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Conservation of HMS Victory

Conservation of HMS Victory



Victory was launched in 1765, but remained in Ordinary (reserve) until 1778 when she received her first commission. That same year she took part in the Battle of Ushant against the French fleet and afterwards needed slight repairs for battle damage.

This artist’s impression from about 1779 shows Victory’s original appearance a few years after launch. There are some significant differences from how she looks today. The artist has described her as His Majesty’s ship Victory, a First Rate carrying 116 guns and a crew of 960. She is shown sailing by the White Cliffs of Dover.


COPPER BOTTOM 1780 - 1799

This is a painting of Victory in 1793. She flies a Union Jack on her bowsprit and a red ensign at the stern (back). She is also flying the flag of Lord Hood as Vice-Admiral of the Red, as she heads outward-bound with her squadron for the Mediterranean.

In 1797 Victory was found to be in a bad way. She was first re-fitted as a hospital ship and then very nearly became a prison hulk, which would have ended her sailing days. With the loss of the 98 gun Impregnable In 1799 it was decided instead to keep her sailing and she was sent for a large repair at Chatham.


TRAFALGAR 1800 - 1805 


HMS Victory conservation - Trafalgar

Between 1800 & 1803 Victory underwent a large repair at Chatham. At the same time she was updated according to the latest instructions from the Navy Board. Her external appearance changed dramatically.

There were also many internal changes, including a properly designed sick bay. She was also painted with her now famous yellow and black streaks. When the work was finished, Victory must have looked more or less as she does today. It was this appearance that the restoration team decided to recreate in the 1920s.


PORTSMOUTH 1817 - 1922

HMS Victory conservation - Portsmouth - 1922

By the early 1920s Victory’s condition was so bad it was decided she could no longer safely remain afloat. This photograph shows Victory in 1922 shortly after she was moved permanently into No. 2 dry dock.

Her external appearance has continued to change since the large repair of 1814 – 1816, and there were a number of additions. In this period she looked nothing like the ship that Nelson knew at Trafalgar.



Conservation Log

The National Museum of the Royal Navy is committed to preserving Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory. The vessel is currently undergoing the biggest restoration programme in her history following guidelines set out in the National Historic Ships UK (NHSUK) Publication ‘Conserving Historic Vessels’.

Current efforts focus on the development of a new support system and preventing water damage. All of these measures are of critical importance and are very time and resource intensive.





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