Iconic Trafalgar Sail is unfurled at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for rare public display

Promoted by National Museum of the Royal Navy

  IT HAS lain unseen for the past six years - but now HMS Victory’s iconic Trafalgar Sail, complete with 90 shot holes, is to go on show to the public

The historic relic, the only surviving foretopsail from the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, is set to be unveiled on July 21 and displayed for a limited time over the summer.

The sail covers 3,618 feet, equivalent to two tennis courts, and is kept at The National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Storehouse 10 in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Its battle scars pay tribute to the ferocity of fighting on October 21, 1805, when Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson was fatally wounded.

Matthew Sheldon, Director of Heritage at the NMRN, said: 'HMS Victory, Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar are key to our history. The sail is an amazing object, scarred by battle and, like HMS Victory herself, a proud survivor of an iconic battle. 

'But it is also a vast handmade object from Georgian times that required great skill and knowledge to create. Seeing it is a real treat.'

Senior conservator Diana McCormack with the unfurled Trafalgar Sail Picture: Habibur Rahman

Senior conservator Diana McCormack with the unfurled Trafalgar Sail Picture: Habibur Rahman

The Trafalgar Sail is set to be a highlight of summer at the Historic Dockyard - and today we're joining forces with the NMRN to launch a Love Your Historic Dockyard campaign that aims to get local people to make the most of the heritage jewel in their midst.

Visitors will be able to see the sail laid flat and accompanied by a short audio and lighting presentation featuring footage from the film Master and Commander. Hollywood star Russell Crowe visited HMS Victory to research his role in the film.

Diana McCormack, Senior Conservator with the NMRN, explained: 'The sail has undergone considerable conservation by the Textile Conservation Centre at the University of Southampton.

'Our job now is to prevent any further deterioration because the fibres are sensitive to shrinking and warping or fading if the conditions are wrong. And to find a way to put the sail on permanent display so its story of incredible survival can be shared by visitors.'

Entry to see the Trafalgar Sail is part of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard 11-attraction annual pass ticket available at historicdockyard.co.uk, which costs from £31 per adult with under-16s free during the summer holidays and valid for multiple entries throughout the year. Book online to save 20 per cent at www.historicdockyard.co.uk

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is also offering 30 per cent off for over-60s if purchased before July 15.