Thirty years after HMS Warrior 1860 returned to Portsmouth, it has been announced that her owners, the Warrior Preservation Trust, merged with The National Museum of the Royal Navy as of 1st April 2017.
As Britain’s first iron-clad battleship, Warrior is one of the most influential warships ever built and a key attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, welcoming 330,000 visitors a year. She was built as Queen Victoria’s deterrent against rumoured French invasion, and was so advanced and powerfully armed that she completed her job without ever firing a shot in anger during ten years of front line service.
The esteemed and visionary philanthropist, the late Sir John Smith, funded her restoration in Hartlepool, which at the time was the world’s most ambitious heritage ship repair ever. The community of Portsmouth generously funded and built the jetty on which the ship is berthed, and continues to provide extraordinary support to the Trust’s work in recognition of her gateway position in the harbour.
The Warrior Preservation Trust is an independent charity with the purpose of preserving the ship and maintaining her on display for the benefit and education of the public. It employs 40 staff and is supported by 70 volunteers. There will be no immediate change for staff and volunteers and the Chief Executive of the Warrior Preservation Trust and Captain of the ship, Commander Tim Ash will remain in post.
All hospitality bookings and other committed work will be honoured, and the ship’s business will continue as usual. Her £4.2m upper deck conservation work – made possible thanks to National Lottery players - is unaffected with completion due at Easter 2018.
Established in 2009, the National Museum of the Royal Navy already owns a number of key historic ships and collections in Portsmouth, Gosport and nationally. These include HMS Victory, First World War monitor HMS M.33, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower. It will open the new Royal Marines Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in 2020 alongside an innovative Centre for Discovery which will transform naval heritage at its headquarters at The National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth.
The National Museum has raised over £100 million for major capital and conservation projects and its visitor numbers have grown from 325,000 each year to over one million nationally. It is now the third most visited attraction in the UK outside of London and manages the destination brand Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on behalf of partners the Mary Rose Trust and the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust which owns Action Stations and Boathouse 4.
Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of the National Museum said: “Warrior is a fantastic ship which tells an incredibly important part of our naval story and we are very excited to welcome her into our fleet.
“We congratulate the Warrior Preservation Trust for the brilliant job it has done in saving her and in caring for her thus far, but both our Boards of Trustees now feel that being part of a National Museum which cares for the national collection of historic naval vessels is the right way to go in view of Warrior’s national significance.
“We will now work with the Warrior’s ship’s company to ensure a smooth transition and ensure that the ship remains afloat and dominating the city’s seascape for a further 30 years at least.”
Chief Executive of the Warrior Preservation Trust, and Captain of the Ship, Commander Tim Ash said: “We have worked closely with the National Museum as partners for many years, and feel that the time is right for us to align our shared expertise more closely. Our new relationship will allow us to tell Warrior’s story more effectively, and merge our efforts in meeting better the needs of our great historic fleet of ships”.