‘The shrine of manly virtues’: the 1920s Restoration of HMS Victory, Sarah Westbury


HMS Victory post-restoration. Detail from late 1920s postcard. Image: Sarah Westbury

Over the past year I’ve been researching HMS Victory, the 251 year old warship preserved in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The Victory is already the subject of dozens of publications, but these focus almost exclusively on the ship’s military career – so the famous battles it fought in, the famous admirals in command – and focussing especially on its role as the flagship of Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

But despite all of this published work, for me, the most interesting, and largely forgotten chapter of the ship’s history is actually its preservation and restoration in the 1920s. This was when an organisation called the Society for Nautical Research, who were a motley crew of antiquarians, naval architects, artists, and retired admirals persuaded the Admiralty to let them take control of the Victory’s future. By 1921 the Victory was found to be badly decayed: the First World War had seen to it that the Admiralty’s attention and resources had been distracted elsewhere.

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Programme, Sea Lines of Communication 2016: Discovery: 17 November 2016

 We are delighted to announce the programme for the Southampton Marine and Maritime Postgraduate Group’s third annual colloquium, Sea Lines of Communication: Discovery. The event celebrates and encourages diverse and interdisciplinary postgraduate and early career research across all fields of marine and maritime studies. The event is free, and open to all. We hope you will join us – please register here:

 Programme below the cut:

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Black and white photograph of the Imperator

Port Out, Southampton Home with Maria Newbery


This week, the SMMPG were treated to a tour of SeaCity Museum’s latest special exhibition, Port Out, Southampton Home by Maria Newbery. In addition to being a SeaCity Curator, Maria is also a PhD student researching Southampton’s trade in the late 1700s – so we were extremely grateful for her time!

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Call for Abstracts: Sea Lines of Communication 2016

Theme: Discovery
Location: Hartley Suite, Highfield Campus, University of Southampton
Date: 17 November 2016
Abstract Submission Deadline (NOW EXTENDED): 13th May 2016

The Southampton Marine and Maritime Postgraduate Group (SMMPG) would like to invite abstracts for a multidisciplinary conference. SMMPG is a collaboration between the University of Southampton’s postgraduate academics, the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI), and Lloyd’s Register. The group aims to encourage multidisciplinary  research by fostering discourse between many disciplines, from shipbuilding to archaeology and oceanography to literature.

The theme of the conference is Discovery, which is meant to be taken in a broad sense. As such, ideas for papers include (but are not limited to):

  • how do you rediscover centuries-old maritime history?
  • the discovery of new technologies to address current problems
  • new ways of improving mariners’ physical and mental health
  • how do new and novel technologies affect the interpretation of the law?
  • how does our understanding of maritime geography influence literature?
  • how do we adapt to the effects of global climate change?

The event builds on the highly successful conferences of the last two years, where papers from diverse disciplines were presented to audiences of scholars and professionals from various maritime fields; and published in a monograph of the day’s papers. As befits the theme of Discovery, we hope to engage researchers from many diverse fields to inspire a new approach to maritime research.

We are accepting abstracts from postgraduate and early-career researchers in any discipline, for papers which resonate with the theme of Discovery and relate to any four of the SMMI’s broad themes:

Society & Government ● Trade & Transport ● Energy & Resources ● Climate & Environment

Papers will each last 15 minutes and will be organised into four panels based on the categories above. Each panel will be introduced by an established academic and followed by a period of discussion. Additionally on the day we will be having poster presentations. Therefore, we will be accepting abstracts for these as well. While Discovery is the broad theme we have chosen to work within, the conference’s focus is firmly on the concept of multidisciplinary communication. The ultimate aim of the conference is to forge connections between academics with different fields of expertise as well as engage with the wider public, including representatives from business and industry. As such, the presentations should be delivered with the aim of communicating the paper’s central themes and proceedings will be published in a book, which aims to develop a set of tools that can be used to further multidisciplinary research and develop our understanding of the maritime world.

