Historical Dockyard Tour, Portsmouth

Historical Dockyard Tour (Self Guided), Portsmouth

The naval theme has always been dominant for Portsmouth. Most of the city's historic events are in one way or another associated with its seaside location. Portsmouth's Historical Dockyard is the area that offers a glimpse into the city's maritime past.

The very first notable landmark here is Victory Gate, the dockyard's main entrance. Inside, visitors will find HMS Warrior, a magnificent iron-hulled warship from the 19th century, and Action Stations, an interactive museum showcasing modern naval technology. The Mast Pond is another intriguing feature, historically used for repairing and maintaining ships' masts.

Visitors can also explore the Dockyard Apprentice and Nauticalia Shop to purchase souvenirs and maritime-themed items. The Semaphore Tower stands tall as a reminder of communication methods used in the past. For those interested in delving deeper into naval history, the Royal Naval Museum offers a wealth of information and artifacts.

The dockyard is also home to HMS M33, a historic battleship, and the iconic HMS Victory, Lord Nelson's flagship from the Battle of Trafalgar. Lastly, one shouldn't miss the Mary Rose Museum, which showcases the remains of the famous Tudor warship.

Overall, the Historical Dockyard of Portsmouth is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in uncovering some of the secrets of Britain's maritime legacy. The available range of attractions suitable for all ages here promises a truly unforgettable experience. So, plan your visit today and set sail on a journey through history!
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Historical Dockyard Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Dockyard Tour
Guide Location: England » Portsmouth (See other walking tours in Portsmouth)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.4 Km or 0.2 Miles
Author: Lilly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Victory Gate
  • HMS Warrior
  • Action Stations
  • Mast Pond
  • Dockyard Apprentice and Nauticalia Shop
  • Semaphore Tower
  • Royal Naval Museum
  • HMS M33 - Batlle Ship
  • HMS Victory
  • Mary Rose Museum
Victory Gate

1) Victory Gate

The Victory Gate is the main entrance of the Portsmouth historic dockyard. The gate dates back to the beginning of the 18th century. The right part of the gate, as you pass through it, has a sign that is meant to commemorate the visit of Queen Anne in the year 1711. Even though it has survived World War II, it lost two parts during the war, namely its arch and lantern.
HMS Warrior

2) HMS Warrior (must see)

The HMS Warrior was the biggest, fastest, and most powerful warship of her kind when she was launched in 1860. She was years ahead of the American Merrimack and Monitor, way rapid and more seaworthy. The Warrior was Britain's first iron-hulled, armored warship, offering protection from explosive shells. She was a worldwide game-changer.

Intimidating as she was, she never fired an angry shot. Invincible she may have been, her active duty career was short. Soon she was absolete and quickly outclassed by newer ships, faster with thicker armor and heavier guns. In 1871, the Warrior was downgraded to reserve status. In 1924 she was up for sale as scrap.

The Warrior wasn't scrapped but converted into a floating oil tank at Pembroke Dock. The oil depot closed in 1978, and the ship underwent restoration by the Maritime Trust. In 1987 the Warrior returned to Portsmouth Harbour. Saved from the knackers, she is now a proud ship museum and a naval monument.

A complete conservation and restoration program, costing upward of 4.2 million pounds, was completed in 2019. The Warrior is now represented as she was in her Round-Britain Tour of 1863.
Action Stations

3) Action Stations

The Action Stations is an interplay gallery aimed to make its visitors experience what it feels like to command a Royal Marines War Ship or fly a helicopter.Visitors can try their hand at displays or climbing walls, activities that were necessary in the senior service, and become acquainted with marine technology.
Mast Pond

4) Mast Pond

The Mast Pond was dug in the year 1665. It was formed and built up by soldiers and Dutch prisoners of the period. The main aim of the Mast Pond was to keep the ships that were recovered from war damage on its waters. Today it still performs this function, and it is now the home of reconstructed ships that are financed by the Portsmouth dockyard Historical Trust.
Dockyard Apprentice and Nauticalia Shop

5) Dockyard Apprentice and Nauticalia Shop

Considering that the Dockyard Apprentice is today an exhibition place, it was once the world's greatest boat-building industry center. This impressive industrial complex of the 18th and 19th centuries once had 20,000 employers. Visit the place and get the chance to feel how was it to be a part of this great dreadnought-producing center.

