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On 11 September 2010 I visited HMS Warrior 1860 for first time during my trip to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
Brief history about HMS Warrior 1860:
HMS Warrior 1860 was built to counter French developments in naval shipbuilding in the late 19th century. When it was launched on the Thames in London, in 1860, it was largest, fastest and more power warship in the world. There was no warship that got so much attention. It became a profound effect on naval architecture and one of the most famous British warships.
As the world's first iron-hulled, armoured warship powered by steam and constructed of wrought iron, it became the ultimate deterrent, although it never once fired a shot in anger. However it did have 11 years active service. Later Warrior's hull was used for a number of undignified roles from depot ship and floating workshop to an oil jetty. In 1979 it was towed to Hartlepool to be restored to its original condition. That said it cost £8 million, the most complex and costly ship restoration ever attempted.
What did I see:
My first impression on HMS Warrior is that the ship is really huge. From a distance I saw a black giant ship parking on the harbour.
When I was onboard I was surprised with the spaciousness of the Upper Deck. Walking from one side to the other side I felt like on a busy street. So many things to see and the views are so beautiful, last but not least you can see how it would have been when it was a warship.
It was my first experience with a warship, so everything was new and interesting to me. I burned with curiosity over what was inside the ship. There are four decks: upper deck, main/gun deck, lower deck and boiler & engine rooms.
At the upper deck you can see the 26-ton propeller which could be raised via a well in the stern. This operation may well have required up to 400 of the crew to achieve. At the main/gun deck, the heart of the ship, you can see over 30 guns enclosed within the armoured citadel. I was told only 2 guns among them are original, however I didn't have enough time to figure out. 36 messes for 655 men or ratings were arranged between the guns. Approximately 18 men were detailed to each mess, where they ate, slept and relaxed. In the centre there was a galley where food were prepared for all the crew, including the officer. Walking forward to the back of the deck, first I came across the Master's cabin, who was in charge of sailing and navigation. Next it is Captain's cabins. Warrior's first captain was the Honourable Arthur Cochrane. I saw his day cabin which is furnished in the style of a drawing room of the period, sleeping quarters, his own toilet and a walking area. The cabin on the other side belonged to the Commander who was the Captain's number two and responsible for the ship's fighting ability and appearance. The lower deck which is full of the tag of the sea air was mainly used for the crew and other lower officers as a central dinning and relaxation area. There are two parts of the deck were more interesting to me. One is the cells that was used for seamen who committed serious crimes, such as absence over leave, sleeping on watch, etc; another one is the issue room that was for issuing each sailor's food allowance on. The boiler & engine room is in the lowest deck. As I mentioned earlier HMS Warrior 1860 was a pioneer steam ship, so you can see many boilers at either side of the hull. However the work condition here was really dreadful. Warrior's stokers and trimmers would spend hours each day shovelling coal and ash by hand in the temperatures that could reach over 48.9 degC. It reminded me of a film named The Legend Of 1900. Luckily they got paid 25% more than able seamen.
It's not really need to explain how to get it. As soon as you get close to Portsmouth you will easy to find the "Historic Dockyard" sign, home to the Warrior. Then you would not miss it. A ticket will need to be purchased from the Dockyard Visitor Centre. You can buy a single attraction ticket or all inclusive ticket that provides you unlimited access to the Warrior for a whole year, as well as a single visit to HMS Victory, and the Mary Rose, etc. Soundalive audio guide is also available. There is a stair lift from the Upper Deck to the Main Gun Deck.
Although I don't know much about British naval history as well as any warship, I still felt it's an interesting experience and really enjoyed it. In my inexperienced opinion HMS Warrior 1860 is a must see attraction when you do visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
for more pictures please visit my blog, thank you very much: http://blossom-iwanttoseetheworld.blogspot.com/
I have just returned from a weekend in Portsmouth with my folks and 'him indoors'... One of the things we did was visit the Historic Dockyard where the mighty HMS Warrior is moored.... We arrived at 10:15 so 15 minutes after it opened...there was already a queue for tickets, fortunately I had pre booked mine so I trotted off to see the ladies at the front desk with my barcoded receipt and they kindly exchanged it for tickets so no wasting time in queues...!
The all inclusive gift aid ticket is £19.50 (which gets you onto all the attractions in the dockyard.. but check their website for details www.historicdockyard.co.uk), however if you go on www.visitportsmouth.co.uk you can book tickets with them and get a 10% discount!
It was a lovely sunny day which I must admit always has a positive impact on visiting tourist attractions, however the boat itself is immense! It has several decks which you can get to by stairs...but be warned if you are not great on your feet as my elderly mother did struggle with getting down some of them..
