Thirty million people have been on board HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard - but not even Nelson himself would have seen the remarkable views that are set to welcome visitors next year.
On the 10th anniversary of the formation of The National Museum of the Royal Navy, we can reveal that visitors to the Historic Dockyard will be given special access to walk under the iconic survivor from the Battle of Trafalgar as part of a brand new experience.
For the first time ever, the dry dock in which she sits, itself an ancient monument, is included on the visitor route. Following the audio-guided tour of Victory, visitors will descend into the dry dock via stairs and go under the 3,526-tonne naval marvel to glimpse her oldest areas, rarely seen and including the elm keel that has supported Victory since she was laid down 260 years ago in 1759.
Gaining access to dry dock no. 2 is just part of a major new investment by The National Museum to emphasise Victory at the very heart of its Portsmouth story. A new gallery The Nation’s Flagship will open and share the fascinating and ever-evolving tale of Victory’s construction, service and ongoing conservation.
Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The National Museum, said: 'Since we staged a dramatic broadside from Victory to announce the creation of the National Museum 10 years ago, we have been on an incredible journey.
‘The pace at which we’ve worked to merge the four Royal Navy service museums, save historic ships and conserve naval treasures has been ambitious. So what better way to mark the anniversary than by announcing this world-first for one of the most iconic warships.'
Deputy Director of Heritage at the National Museum Andrew Baines added: 'For many, Victory is the jewel in the crown and there is immense scrutiny paid to how we manage her.
‘She remains a commissioned warship, the flagship of the First Sea Lord, but she is also at the heart of our visitor offer in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. As a site we contribute £110m every year into the city’s economy.
‘But it’s worth remembering that she is just one of our 15-strong historic fleet that also includes, in Portsmouth alone, Victorian battleship HMS Warrior, First World War HMS M.33 and submarines HMS Alliance and Holland 1 in Gosport.’
Detailed plans for the dry dock experience and new gallery are set to be unveiled later in the year.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM 10 YEARS OF THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE ROYAL NAVY IN PORTSMOUTH
Highlights from the National Museum of the Royal Navy's 10 years in Portsmouth include the transfer of Victory into the HMS Victory Preservation Trust, a part of the National Museum.
The transfer of Nelson’s flagship was made possible by the gift of two endowments; £25m from the Ministry of Defence and an extraordinarily generous £25m from the Gosling Foundation.
New gallery openings included the 20th century HMS: Hear My Story and a two-year blockbuster exhibition on the First World War Battle of Jutland.
In 2015 Gallipoli veteran HMS M.33 was opened to mark the centenary of the First World War campaign and in the same year an emotional service attended by veterans saw HRH The Princess Royal unveil the bell from the stricken HMS Hood.
The bell was raised from the depths of the Denmark Strait by the late Paul G Allen, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist who was guest of honour at the service.
Once the support system currently being installed on Victory is completed, the next 12 years will see the HMS Victory Preservation Company grant funding a £35m programme of conservation work to ensure the long-term preservation of Victory, including the installation of her masts.