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HMS Victory's Dock Walkway

HMS Victory's Dock Walkway

‘A sight Nelson never saw’ was revealed to our visitors when we briefly opened Autumn 2020 and now since we've re-opened in May 2021. The walkway takes you into the bottom of the dock and under HMS Victory as part of the tour for the first time in her illustrious history. It was, literally, a sight Nelson never saw.

For the two years of his time spent on HMS Victory in command of the Mediterranean Fleet, the ship was almost continuously at sea, engaged in the blockade and pursuit of the combined Franco-Spanish Fleet that culminated in the great victory at Trafalgar.

The Dock Walkway

The dock walkway has been made possible as a result of HMS Victory now being held by the new Hull Support System, a series of ‘intelligent’ props that fully support her in two rows from the sides of the dock and enables her natural movement to be monitored. 

With the removal of the very heavy cradles that previously supported the ship, this has allowed new and close-up access to, and views of, the hull of the ship. Visitors can now see and appreciate the sleek and graceful lines designed by the Surveyor of the Navy, Sir Thomas Slade, as one of his greatest achievements.

His design made the ship fast, and a good sea keeper, as well as a stable platform for the broadside gunnery that unleashed Victory’s devastating firepower.

What can you see?

The Dock itself is a masterpiece of construction, designed by the Royal Navy’s Inspector General of Naval Works, Brigadier- General Sir Samuel Bentham and brother of the Philosopher Jeremy Bentham.

The dock is a stone inverted arch design, making use of John Smeaton’s rediscovery of Roma cement to add to the docks strength. Bentham’s engineering innovation also led him to introduce steam into the yard, both for pumping out water from the dock, and also to run wood-working machinery.

As you look north from HMS Victory you can see evidence of this early industrial revolution in the form of the Block Mills, designed by Marc Brunel (And father of Isambard Kingdom) that mass-produced the huge quantities for rigging blocks needed by the Fleet.

Descending into the dock you have the imposing sight of HMS Victory’s Bow, or Beakhead and the graceful curves of her original elm keel held fast by copper fishplates and bolts.

As you pass along and under the ship, there is evidence of the copper cladding and fastenings that both kept out shipworm and prevented marine weed growth and enabled her to maintain her speed at sea. 

The dock also tells some of the story of HMS Victory’s remarkable survival. The tell-tale buckling of the foremast support plate, signs of hasty concrete repair and added sections of teak to the keel remind us of the impact of a 250Kg bomb from an air raid in 1941.

As you reach the stern, there is the rudder that we believe was likely to be in place at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and an imposing view looking up at the towering stern gallery and Nelson’s Great Cabin.

You can easily imagine yourself approaching the ship as one of the Fleet’s Captains for a meeting with the Admiral, and the awe-inspiring sight of the Royal Navy’s maritime strength.

Audio Guide Tour

Supported by an audio guide tour, the dock adds to the story of Victory, the dock that houses her, and the support system that will continue to support her for years to come as part of her ongoing conservation programme led by the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

For tickets, and more, make sure you visit the National Museum of the Royal Navy's website.

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