Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

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Signage on Boathouse 4

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is an area of HM Naval Base Portsmouth which is open to the public; it contains several historic buildings and ships. It is managed by the National Museum of the Royal Navy as an umbrella organisation representing five charities: the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, the National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth, the Mary Rose Trust, the Warrior Preservation Trust Ltd and the HMS Victory Preservation Company.[1] Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Ltd was created to promote and manage the tourism element of the Royal Navy Dockyard, with the relevant trusts maintaining and interpreting their own attractions. It also promotes other nearby navy-related tourist attractions.


On site[edit]

  • The National Museum of the Royal Navy was first opened in Portsmouth in 1911.[2] The museum is host to many original Naval artefacts, including one of the original sails from the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. You can also see the Trafalgar Experience, an interactive walk-through gallery which details the Battle of Trafalgar and ends with the famous Wyllie Panorama.[3] The museum also includes World War I Monitor HMS M33, which opened to the public in 2015, the centenary year of her launch.
  • HMS Victory has been open to the public for nearly 200 years. She was the famous flagship of Admiral Horatio, Lord Nelson who he famously died on during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. She was moved into her current dry-dock in 1922 where she has remained since.[4]
  • The Mary Rose was raised in front of a worldwide TV audience in 1982. She was then brought to Portsmouth and housed in dry dock. A new £35million museum, housing the ship and thousands of artefacts that were also recovered, opened in May 2013.[5]
  • HMS Warrior 1860 was brought back home to Portsmouth in 1987, to further add to the collection of historic ships Portsmouth had to offer. As the world’s first iron clad warship, she represented a milestone in shipbuilding when she was launched in 1860 and never fired a shot in anger[6]
  • Harbour Tours represent the chance to see the Historic Dockyard and Naval Base from the water. The trip leaves from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, heads up to the North West corner of the Naval Base, making a quick stop at Gunwharf Quays before coming back to the Historic Dockyard.
  • Action Stations opened to the public in 2001 in the historic Boathouse No. 6. This building houses an interactive experience of the modern Royal Navy, including flight simulators, climbing walls and towers amongst many others. A recent addition is a Laser Quest experience, which offers another completely different use of this building[7]
  • Boathouse 4 is due to open in 2015 as a "Boatbuilding and Heritage Skills Centre".[8] Alongside an exhibition telling the story of small boats in the Royal Navy, visitors will be able to see traditional boatbuilding skills in action. The nearby Boathouse 5 houses a Historic Boat Workshop, part of the International Boatbuilding Training College.[9]

Off site[edit]


Many of the buildings within the Historic Dockyard area date from the 18th century

As with any historic property, there is an on-going programme of conservation throughout all of the attractions. The Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust (PNBPT) are responsible for the maintenance and the upkeep of all of the historic building within the heritage footprint of the Historic Dockyard[10]

HMS Victory is currently undergoing a major multi-million pound refurbishment. The masts have been removed from the ship for the first time since 1944 so they can be fully catalogued and restored, giving visitors a chance to see the ship as she was post-Trafalgar and during WW2 when they were removed to ensure they weren’t hit by the Luftwaffe. In fact, in one of the bombing raids during WW2, a missile exploded in the bottom of dry-dock creating a large hole in the hull of Victory and causing damage to the dry-dock at the same time. Over the years, as Victory is a wooden ship, she has had many timbers replaced but using the same oak that she was made from. This has ensured she is preserved for generations to come.

HMS Warrior 1860 is still afloat in Portsmouth Harbour and so needs careful conservation. Around every 10–15 years she is required to be moved from her berth to allow for her hull to be conserved and repaired where they are needed. It is also an opportunity to paint the hull and ensure she is ship-shape.

Perhaps one of the largest conservation projects in the world is happening at the Mary Rose. The Mary Rose is the largest collection of Tudor artefacts in the world. There are some 19,000 artefacts which were brought up with the ship and many of these have been preserved and put on show to the public in a brand new museum that was built around the ship, and opened to the public in Spring 2012.

Special Events[edit]

The Historic Dockyard has always played host to many major events, from Navy Days, to the Victorian Festival of Christmas.

Navy Days were an annual event throughout most of the 20th century, welcoming many thousands of visitors to the Dockyard to marvel at the modern warships alongside the likes of HMS Victory & HMS Warrior. It made a return under the guise of ‘Meet Your Navy’ in 2008, where over 35,000 visitors got the chance to look round the Historic ships, along with the Royal Navy’s most modern ships. In 2010, the familiar ‘Navy Days’ made a return, welcoming over 25,000 visitors to the Naval Base, where new Type 45 destroyers HMS Daring & HMS Dauntless opened to the public alongside RFA Argus, HMS Cumberland and many other attractions.

The Festival of Christmas was first held at the Historic Dockyard in 2000, quickly establishing itself as a Christmas favourite, with its mix of Festie fayre and traditional Victorian characters. It has gone on for a further 12 years since, culminating in record visitor numbers of over 27,000 in 2011 as the event continues to go from strength to strength. It is an event attended by many families, who regard it as the start of their Christmas celebrations.

Operating calendar[edit]

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is open 363 days of the year, only closing for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day each year. It opens to the public at 10am every day, with last tickets being sold at 4pm (off peak) and 4.30pm (peak). The attraction closing times can vary.


Coordinates: 50°48′04″N 1°06′36″W / 50.801°N 1.110°W / 50.801; -1.110