The best part of this is that you were able to touch the replica canons and also the shot guns they had all around the gun deck... the captains quarters can be seen through a door but you cannot go in and look around this part which is a shame but you get a good idea of what it must have been like..
The engine rooms are incredible and a must see too.. For me, I think the fact that you can actually visualise how the seaman must have lived every day is extraodinary and when you are informed that 655 men lived in a space no bigger than my old school sports hall it really does bring home how difficult it must have been!
During the year they also hold special dinner events and they even have weddings on board too... and I'll admit that I have picked up a leaflet and I am seriously thinking about returning to one of the special event evenings as I imagine it would be magical...
The only reason I visited the HMS Warrior was because my dad and boyfriend wanted to see it, however out of all the attractions at the dockyard this was the most enjoyable for me and I would even go to say that I would visit it again!
It is many moons since last I wrote about a ship, that being the S.S. Great Britain, which given the slightest opportunity, I urge you to visit in Bristol.
Why mention that here? Well, there are many similarities between the two preserved ships and, I rather suspect that, an enthusiast of one is likely to find much of interest in the other. Both are equally important milestones in the history of shipping, Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Britain being the first iron hulled steam propelled ocean going liner, Isaac Watts' HMS Warrior being the first Iron Clad Warship.
If it were possible to look at the two ships side by side, anyone could be forgiven for assuming that they were contemporaries, in fact they were built and launched almost a generation apart - the Great Britain in Bristol in 1843 and the Warrior in Blackwall, on the Thames in London, in 1860.
The fact that the two technically similar, but completely diverse in purpose, ships were designed, built and commissioned so far apart was indicative of the very conservative Royal Navy of the time.
I K Brunel went on to become a household name, and not only in his own time, but also down through the ages. He probably has more fans today, including myself, than he had a hundred years ago, even Jeremy Clarkson has furthered his cause on television.
Where does that leave Isaac Watts? Clearly, looking at his lasting creation in the shape of the Warrior, he was a talented naval architect. He was not, however, a visionary as was Brunel. That could actually be a rather unfair assumption, we will never actually know, for, as a naval architect, he was subject to all manner of politics and a chain of command. Although even the great Brunel himself, autocratic as he was, had to contend with company owners and financiers, he was not constricted by them in the way that Watts would have been working for the crown.
The crown of the day was Queen Victoria, the British Empire was rapidly building, Britannia ruled the waves, even with a Royal Navy then outdated by around 100 years. The world was a much larger place than it is today and the Industrial Revolution had already had just as profound an affect on society as the Computer Revolution has had over the past twenty years.
What has all this to do with the Warrior? As with all historical attractions it did not merely "materialise", the very reason for it being a visitor attraction today is that it is an historical artefact of an era that is now well beyond anyone's living memory.
In that a ship is "born", then by definition it must be conceived. Down the ages, like we humans, ships have evolved and developed since rudimentary dugout canoes were used in pre-historic times. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, never had such huge strides in marine technology been made possible than during the nineteenth century.
Until 1860 naval vessels looked pretty much as they had done for the past several hundred years. Clearly the Royal Navy, and navies of foreign powers, had reached the ultimate limit of what could be achieved with a wooden hull. Warships of the day looked very much like HMS Victory (also now on display in Portsmouth Historic Naval Dockyard), multi-decked, top heavy gunships, powered by acres and acres of canvas sail.
150 years later this may seem laughable, but HMS Warrior was the first modern battleship, born from a need for the Navy to modernise rapidly, ordinary merchant shipping long having overtaken it in terms of size, prestige and technology.
In May 1859 the Controller of the Royal Navy, Admiral Baldwin Walker commissioned Isaac Watts to design a steam and sail powered iron hulled battleship. The crude low pressure boilers of the day were inefficient and required huge tonnages of coal to be carried; the sails were used almost all of the time, the engine only for carrying out manoeuvres and for continuing under way in a dead calm. The coal bunkers held 850 tons, whilst the sails had a combined area 48,400 square feet - this was to be a colossally big ship compared to any other naval vessel then afloat. Building a ship of this size could only be achievable using an iron frame and hull, just as Brunel had done.
Cynically, and with the benefit of the history books, one may well draw the conclusion that Admiral Walker's priority above all else was to build his ship as large and imposing as possible as a way of impressing the Royal Navy's superiority over the oceans of the day. If that were indeed the case, then he must have retired a proud man, the Warrior having met and exceeded all of his expectations.
