#7 Portsmouth. We have a mission: to follow the route of an old 1940s board game around Great Britain, sticking to the instructions as closely as we possibly can. Along the way we will look at the history of the places we visit, with a particular focus on how things have changed since the tour was created around 70 years ago.
The next square on the board with a location to visit was number 7, Portsmouth. The dockyards are illustrated on the board and the instructions tell us to “miss one turn whilst you look over Nelson’s ship Victory”. I had been to see the HMS Victory when I was a child, on a school trip, but my wife had never been there. Neither had our son, although he has not visited just about everywhere, being as he is not two years old yet.
The Victory was launched in 1765, and was Nelson’s flagship from 1803 to his death in 1805. He died on board, shot during the Battle of Trafalgar by a marksman from the French ship Redoubtable (which incidentally was damaged so badly during the battle that it could not be salvaged, and sunk). There is a plaque on the deck that marks the spot where Nelson was shot.
The Victory continued on expeditions until 1812, when she was moored in Portsmouth, and then moved to dry dock in 1922, where she remains to this day, and is the oldest commissioned warship in the world.
Part of my remit when writing this account of our tour is to look at how things might have changed since the Tour of Great Britain game was created, circa 1948. Most notably, the condition of the Victory is better now than it would have been to a visitor at the time. Although there had been extensive restoration work since 1922, it had ceased during the war. To compound the problem, a bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe had caused some damage. Restoration work continues to this day, and at the time of our visit a section of the ship was covered with scaffolding and tarpaulin. To look at the wider picture, the dockyards are now a huge tourist attraction, and whilst a visitor in 1948 would have been able to see the Victory and the National Museum of the Royal Navy (opened in 1911), now there is also the Mary Rose (since 1982), the Warrior (since 1987) and the HMS M33 (since 2015).
However, it is all far too much to do in a day, and the Victory on its own was enough for us. It is actually very strenuous looking around, with a lot of walking and climbing up and down steep steps. It is all especially tiring if you are tall like myself, and have to spend most of the time walking around bent double. What with that, and carrying a toddler up and down the steep steps, I was quite pleased to emerge into the daylight and head for the cafe! The most enjoyable part of the trip for me was standing on deck and admiring the view, and we were lucky that it was not too busy at the time (once the obligatory school group had moved on).
I would recommend purchasing tickets for the Historic Dockyard online in advance, as those who had done so were in a separate queue which moved quickly. We, on the other hand, had not pre-purchased, but we arrived early, and were in a fairly short queue of about half a dozen couples. Despite this, it took about half an hour to get to the front of the queue, as there was only one person selling the tickets and she seemed to have a lot to say to every visitor. At the time of writing a ticket for the Victory is £18 for an adult and £13 for a child. However, it is also possible to purchase a ticket that covers all the attractions at the dockyard for £33 adult / £23 child, although it is cheaper when booked on the web. That is a good option if you want to spread your visit over a few days, because the tickets are valid for a year. But if you are intending to visit in just one day, I would pay for just what you want to see, because if you try to visit everything there in one day you will need a remarkable amount of stamina!
Once again, we took photos of the game board at the location. Once again, the other tourists quietly retreated from the vicinity of the strange family. Maybe that’s why it was so quiet on the deck.
Our next location will be Salisbury, and then on to Stonehenge. Although there has been one post per week up to this point, from now on this will be an occasional feature, as at the time of writing this is as far as we have got with our tour. We hope to at least complete the south of England by the end of the year. Please follow to be kept aware of future instalments!
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The photos that accompany this post were taken during our visit. Please do not reuse them without permission.