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Unique scale model of HMS Victory put on display at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Date published 19/10/2023

The builder’s block model is the only known scale model of HMS Victory from the time of Battle of Trafalgar. This 1:48 scale model is likened to a perfect 3D prototype. Centuries of technology separate HMS Victory’s second Great Repair from the present-day Big Repair but remarkable similarities and differences remain.

It’s the most famous day in the Royal Navy’s calendar and this year, to mark Trafalgar Day on Saturday 21 October, The National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard will put the world’s only known scale model of HMS Victory from the time of the Battle of Trafalgar on permanent display. 

The model of HMS Victory is inspected by Principal Curator Victoria Ingles

From Victory’s second Great Repair 220-years-ago to the current once-in-a-lifetime, decade-long Big Repair to preserve one of the world’s most celebrated warships, the builder’s block model is a superb snapshot in time and a key piece of evidence from the early 19th century. Used together with artworks and archaeological research, the model helps us build a picture of what Victory looked like during this period. 

By comparing the model with present-day Victory using photogrammetry – which turns photographs into 3D images – archaeologists at the National Museum can highlight the similarities and differences between them. Incredibly the model and Victory are a close match for the most part.

Andrew Baines, HMS Victory Project Director, The National Museum of the Royal Navy explained; 

“The model’s unveiling provides a remarkable before and after as Victory is currently undergoing a Big Repair. Today we use new techniques and innovative technology, including digital modelling, to plan our Victory repairs and conservation works. In the early nineteenth century, a builder’s block was the equivalent - a perfect 3D prototype. “ 

The 1:48 scale mode, which measures 142cm long, was recently acquired with generous funding support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Society of Nautical Research, and the HMS Victory Endowment Fund.

Dr Simon Thurley CBE, Chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said:

“The Battle of Trafalgar is one of the most significant naval battles ever, and a seminal moment in the history of the UK. It is wonderful news that this handsome ship model of HMS Victory, that has been acquired thanks to a National Heritage Memorial Fund grant of £247,000, will go on display at the National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth to mark Trafalgar Day.”

Dr David Davies, Chair of The Society for Nautical Research said: 

“The Society for Nautical Research, which has administered the Save the Victory Fund since its inception in 1922, was delighted to be able to donate £150,000 from the fund towards the purchase for the nation of this unique survival.” 

The HMS Victory Endowment Fund contributed £295,000. When Victory was 35 years old, worn out by long service, rot and battle action, the ship commenced a major refit and was extensively remodelled. She then embarked on what was to be her defining journey to lead the British fleet to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar 1805. The model shows how Victory’s hull changed in the 40 years between her construction and the Battle of Trafalgar. It also shows some changes that were considered, but never made. 

The model will be put on display from Trafalgar Day, Saturday 21st October, in the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s HMS Victory: The Nation’s Flagship gallery, which charts the extraordinary story, from acorn to icon, of the remarkable survivor considered by many to be the world’s most famous ship and the oldest naval ship still in commission. 

Entry to the gallery is included in a ticket to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The Ultimate Explorer Ticket is the best value option for 12-month entry to all the attractions at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard including the Mary Rose, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, HMS M.33, the galleries and exhibitions of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport, Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower, Gosport and Harbour Tours and starts from £44 per adult and £29 per child. It is valid for multiple entries throughout the year, with family tickets available.

Entry onto the 12-acre historic area of the Dockyard is free with a Historic Quarter Pass, issued at the Visitor Centre between 10am and 4:30pm.