S.S. GREAT BRITAIN TECHNOLOGY
Whilst Brunel had no direct design input in the Warrior - he died in September 1859, fifteen months before she was launched, his influences throughout were undeniable. Having largely invented the technology, Wattts had little choice but to follow, adopting many of Brunel's innovations. A very specific example of this was that recognising the limitations of sail and propeller power, the lifting propeller system - whereby it could be cranked in-board, out of the water - in order to save drag was designed in from scratch. Following entry into service the Great Britain had later been thus converted.
Surpassing even the engine technology was the construction of such an enormous hull. Clearly for a ship of this size, required strength and desired operating speed, an iron hull was the only solution. The S.S. Great Britain had doubled the size of ANY ship afloat in 1843, HMS Warrior was to do the same for the Navy. At 418 feet (127 metres) she was to be 120 feet longer than any previous naval vessel.
Where the two ships varied substantially was in purpose. The Great Britain was the world's first ocean going liner, uncomfortably cramped by modern standards, it was, when launched, the last word in luxury and speed. Naturally as a battleship, a gun platform even, HMS Warrior varied substantially in concept. At the heart of Warrior is a strengthened 'citadel', an armoured oblong 4.1/2 inch thick, wrought iron, box forming the main centre section of the hull.
My references to Warrior here as a 'battleship' are strictly speaking incorrect. In Naval terms she was designed as a frigate, the definition of that type of ship being one that has all of its guns mounted on one continuous gun deck.
Due to the size and weight of Warrior, Watts reasoned that, being a much more stable gun platform, he could mount much larger guns than had ever before been used on a naval vessel. A wooden battle ship, such as the Victory, with multiple gun decks, was at the limit of stability when firing 32 pound cannons. For Warrior, 26 muzzle-loading 68 pound (31kg) and 10 breech-loading 110 pound (50kg) guns were designed and built.
BUILDING THE WARRIOR
Designing such a monster was nothing compared to actually building it using the technology available to Victorian ship builders. Naval shipyards and dry docks were configured for ships of the size, weight and wooden construction of HMS Victory. The majority of naval; ship-wrights were skilled carpenters, few, if any, had worked in iron previously.
Walker and Watts had little choice but to commission the famous Thames Ironworks to build their new ship. This was the only shipyard in the country at the time large enough to build such a ship. It was also experienced in working with iron and had previously handled naval commissions so knew how the lines of communication worked.
The engines and boilers were also built on the Thames, by Penns at Greenwich. It was once the building had started that the very appropriate name of Warrior was chosen for the ship, an aged wooden hulled battleship of the same name having recently been de-commissioned.
In total 900 men were employed in the construction of Warrior, the anticipated launch date was for the summer of 1860, but due to much procrastination on the part of the navy over the guns, the launch was delayed until 29th December 1860.
Fitting out took a further eight months, at the end of which this ship, at a cost of £390,000, was commissioned in Portsmouth on 1st August, 1861. She was the largest, fastest warship in the world, but more importantly, carried more firepower than any other ship afloat.
WHAT Mr DICKENS HAD TO SAY ABOUT IT:
"A black vicious ugly customer as ever I saw, whale-like in size, and with as terrible a row of incisor teeth as ever closed on a French frigate"
WHAT RICHADA HAS TO SAY ABOUT IT:
Rather than just taking the contemporary Charles Dickens' word for it, since June 1987 we have actually been able to go to Portsmouth and see this ship for ourselves in order to make up our own minds about it.
The years between its' launch in 1860 and the return of the Warrior to Portsmouth as a floating museum in 1987 were, in truth, rather uneventful. The Warrior never fired a gun in anger. By her sheer size and power she proved to be a magnificent peacekeeper, quite simply no foreign power was foolhardy enough to take her on.
As with all modern technologies, rapid development takes place, rendering quite recent designs obsolete almost over night. Five years after entering service, the navy was ordering the first of the now ubiquitous "turret" type ships. Warrior's size and speed were poor substitutes for much more manoeuvrable ships entering service with other navies. Her steering gear was primitive - very similar to the old wooden hulled navy ships that she replaced, in less than ten years sails were disappearing from the Royal Navy too.
HMS Warrior saw in total twenty two years of active naval service, before returning to Portsmouth to have her machinery and guns stripped out. She remained in naval service in Portsmouth Harbour performing various support duties until 1929, when she was converted for use as a floating oil jetty and towed to Milford Haven. So sound was her hull that she sat at anchor for a further 50 years performing this task.
