The Historic Dockyard Museums at Portsmouth
I took a week off from the area around Portsmouth to describe some local sites in St. Louis. Now I will return to Portsmouth and finish describing the Dockyard’s resources.
I won’t repeat the basics about costs and such, since I’ve gone over that in detail before. The cost of admission to the dockyard includes
all the onsite museums and galleries. As I said just seeing the four historic ships can be almost a full day in and of itself. Even though the ships are
unique artifacts from their times and demand the attention of a visitor that doesn’t mean the galleries and their exhibits are any less interesting or worthy of exploration.
The entire history of the Royal Navy is presented through an excellent collection of well interpreted artifacts http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/royalnavalmuseum/ and http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/. In one of the basins are a number of small boats, some of them from the Victorian Era. Another gallery includes Queen Victoria’s steam boat. Over time the exhibits have changed but some that have really stuck in my mind include excellent displays on the Task Force sent to the Falklands, especially all the many merchant vessels converted for the conflict and the roles critical roles they played in that conflict.
Going back in time is the Trafalgar Experience exhibithttp://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/dockyard/trafalgarexperience.php.
This purports give the visitor the feel of what a gundeck in Nelson’s fleet would have been like during the battle. A sail preserved from that day is on display as well http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/dockyard/trafalgarsail.php.
One of the new exhibits is Dockyard Apprentice http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/dockyard/dockyardapprentice.php. This includes some of Marc Brunel’s equipment for the mass production of rigging blocks, one of the first (if not the first) efforts to mechanically
mass produce identical items.
In one of the open spaces is the monument to the Royal Navy’s Field Gun Competition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_gun_competition
which was part of the Royal Tournament. Based on actions that occurred during the Boer War this hotly fought contest consists of teams with a number of extremely brawny men hauling a field gun across a series of obstacles, reassembling it and firing off rounds periodically in a timed event. Even video of the action is amazing.
When visiting the Historic Dockyard don’t worry about leaving to get a meal. There are a number of new catering facilities on site,
and I look forward to the Georgian Team Rooms when I go back. I have eaten at Boathouse No 7 the last two times I’ve been there and have not been disappointed either time. The food is good, portions reasonable and prices fair. This is another nice aspect of UK Museums, the ability to get a decent meal on site. I despise having to eat garbage at US Museums, if any food is available at all. Enjoy a break in your visit with some nice fish and chips and a decent cup of tea while recharging for the rest of your day.
What one does have to worry about is shopping. The number of locations at the Dockyard that can separate the nautical enthusiast from their
money has increased each time I’ve gone. If you are interested in books there are a wide number of excellent texts available. Airfix models are also well represented (luckily I can get almost anything in plastic back home, so I don’t have to worry trying to get something so crushable home). Nautical reproductions are available in wide variety and enormous quantity.
Be prepared to finish your day off at the Dockyard with some shopping. That way you won’t have to carry the diving helmet you always wanted
around with you all day!