Yes, that is Admiral Lord Nelson’s toilet, although I think that the velvet rope and stand was a later addition, there is unlikely to have been a problem with queuing (except, possibly, on the 21st of October 1805).
Another day of our inspection of the south coast, another contrast.
HMS Victory, 1765, flagship of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson.
HMS Warrior, 1860, Britain’s first iron-hulled, armoured battleship.
Portsmouth History Dockyard, as well as being the storage place of choice for England’s uber-expensive new carriers and wotnots, the ones without aircraft but with failed engines, is home to both Victory and Warrior. One, in my humble opine, is the second-best exhibit in the dockyard, and the other one is in the dockyard.
HMS Victory is (sort of) preserved (outdoors) in all of its glory, and glory it has a-plenty. The ship’s naval career exceeded and eclipsed even that of my late mother, Admiral Dame Hutson, First Sea Lord.
From the official Victory website:
On 7th May 1765 HMS Victory was floated out of the Old Single Dock in Chatham’s Royal Dockyard. In the years to come, over an unusually long service, she would gain renown leading fleets in the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic War. In 1805 she achieved lasting fame as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Nelson in Britain’s greatest naval victory, the defeat of the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar.
There’s a little brass plate on deck marking the spot where Admiral Lord Nelson copped his fatal injuries and the spot where Ian Hutson tripped over a little brass plate in the decking. There’s a bit of a delay with the engravers, my name and date will be on there soon enough.
Nelson actually snuffed it below decks, but not before having a good snog with Thomas Hardy (the chap who wrote about Madding Crowds and d’Urbervilles and such, having had experience of them aboard Victory*).
*Patently not true.
As a naval vessel Victory was phenomenal, as a tourist attraction Victory is ruddy good, ruddy good indeed. Almost all of the ship’s decks and extents are now open to H.M. Unwashed, including the lower ones with 4′ 7″ headroom… The only fly in the grog is that occasionally the ropes marking the tour go awry. The Bro and I fell foul of one such where a rather sullen chap did something inconvenient with the only exit, got mildly stroppy at us for not using the exit, and then re-instated the only exit so that we could use it…
Things aren’t spoiled on HMS Victory. Indeed, there was only one twee moment, and that with some bloke dressed in clothes of the day in the Captain’s cabin, pillocking about to amuse a sudden infestation of the species “children”. It proved possible to move on swiftly and come back later when he was pillocking about somewhere else. The other 99.99% of the vessel is a grown-up attraction, and is most splendid indeed.
I am thinking of having the Cardinal’s stern changed to something akin to this:
…but the Cardinal’s decks will be left as they are (which is just perfect).
We suspect that this may have been where Mr Admiral Lord Nelson pushed up the zeds, when not being sea-sick or having battles. I couldn’t be doing with curtains around my bed on the Cardinal, I am too much in need of free airflow to prevent a build-up of noxious gasses.
There’s no rushing around Victory, a chap is free to mooch and wander at leisure, to dawdle and absorb the smell of the pressed crew, the lash of the cat and the occasional meeting of low beam and forehead.
A most excellent place, splendidly maintained and managed. I commend it to the Nation.
So, to HMS Warrior.
Another great ship, the first of England’s “iron-clads”, powered by steam and sail, it was the largest, fastest and most powerful warship of its day.
Still a magnificent sight, and a great visit, but not, it must be said, in the league of the HMS Victory. To give you a flavour, if you cast your piggy little bloodshot beadies over the HMS Warrior website the first image that will assault your rods and cones is a couple of twerps “getting the married” aboard Warrior. A museum attraction tastefully done? Well, yes and no, it’s on the abyss, teetering on the brink. The soul has been removed.
Warrior does still have some flavour of history and adult interest (probably through sheer inertia), so it is better in that regard, much much better than the cold, plastic, dumbed-down re-creation nonsense of a 24-gun English Frigate, HMS Surprise, the one that was used to film the epic Master & Commander, and that now lies in tears and shame in San Diego harbour. It would, in truth, be difficult to be more devoid of character and flavour than is HMS Surprise.
HMS Warrior is, though, well on the way to that discomnobulated state. It is an unloved attraction. Poor old HMS Warrior is a bit of a plank. A construction of planks, it must be admitted. The lustre lacking is, in this, Little One. Life, injected it must be, somehow, Obi McWonkanadmiral. Doubtless volunteers have worked their little socks off to get the vessel to this state, but it is more akin to visiting a slot-machine on the pier than visiting a massive slice of England’s naval history. The imagination needs must work overtime to make this vessel come alive in the mind of the visitor.
Fortunately, being “clinically unhinged”, neither the Bro nor I had any difficulty in engaging “independent imagination mode”, and we made the best of our visit. Staff had to use long poles to dislodge us both from the top of the mainmast.
I hestitate to use the word “spark” in close proximity to a wooden vessel, but spark there ought to be and spark there is not. That is the state of HMS Warrior, plainly and simply stated. I am a fussy old Hector.
Still, it was part of a most enjoyable visit to Portsmouth’s Historic Naval Dockyard, and in spite of these limitations, I commend both vessels to you, H.M.’s Unwashed.
The dockyard itself is also careening towards the fast-“food” and trinket shop side of the dark veil. However, it does, in addition to these two lovely beasties, play sort of home but not home to an absolute gem, the Koh-i-Noor of museums: the Mary Rose Museum. More of that in a later post.
In short (at length) another splendid day was had by – well, I was going to say all, but really I mean the Bro and One. I and Him. Us. We pottered, we pootled, we poked our noses into all sorts of interesting things, and we went away highly amused and soaked to the bone in just a little bit more of the “the history”.
We topped off the day with a boat trip around Portsmouth Harbour, viewing some of Prime Minister May’s carriers-without-aircraft and destroyers-with-joke-engines.
Save The Royal Navy, because it seems that where once we ruled the world with our navy we now have a rowing boat, two canoes and one paddle. Whenever there is a news report about our navy “shadowing Russian ships in the English Channel” I do rather wonder sometimes whether the Navy chaps feel a bit silly, bouncing around out there in an inflatable dinghy called “Ark Royal”.
Our hotel in Gosport, across the harbour, then called. I don’t mean they telephoned or anything, that’s just a figure of speech. We were knackered, and needed food, coffee, a flagon of lager and an evening (& night) of more of the “The Commonwealth Games”.
Next to come in the bloggery postery? That would be the Mary Rose, followed by Blenheim Palace and then the Ashmolean in Oxford.
Superb; abysmal; excellent.