Thursday, March 10, 2005


Only Surviving Sail From Battle Of Trafalgar To Go On Show


March 08, 2005

The only surviving sail from the Battle of Trafalgar is to go on show to the public as part of the celebrations for this year's bicentenary

A special exhibition displaying the historic fore topsail
from Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, can be viewed in
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard from March 18 to October
30 after an official opening by the Duke of Edinburgh next week.

A special exhibition displaying the historic fore topsail from Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, can be viewed in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard from March 18 to October 30 after an official opening by the Duke of Edinburgh next week.

Aside from HMS Victory herself, the fore topsail is recognised by experts and historians worldwide as the largest single original artefact from the Battle of Trafalgar. Covering an area of 3,618 ft, it was the second largest sail on board HMS Victory and would have been one of the main targets for French and Spanish guns as HMS Victory approached the enemy line.

It is battle-scarred and pock-marked by some 90 shot holes, although a few squares were cut out by 19th century souvenir hunters. It also has huge historical importance as a hand-manufactured object from the time.

Measuring 80ft at its base, 54ft at its head and 54ft deep and weighing an estimated 370kg, it would have taken around 1,200 man hours for experienced sailmakers to stitch.

The sail was manufactured in the sail loft at Chatham in 1803. It remained on HMS Victory until the ship returned for repairs after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1806, then was taken to the sail loft in Chatham. For the next 85 years, the history of the sail is somewhat obscure.

It was displayed at an exhibition in 1891 and then onboard HMS Victory for the centenary of Trafalgar in 1905. It was later discovered in a sail loft at Victory barracks, now HMS Nelson, in 1960, covered by gym mats. It was returned to the ship for display in a glass cabinet on the Orlop in 1962, then left the ship for good in 1993, when it was found that the sail was deteriorating rapidly and needed urgent conservation work.

Now housed in environmentally-controlled conditions in Storehouse 10, within the Historic Dockyard, the sail has undergone an enormous amount of work which has ensured its long-term survival. The sail was initially mapped and photographed and initial conservation was carried out at the Carpet Conservation Workshop in Salisbury before it was displayed to the public at the International Festival of the Sea in 1998.

Following the success of the trial display, Mary Rose Archaeological Services Ltd, led by Dr Mark Jones, were contracted to carry out research into the condition of the sail and to recommend a cleaning process. The once heavily-soiled sail has since undergone unique and extensive 'dry' cleaning carried out by the Winchester-based Textile Conservation Centre, part of Southampton University. All the work undertaken has been monitored and overseen by Dr Jones.

The Commanding Officer of HMS Victory, Lieutenant Commander Frank Nowosielski, said:

"It is a great honour to be able to display the only surviving sail from the Battle of Trafalgar to the public during this bicentennial year. I very much hope that all visitors to the sail exhibition will get a special insight into the dramatic nature of the battle when they see the shot holes made 200 years ago for themselves.

"HMS Victory's fore topsail is a unique artefact from the battle and from the period. It is a testament to the skill of the Georgian sailmakers who manufactured the sail that it still remains intact today. But we are also very grateful to the team of dedicated experts and scientists who have used breakthrough techniques to conserve the sail for years to come."

The sail will feature in a short audio and lighting presentation and its display will include a small exhibition detailing the history of the sail and its subsequent conservation. Entrance will be as part of the overall HMS Victory ticket.

HMS Victory is the flagship of the Royal Navy's Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent. She is most famous for being a First Rate ship - in the front line of the fighting - at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The oldest commissioned warship in the world, HMS Victory still has a crew of Royal Navy officers and ratings.

The Trafalgar Sail Exhibition will be open daily from 18 March until 30 October, 10 am until 5 pm. Due to the nature of this exhibition, numbers are restricted. No pre-booking to view will be available, so early entry is recommended.

For further information about Victory, the Dockyard or T200 events this year, please check out the following websites:
HMS Victory
HMS Trafalar
Historic Dockyard


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?