The Nauticalia shop is specialized namely in the selling of sea-related souvenirs, presents and artifacts. The range of the things is indeed very large, diverse and one of the most interesting to be found in the area.
Semaphore Tower

6) Semaphore Tower

The Semaphore Tower was unfortunately seriously damaged by a fire at the beginning at the 20th century, yet today it was rebuilt and it now includes the resited Lion gate. The greatest reason for doing reconstruction was to accentuate the building's architectural historic importance for attracting tourists. The building's main aim is to be the Head Office of the Naval Base Commander and Queen's Harbour Master.
Royal Naval Museum

7) Royal Naval Museum

The Royal Naval Museum has 4 exhibition galleries to visit. It exibits such such artifacts as Nelson's Life Mask taken from his face at he beginning of the 19th century. One will also find the famous Enigma Machine, the very one that played a decisive role in the Battle of the Atlantic in 2nd World War. Of course it is interesting to learn about sea artifacts and guns that were used in battle at the time.
HMS M33 - Batlle Ship

8) HMS M33 - Batlle Ship

HMS M33 is an M29-class monitor of the Royal Navy. She saw active service in the Mediterranean during World War I and in Russia during the Allied Intervention in 1919. She was used subsequently as a mine-laying training ship, fuelling hulk, boom defence workshop and floating office, being renamed HMS Minerva and Hulk C23 during her long life. She passed to Hampshire County Council in the 1980s and as one of only two surviving Royal Navy World War I ships, was restored to original condition and is now located at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

M33 was built as part of the rapid ship construction campaign following the outbreak of World War I. Ordered in March 1915, she was launched in May and commissioned in June; an impressive shipbuilding feat especially considering that numerous other ships of her type were being built in the same period.

Armed with a pair of 6-inch (152 mm) guns and having a shallow draught, M33 was designed for coastal bombardment. Commanded by Lieutenant Commander Preston-Thomas, her first active operation was the support of the British landings at Suvla during the Battle of Gallipoli in August 1915. She remained stationed at Gallipoli until the evacuation in January, 1916. For the remainder of the war she served in the Mediterranean and was involved in the seizure of the Greek fleet at Salamis Bay on 1 September 1916.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
HMS Victory

9) HMS Victory (must see)

Six ships were called HMS Victory. The first was a 42-gun vessel, demolished in 1609; the second was another 42-gunner, broken up in 1691; the third was a 100-gun first-rate, burned in 1721; the fourth was also a 100-gun first-rate, wrecked in 1744; the fifth was an 8-gun schooner in Canada and burned in 1768.

The sixth is Admiral Lord Nelson's HMS Victory, a first-rate 104-gun ship of the line. She was Nelson's flagship in the climactic Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Nelson died on her quarterdeck while under fire from the French 74-gun Redoutable. Trafalgar was the last sea battle of Victory's career. She was relegated to 2nd rank in 1807.

HMS Victory saw service as a troopship until 1811. From 1813 to 1817, she was used as a prison. In the 19th century, Victory was periodically under threat of being broken up. By 1921 the vessel has collapsed. Shipping magnate Sir James Caird, a principal donor of the National Maritime Museum, underwrote the public Save the Victory campaign.

The Victory was moved to the No. 2 Dock at Portsmouth, the oldest dry dock still in use. No. 2 Dock became her permanent home. The restoration was interrupted by World War II. There was some damage from a 500-pound bomb during the Blitz, but the country and Victory carried on.

Preventive maintenance for the 18th-century Victory will always go on. It was decided to restore the ship to her Battle of Trafalgar condition in 1920, but this was not achieved until 2005, just in time for Trafalgar 200 celebrations.

HMS Victory is part of the National Historic Fleet and is also the flagship of the First Sea Lord since 2012. She is the oldest commissioned ship in the world. As a museum ship, she attracts more than 350,000 visitors annually.

Visitors can descend to the bottom of the dry dock. A view from the bottom of a 3,600-ton warship is a first. The Victory gallery is refitted. The film, interactive exhibits, and battle artifacts tell the ship's story. And there is the 200-year-old ten-foot-tall figurehead.
Mary Rose Museum

10) Mary Rose Museum (must see)

While King Henry VIII was watching from the ramparts of Southsea Castle during the Battle of the Solent in 1545, his favorite warship, the Mary Rose, sank. The French were attempting to invade. Their galleys had run circles around the becalmed British warships. On the afternoon of July 19th, 1545, the wind picked up, and Mary Rose attacked.

She was the first ship to use gun ports on her sides. She salvoed once and heeled over to present her other side to the enemy. The gun ports on her lower lee side were not closed. Water poured in. In a few minutes, she sank. The French withdrew, but the Mary Rose was done after 34 years of service. After 437 years, Mary Rose rose again.

The raising of the Mary Rose was the work of the Mary Rose Trust Company. It was one of the most complex marine salvages in history. The surviving section of the ship was recovered along with thousands of Tudor-era artifacts such as weapons, sailing gear, stores, and personal items of the crew. The Mary Rose Museum became her new home.

In July 1981, it was proposed to place the salvaged ship next to the flagship of Horatio Nelson, HMS Victory. The Maritime Preservation Society asked to house the wreck in Southsea Castle. In the 1980s, the ship was maintained in a covered dry dock and treated with polyethylene glycol to assist drying.

The Mary Rose Museum was designed by architectural companies Wilkinson Eyre and Perkins & Will. The museum was built over the wreck in the dry dock. In 2016 the ship was dry enough to be seen without a protective barrier. About two million people have visited the Mary Rose as of 2018. The exhibition space reunites more than 19,000 artifacts with the ship.

Visitors descend on sloping walkways from the main deck to the decks below. The exhibition closure part comes with an ascent in a glass elevator to a view from aloft of the entire ship.

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