Please send your proposal (250-300 words) to smmpg@soton.ac.uk by Friday 13th May, 2016. Abstracts should be formatted in a Word file and attached to the email. Please include your full name, the name of your university, and a brief bio. Themes are open to interpretation. Please indicate if your abstract is for a presentation or a poster. Please direct any questions to the conference organisers at the above email address.

Fourteenth Century Mariners (Brenna Gibson)

This week, Brenna presented a draft of her First Year Presentation, a first year milestone that all Humanities MPhil/PhD students must complete. Her research project is entitled: “English Seafarer Communities in the Later Middle Ages: A Study in the Socioeconomics and Geographical Mobility of an Occupational Group.” She outlined the research she has done so far, including taxation data collection and her continued research on the economic, social and cultural elements of fourteenth-century life (both for mariners and non-mariners).

The History of Science and Law (James Spray and Tom Redd)

James Spray and Tom Redd gave a joint talk on the history of science and law at sea. The talk explored how science has developed our understanding of the marine environment and challenged the way in which humanity exploits natural resources. Beginning with the Roman concept of communis omnium naturali jure (open to all persons by the operation of natural law), through to the most recent European policies, Tom discussed the changing nature of marine and maritime law. James presented a history of research at sea and show how modern technology has radically changed science at sea. This was the first joint presentation given, and both James and Tom did an excellent job outlining the progression of scientific research at sea and the laws that have sprung up around it.

Maps, Medieval to Modern (Brenna Gibson)

Brenna gave a great presentation on maps, starting with the Hereford map from the 1300s, which centres around Jerusalem with England depicted bottom left. This map features lots of drawings of animals and people, and depicts Biblical events en mythological scenes. We also looked at the Gough map, which was drawn in the 14th or 15th century and depicts Great Britain on its side, with Scotland pointing to the left of the picture. We moved to late 15th century maps looking at Portolan charts. These charts featured sailing directions and would have been put to practical use. We also looked at a 16th century wind chart, which was accompanied by a poem and was designed to help sailors and navigators remember what direction the wind was blowing from. We also looked at a 18th century map of North America, which was based on army surveys and was pretty much factual, even though it does contain snippets of historical information. Finally we looked at a modern map of Antarctica created in the 1920s, which depicts the routes of British naval explorers.

We primarily discussed the older maps, especially the Hereford map and the Gough map. It was interesting to see how the focus of the Hereford map is not on England, even though it was created there. It was discussed how one’s world view is determined by maps – Europeans see the world with their home country as the main focus, whereas the American or Chinese world view is completely different. This is one of these things that you never really think about, until you think about them. We also discussed the Gough map and used the interactive map on the website, looking at the 14th century depiction of Southampton and the surrounding area. Joel also brought a literary map, printed by a company that was testing out new printing techniques and chose to print – among other literary maps – a map depicting the voyage of the Pequod in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Using historical, archaeological and palaeoclimate sources to create an understanding of the Viking expansion and collapse (James Spray)

There was a great presentation given by James on using historical, archaeological, and palaeoclimate sources together to create an understanding of the Viking expansion and collapse. He told us about cultural drivers (exile, need for more land, escape from bad rulers), climate drivers (the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age), and physical remains (animal bones). When the Vikings went to Greenland, they were in the midst of the Medieval Warm Period, which enabled them to continue their previous lifestyle of raising cattle and farming. However, as the temperatures began to drop moving into the Little Ice Age, they needed to adapt and began to eat more seals and fish (which can be see in the animal bone remains), though they were not as adept at surviving at the Inuit tribes currently living there. This was possibly because of historically documented evidence that the Vikings saw eating fish as taboo. Additionally, the colder weather created ice floes that cut Greenland off from Iceland, which was their main avenue for trade.

James also told us about how The Day After Tomorrow has actually happened before, to a certain extent, and the National Oceanography Centre monitors the North Atlantic through RAPID. RAPID measures the different streams of water coming into the Atlantic. This includes the Gulf Stream and Upper Mid Ocean, as well as the Ekman (which is a physical marker). These combined make up the Meridional Overturning Current, which can show us whether or not the temperature is changing (but not always why).