HMS Warrior Restoration Hartlepool

"If every warship in the 19th century still existed and was available for preservation Warrior would still be my first choice". Sir John Smith.

As a pivotal Royal Naval ship, Warrior had not been forgotten. In 1967 people first started to talk about restoring Warrior. Prominent in this campaign was John Smith, at the time MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, who had formed the Manifold Trust five years earlier to restore threatened items of our national heritage

Even the House of Commons heard of Warrior'sfate. MPs were told that Warrior could serve as "a potent source of education and inspiration for our children...."

Smith's drive and persistence led to a committee, chaired by the Duke of Edinburgh, meeting in 1968 to discuss Warrior's future. From this emerged the Maritime Trust, formed to raise money for the preservation of our naval heritage. Following the announcement that the oil depot would close in 1978, and that Warrior would no longer be needed, Sir John Smith agreed that the Manifold Trust would underwrite the cost of restoration, estimated between £4-8 million, and the ship was handed over to the Maritime Trust in 1979.

Warrior was towed 800 miles to Hartlepool where the world's largest maritime project ever undertaken then began.

In 1983 ownership was transferred to the Ship's Preservation Trust, which became the Warrior Preservation Trust in 1985.

HMS Warrior Restoration Hartlepool

Home for the restoration project was Coal Dock in Hartlepool, on arrival Warrior was no more than a hulk. Restoration started with the removal of 80 tons of rubbish and a thick layer of concrete, lamp-posts and huts from the upper deck. Two hundred tons of concrete, broken up by pneumatic drills, revealed the deck's original, albeit rotting timbers and rusting iron.

Each area of the ship was photographed and all items logged and stored. Careful woodwork inspections for screw holes and ridges in paint could mark the exact position of original fixtures. The only original fittings in place were a few Downton pumps and a Capstan. The after magazine and mid-ships shell rooms were intact, along with their lightrooms, handling areas and hand-up holes. The area was apparently untouched since the second or third commission. This meticulous work exposed many details vital to her rebuilding and the eventual aim of restoring her to the condition of her first commission between 1861 and 1864.

On shore, researchers delved into the life and fittings of Victorian warships, scouring museums, libraries and private collections for information. The original ship's plans - works of art in their own right - were of inestimable value. The second major source of information was a 14 year old midshipman's log book. He served on Warrior in 1862 and drew diagrams of each item on board. By 1982, the painstaking work was well under way on the upper and main deck, with the lengthy process or renewing the bulwarks also begun.

Portsmouth was chosen as Warrior's final home, close to HMS Victory and the Mary Rose. The new Warrior Preservation Trust took over ownership and controlled the restoration.

Work on Warrior's vast decks began with repairs to her damaged bow and replacement of the original beak, rescued by divers. A demolished Bradford warehouse was the unlikely source of 20,000 square feet of pine planking laid on her decks By 1983 the task of laying the planking of the upper deck was almost completed, and work was underway to remove old paint and rust from the areas below decks, some areas were found to consist of 120 different coats of paint. Once removed the areas were cleaned, a preservative applied and re-painted. Throughout this period work on creating the many thousand items needed to complete the ship was underway.

1984 saw work progressing steadily with the installation of main and mizzen masts, the largest section of which was 120 feet long and weighed over 30 tons. Work was also progressing in Portsmouth, where preparations for Warrior's arrival were well underway. It would not be until March 1985 that work was started on the Warrior jetty.

1985 saw work begin on replication of the ship's engine, which had been removed when Warrior was hulked in 1889. By the end of the year the Boiler rooms, engine valves and condenser were in place and over 100 years since the ship had put to sea under her own power, HMS Warrior was now moving from hulk status to a real ship once more.

Within six years the Hartlepool workforce had transformed the battered hulk of Warrior into a battleship ready to rejoin the Victorian navy. From the upper deck down to the hold Warrior had been cleaned, repaired and painted, steel mast now towered over the newly laid upper deck.

The magnificent battleship was reborn, lovingly restored by a 140 strong workforce and completed in 1987. She was pristine in all respects, even down to small artefacts like bowls and hammocks.

HMS Warrior Restoration Figurehead

The figurehead we see today is the third one, all to the same design, that Warrior has had during her lifetime. One of the last battleships to carry a figurehead, the original one was made in Portsmouth at a cost of £60, however it was lost in 1868 when Warrior accidentally collided with HMS Royal Oak with such a force that the figurehead's head fell off to be claimed as a prize by the midshipmen on Royal Oak's quarterdeck.

James Hellyer of Portsmouth carved a replacement, which after Warrior went out of service was taken off her and displayed in Portsmouth Dockyard outside what is now the Mary Rose Museum. When the naval base at Northwood in Middlesex was due to be renamed Warrior in 1963 the figurehead was taken there, but the harsh winter of that year left it so damaged that it was quietly destroyed.

Using original sketches and photographs the present version was carved by Jack Whitehead and Norman Gaches in Cowes in the early 1980s. It was put on display at the 1983 International Boat Show in London and appeared on Blue Peter then, in August Warrior's figurehead was brought to Portsmouth Dockyard and positioned outside No.5 Boathouse only a few yards from the site vacated by its predecessor 65 years previously. From that moment Warrior's presence in Portsmouth was re-established.

The 12 feet high, three ton model stirred public interest. Donations poured in and many relations of former Warrior crew wrote in with original artefacts and invaluable information.

At the beginning of 1985 the figurehead was transported to Hartlepool before finally being put in place.