)
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Invincible was originally built in France in 1744 but was seized by the British in 1747.

Her unique hull and rudder design meant she was faster and more nimble than other warships of the era - a trait that the navy soon copied for their fleet.

Dr Clegg added: ‘She was like a Ferrari. She was fast, agile and nippy. She could take on bigger ships, single-handedly she could take out a three-deck flagship like HMS Victory – and she did, she took out French and Spanish flagships.’

Invincible sank on February 19, 1758 after ‘everything went wrong’, Dr Clegg said.

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‘She was told to set sail but her anchor gets stuck underneath the bow so she has got no brakes; her rudder jams so she had no steering; the wind blew her out of control onto a sand bank and over four days tipped her over,’ said Dr Clegg.

The exhibition is open now.

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