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1st July 2015, 8:48am
HMS Victory to be re-painted in Battle of Trafalgar colours after 210 years
HMS Victory The UK’s National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) has announced a historically accurate re-painting of HMS Victory, the most celebrated ship in naval history, in collaboration with the University of Lincoln’s expert conservators Crick Smith.

The re-painting is due for completion in September 2015 with visitors able to witness the transformation as it takes place. It is part of the most comprehensive and forensic work to be done on HMS Victory since she was first installed in dry dock at the heart of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in the 1920s.

For the first time, visitors will see the ship in the colours she was painted at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Careful research by the Crick Smith team has shown that she was painted externally in a combination of pale stone and dark grey colours at the time of her famous victory, when Admiral Lord Nelson was fatally wounded. It would have been the Captain, Thomas Hardy, Nelson’s trusted right-hand man, who was responsible for the upkeep and painting of the ship. Being a man of restricted means, Hardy chose pigments supplied free of charge by the Royal Navy, including lead white and ochre.

Project Director and Head of Historic Ships at the NMRN, Andrew Baines, has been researching the project since 2012. He said: “HMS Victory is a unique and extremely complex archaeological artefact; her fabric retains evidence of the ship’s construction, modification, repair and conservation between 1759 and the present day. As such her timbers are artefacts and an incredibly rich source with literally dozens of layers of paint which have been analysed. By combining the archaeological evidence supplied by Crick Smith and the original accounts for Victory’s stores, held by the National Museum, we have been able to pinpoint precisely the colours worn by Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.”

The NMRN in Portsmouth teamed up with Crick Smith, the University of Lincoln’s renowned conservation consultancy, to undertake the archaeological investigation needed to deliver this ambitious and historically accurate renovation. The team, led by Ian and Michael Crick-Smith from Lincoln’s School of History & Heritage, has undertaken the most extensive paint survey ever to be conducted on-board a historic vessel.

Specialising in conserving the historic interiors of national landmarks, Crick Smith is renowned for its expertise in architectural paint research – an innovative methodology that combines archival findings with microscopic examination of paint samples to reveal a truly accurate decorative history.

Michael Crick-Smith, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Lincoln, said: “Inside and out, HMS Victory has undergone layer upon layer of redecoration as she took on various different roles; from a warship, to a court-martial vessel, a hospital and now a living museum of the Georgian army. We have removed several hundred complete paint samples from various locations covering all decks, and in some places have uncovered as many as 72 layers of paint.”

After centuries of remodelling and refitting it was feared that many original features were lost. However, after three years’ meticulous research, NMRN and Crick Smith will be able to present HMS Victory to the public in a state closer to the original than they dared to hope.

The NMRN is also taking the opportunity to repaint Victory’s name on the ship’s stern, as the current font that was added in 2005 has been revealed as an incorrect version.

This project is part of NMRN’s on-going mission to preserve and celebrate its naval heritage, closely aligned with academic research by Museum staff and visiting researchers.

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