Restoration efforts continue with the removal of the mizzen mast and bowsprit

Restoration efforts continue with the removal of the mizzen mast and bowsprit

New look for Warrior as mizzen mast restoration begins

13 November 2019

HMS Warrior, the Victorian battleship moored at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, has a new look for winter as one of her masts and part of her bowsprit are removed for essential restoration

The mast and rigging of Britain’s first iron-hulled, armoured battleship are 35 years old and were last repaired 20 years ago and this is just one stage in the current £3 million project for the next stage of Warrior’s conservation.

On 13 November 2019, the HMS Warrior mizzen mast was removed due to restoration taking place as part of a £3 million conservation project.

A large crane, positioned alongside on the Warrior jetty, will remove most of the mizzen mast – the mast at the stern or back of the ship – leaving the lower mast. The structural beams on the mizzen fighting tops need replacing and to achieve this, three yards, one gaff, the topgallant mast, top mast, tops platform and lower mast rigging needs removing.

The lower mast will remain supported by temporary rigging and while the spars and rigging are down they will be refurbished or replaced. The martingale - part of the bowsprit, the spar or pole extending from the front, or bow of the ship is also being removed along with the spritsail gaffs or spreaders. It’s planned to reinstall the restored mast and rigging during Spring 2020.

Andy Hodder Smith talks about the mizzen mast removal in more detail and what visitors can expect when they visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. 

Top questions

What is a mizzen mast?

It is the aft most mast i.e the mast at the stern or back of the ship. It comprises the mast (vertical part) in three sections; the three yards (horizontal parts) and the gaff (diagonal part at the back). We will be removing almost everything in a staged programme, but leaving the lower mast.


What is the bowsprit? 

The bowsprit is the spar – or pole - extending from the front, or bow of the ship. It plays an important part in securing some of the rigging. Extending down from the bowsprit is the martingale (or known to many people as the dolphin striker.) This will be removed including the surrounding spritsail gaffs or spreaders. This will leave in place a simpler looking, plain bowsprit whilst the repairs are undertaken.


Why are you removing the mizzen mast? 

The mast and rigging are 35 years old and were last repaired 20 years ago. After this long they need restoration and certain parts need replacing, some of which are impossible to access without dismantling the mast. Therefore we will be removing almost everything in a staged programme. Historic ships need regular maintenance and this is just one stage in the programme of her conservation.


When will the work happen? 

Because HMS Warrior floats in the tidal Portsmouth harbour we need suitable tides, so the crane can reach the high items and very little or no wind. We can predict the tides, but not the wind, so there is some flexibility to when we are able to do this. Each phase may take approximately two days although we will work around visiting hours wherever possible but exclusion zones may be in place. Because we are so reliant on wind conditions, there may be last minute changes to the programme, and this may impact on our visitors. We apologise for this in advance.


What impact will there be on visitors and other users of the ship? 

Our visitors’ safety is very important so we will close the ship entirely when using cranes. Whilst the riggers are working aloft to prepare, there will be areas on the ship that are cordoned off, what we call exclusion zones. This is to keep our visitors and staff safe. These zones will be on the ship and on the jetty. It will be very clear what areas are exclusion zones.


When will the mast be back?

The current work programme allows for the mast to be reinstalled in spring 2020.


Will people still be able to visit the ship? Get married on the ship? Book dinners on the ship?

Yes, once all the pieces have been removed, access to the ship will remain as normal until we put the mast back next year and then we will manage the process in a similar way.


How much is the work costing and is this part of the fundraising programme for the ship? How can I donate?

This is part of a £3 million project for the next stage of conservation of Warrior. This element of the programme is costing in the region of £130,000. We rely very heavily on support so if you are able to assist, please donate now.


Why are the masts on HMS Victory not being replaced as quickly?

The conservation programme on Victory is very different. Once the new support system is completed, the hull will begin to be supported properly. This will allow us to start work on the ship’s conservation, but this is a long and complex project costing £35 million and lasting up to ten years. The masts cannot be replaced until the hull is secure and the conservation has reached a certain stage. This remains a very complicated process and we will update you as soon as we are able.

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