Ian Setterfield, shipwright at the museum, which is based in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Will Bullough of Hereford’s Whitney Sawmills visited the Haddo Estate, owned by Lord Aberdeen, this week to assess eight donated elms for use in restoring the ship’s keel. HMS Victory is in the midst of a 15 year conservation project and in need of the very best quality materials to ensure she survives a further 250 years.
Andrew Baines, Deputy Director of Heritage at The National Museum of the Royal Navy said: “This timber is valuable for the future maintenance of the ship’s structure below the waterline. Her keel in particular, made of elm and one of the oldest surviving parts of the ship, is a highly significant feature needing a strong programme of care given its exposed position in the dry dock."
“The quantity of elm donated by all three estates will serve as an important resource for this area in the future. Those elms which may not be suited to the particular size and shape of the keel can be made into new gun-carriages.”
Arabella Roberts, Historic Ships Manager at The National Museum of the Royal Navy said: “The restoration project will get the ship to a point where we don’t have to do any major conservation work for another 50 years, so it will ensure the survival of the vessel as she is.”
“Interestingly we understand that some 30% of the fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar hailed from Scotland so it feels entirely appropriate that timber from these estates should be playing such a big part in her future security.”
Built from more than 5,500 oak trees, HMS Victory was launched in 1765. She famously led the fleet to victory against the combined French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson was mortally wounded.
HMS Victory was saved for the nation in 1922 and was placed permanently into dry dock at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where she remains today. The trees will be felled in due course and will then be cut into large blocks suitable for the keel, before being set aside for several years to season to ensure they are strong and dry. Two other Aberdeenshire estates are also donating trees. Oak and elms from the Dunecht Estate and elms from the MacRobert Trust Estate will also be used in the vessel’s restoration.