In the meantime all of her contemporaries had long gone to the scrap yard; by 1960 she was the only remaining Royal Naval battleship afloat. This fact that had not gone unnoticed by many naval historians and even, critically the labour politician John Smith, who as MP for the City of Westminster had set up the Manifold Trust, whose aim was to preserve and restore endangered items of national heritage. Smith was very much aware of the Warrior and her current situation; in 1968 he even held a meeting with the Duke of Edinburgh - known to share similar interests, especially maritime ones, in order to discuss the Warrior's potential future.
In 1976 her service at the oil depot in Milford Haven finally came to an end, plans were already well afoot for her restoration, indeed John Smith and the Manifold Trust had already agreed to finance the total restoration of the ship, estimated at between £4 million and £8 million.
Warrior was handed over to the Greenwich based Maritime Trust, who already tended for such notable ships as the Cutty Sark and Captain Scott's Discovery. Late in 1979 Warrior, barely recognisable as the ship she now is, was towed into Hartlepool where, over the following eight years, total restoration took place.
Fascinatingly, much of the restoration was carried out using the journal and drawings of a fourteen year old midshipman, Henry Murray, who, whilst serving on the Warrior had taken copious notes and drawn out detailed plans of the ship's decks.
Much of the original ship was saved and preserved. The iron hull, main (timber) and lower decks are largely original; however the upper (weather) deck was completely replaced, using period timber from a demolished, Victorian, Bradford warehouse. A team of 140 craftsmen made the Warrior a labour of love in Hartlepool, and the results, then, as now, are extraordinary.
I can guarantee that anyone remotely interested in maritime history, ships, or even in a wider context, Victorian history, will be impressed by the sheer attention to detail shown on board this ship by the restorers. Even where non-authentic materials have been used, for example the colossal guns, which have been cast in fibreglass from moulds made from an original, the result looks perfect. The detail is extraordinary - right down to the captain's pictures in his cabin, Midshipman Henry Murray, I am sure would be delighted at his legacy.
WARRIOR AS A VISITOR ATTRACTION TODAY
I do not really need to explain to you how to find HMS Warrior, get anywhere close to Portsmouth and follow the brown "Historic Dockyard" sign posts and the mighty Warrior is hard to miss. The Historic Naval Dockyard has its own pay and display car park under a large block of flats, it is modern, well lit and extremely well sign posted as you approach the harbour.
Travel by train and alight at Portsmouth Harbour Station; Warrior is berthed adjacent to the main dockyard entrance, less than two minutes walk from the train.
From either Gosport, or the Isle of Wight, you can even arrive here by ferry, both of which use the station as their terminal.
All of the local busses seem to stop either at the Dockyard, or the Station, whilst many of the "coastal" busses do too.
All in all, the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, home to the Warrior, is a very easily accessible site.
Warrior now forms the largest, most impressive part of the Historic Dockyard experience. Assuming that, as well as admiring the ship from the gate - you will need to take a harbour tour boat to get a good view of the stern - you wish to board the Warrior, a ticket will need to be purchased from the Dockyard Visitor Centre just beyond the gate. I will post the times and current prices at the end of this review.
Having visited Warrior twice now, I would advise doing as we did in September, and arrive at 10.00am when the dockyard opens. This way you will have this large ship pretty much to yourself to start with - a bonus for those, like me, who wish to take plenty of photographs. Later in the day or, as my first visit, on a special occasion - "Navy Day" - you will find even the vast decks of the Warrior uncomfortably crowded. I would also advise against attempting to pack the whole Dockyard Experience into one day, there is far too much to see and take in to be comfortably done in a day. This is the very reason that I am reviewing HMS Warrior as a separate subject to the Dockyard itself.
STEP ABOARD & BACK 150 YEARS IN TIME
The words detailed and impressive seem to have featured boldly so far and I am unable here to impress upon you enough the sheer scale of this ship. I first went to see it with my father many years ago - probably around 1990, when Warrior still very much had a "new" look and smell to it. Wonderfully preserved and maintained, the Warrior has since lost that "new gloss" and, in my opinion at least, is all the better for it.
You step aboard via a floating pontoon and ramp - which naturally enough varies in steepness according to the state of the tide, there are no steps, making at least the weather deck fully accessible for wheel chair users.
First impressions of the deck are the sheer amount of open space, making even the huge cannons mounted on gun carriages look toy like. Other notable features are the notoriously inaccurate compass - near useless on early iron hulled ships like this - and the colossal helm, at which up to sixteen seamen would wrestle in order to keep the ship on the correct course.
Once on board you have access to the whole ship, although parts of it, such as climbing the near vertical steps to the bridge, will require you to be in pretty good shape! Before descending the steep steps to the lower decks, take in also the superb views of Portsmouth Harbour from the stern.
Impressive as it is, one cannot picture this ship with 700 servicemen aboard; below decks at least to us it would have seemed cramped and uncomfortable. For Victorian sailors used to damp and cramped conditions on previous ships it would have been near luxury. Adding to this would have been its massively increased stability, especially in stormy conditions.
The main, or gun deck as it was referred to, forms the main "citadel" section of the ship. Again a huge open space, just as well as this was where the crew worked, ate, and slept in this "safe" central area of the ship. Progressing through the Warrior you gain a real insight into the life of the Victorian sailor, even those not interested in ships and the navy cannot fail to be impressed by the superbly re-constructed (galley) kitchen, or - a first on a naval ship this: the washing machine!
Along with the cooking and laundry facilities, all other aspects of running the ship are open for our inspection. The store rooms for both arms and victuals', even the ship's jail has been fully restored.
Also present on board is much evidence of the strict class hierarchy that existed in the Victorian Navy, just as it did ashore. According to rank, skill and profession, so members of the navy took their place aboard ship. All enjoyed significantly better living conditions than their forebears - from the captain down. This was a very different navy to the one familiar to Admiral Nelson aboard his flagship, HMS Victory. Indeed, visiting both of these ships is an education in that sense above all else. However, the Victorian navy was far more "modern". Uniforms were supplied, press gangs were a thing of the past - all aboard Warrior were there because they had chosen to sign on, usually for ten years at a time. For all ranks aboard, the quality of life, in all probability, was far higher than ashore.
Having seen the vast open areas where the ordinary ratings lived, we progress through the ship to the officer's quarters and messes, progressively more comfortable, until reaching the captains cabin, which resembles more a luxury hotel suite of the time.
In a sense the engineer in me finds the lowest decks of all the most fascinating. Remembering that this was a pioneer steam ship and that the huge boilers were very inefficient, the machine spaces and boilers take up a huge amount of space. The noise, heat and sheer physical effort on the part of the stokers and engineers working down here is difficult to simulate in this now static exhibit. The boiler room is below the water line and today has a clammy, chilly feel to it, at sea, under steam the temperature down here would have been about 43degC.
If you are at all claustrophobic, large as this area is, I do not recommend visiting this, the lowest of the four decks. It is quite dark and one feels pleased to be back up on deck after spending any time below the water line.
Very much enhancing any visit to the Warrior are the "Quartermasters", in 1860 period uniforms on board the Warrior. They are a well briefed and a mime of information about the ship. Similarly the volunteer staff below decks who are only too pleased to fill you in on any detailed aspect of the ship, or life aboard the ship that may be of particular interest.
Being part of the Historic Dockyard, means that as a visitor to the Warrior, we are well serviced as far as toilets, cafes, shops and restaurants go inside the dockyard site itself. Much pride is taken in the general appearance and cleanliness of the whole site, and for this reason alone I class this as one of Britain's best tourist attractions.
Just outside the dockyard gates are further facilities in the form of pubs, fish and chip shops and a vast range of eating and shopping opportunities at Gunwharf Quays which is less than a ten minute walk. In terms of value for money, I would tend to recommend eating at Gunwharf Quays.
I can think of so very many reasons for recommending a visit to HMS Warrior, and indeed, very few not to - even for those entirely disinterested in matters maritime. This may not be a cheap day out, but it is a very good value one, and for all the family at that. For those who live more than a day trip away from Portsmouth, this is a fascinating city, with much to do - apart from the dockyard and personally I would thoroughly recommend making a long weekend break of it.
HMS Warrior 1860 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard - PO1 3LJ
(GPS users - Car Park PO1 3LA)
Tel: 023 9277 8600
TICKETS & PRICES:
Tickets can be purchased on-line or at the gate. Be warned there are long queues on bank holidays and during summer weekends.
I would advise buying on-line: www.historicdockyard.co.uk/tickets/ in order to dodge the queue when you arrive.
Current (April 2009) ticket prices:
Adult £12.50 - 60 years+ £10.50 - 5 to 15 years + Students £8.50 - Family ticket (2+2) £33.00.
Please not that these are "Single Attraction" tickets for the Warrior only.
The all inclusive Annual Dockyard Admission ticket at £18.00 represents much better value and gives you unlimited access to the Warrior for a whole year, as well as a single visit to HMS Victory, the Mary Rose and a Portsmouth Harbour tour by boat.
10.00 - 17.00 Every day except: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Britain's first iron-hulled, armoured battleship; powered by steam and sail, she was the largest and fastest warship of her day.