Warrior was different from the sailing warships of the previous four centuries - like Mary Rose and Victory - in having one long stable gun deck rather than several stacked gun decks. Six hundred men lived here, divided into 34 messes, each with up to 18 men squashed into the space between two guns. They crammed around the simple mess table at mealtimes and at night slung their hammocks above. They were allowed small ditty bags or boxes containing day-to-day possessions. Despite the sometimes rigorous conditions, off-watch the crews' leisure time was spent singing, talking, playing cards, sewing and writing letters home. Some had musical instruments; others had pets such as parrots.

The contrast between the social life of the crew and officers is evident. The Captain's cabin, with its rich décor and fine furniture, was very like the Victorian drawing room. Officers had individual cabins, which they adorned with personal possessions such as fishing rods, books and photographs. The Wardroom table is still magnificently set for formal dinner, gleaming with silver, crystal and embossed fine bone china.

The Admiralty classification of ships was regulated by armament and Warrior, officially a third-rate frigate, would normally carry a crew of 300. However, when she set sail on her first commission, Warrior had a crew of approximately 700.

The ship herself may have been revolutionary, but the day to day lives of her crew differed little from service in the great wooden warships. Manpower was still essential.

To many on board it must have seemed, as it did to those at home, that Warrior's career would go on forever.

Old Warriors - If you are related to someone who served in the ship during her history we would be grateful if you could offer any information for our growing Genealogical Archive. More information

You can trace today's Naval command system back to Warrior and beyond.

The Captain was the ship's undisputed ruler, answerable to the Admiralty for everybody and everything on board.

His comfortable quarters were at the aft end of the main deck. They comprised day and sleeping cabins. He also had private heads (toilet), a personal steward who worked from a nearby pantry. Beyond his quarters were the rudder yoke and propeller well.

Number two was the Commander, who was responsible for the ship's day to day routines, fighting capability and general appearance. He was also Wardroom Mess President. His quarters were next to the Captain's as were those of the Master. His title was a throwback to when merchant ships and their masters were commandeered for naval use.

The Captain could only enter the wardroom by invitation of the other officers. The wardroom was their mess. It was on the lower deck, with their 14 cabins, 6 feet by 10 feet, arranged around a central dining and leisure area.

With the Royal Navy's new professional status some of the younger wardroom members would have graduated from the officer training school on Illustrious or later Britannia.

The ship's chaplain was also the schoolmaster, teaching the ordinary crew and the junior ranks comprising 20 to 30 midshipmen and sub-lieutenants. These very young officers led a less formal life in the gunroom - their lower deck mess - where the chief gunner was in charge of the midshipmen. They slept in hammocks.

Also sharing the lower deck were the engineers, the boatswain, gunner, shipwright (carpenter) and chief petty officers, all of whom had cabins and messes.

HMS Warrior Men HMS Warrior Men

If you wanted to serve on board Warrior, you needed brawn rather than brain. 600 of the 700 men aboard had tough physical jobs. The ship herself may have been revolutionary, but the day to day lives of her crew differed little from service in the great wooden warships.

The average sailor manned the guns, hoisted the sails, turned capstans, hauled on ropes, lifted and lowered boats, pulled on oars and cranked the massive pumps that moved water around the ship. "Knowing the ropes" was more than an idle phrase to the men who worked 180 feet up in the rigging day and night.

A large number of the crew helped raise the ship's four anchors located at the bow and stern. Each weighed 5.6 tons, the heaviest ever in maritime history to be operated manually. Over 100 men hauled one anchor up at a time through linked capstans with its chain fed into cable lockers amidships to keep the ship balanced.

The crew slept in hammocks slung above the guns, and lived and ate in messes between the guns. The lot of the Jack Tar was improving. Press gangs had been abolished. Instead, seamen would be recruited for a fixed period and could then re - enlist or take a pension.

Uniforms had been introduced in 1859, the year before Warrior's launch. The dress depended on the job and the time of day or week. The normal outfits comprised dark blue jumpers and white trousers. All white outfits were worn for drills.

Stokers wore white suits of duck - a material similar to canvas, all the time and on Sundays, hats - black in winter and white in summer - were compulsory except in wet weather.

Clothes were issued monthly from the Paymaster and the cost of the uniform deducted from the seaman's wages. Hat ribbons were offered at a cost of 1 shilling each, a day's wages to a second class ordinary seaman. The Paymaster was a key figure on the ship. He controlled the victualling, clothes and pay from his lower deck office.

Pay parade was monthly and formal. Off-watch seamen reported to the pay office and, at the command, a seaman took off his hat so that his wages could be put in it. Pay levels ranged from the Captain's £1 a day to the sixpence (2.5p) paid to a Boy Second Class.

Although the constant threat of war hung over Warrior during her first commission (1861 - 1864), and there were further scares throughout her career, the ship's guns were never used in anger.

When Warrior was launched she was met with mixed reaction, some commentators crediting the first Iron-hulled armoured warship with the ability to defeat the enemy fleet single handedly, whilst others were less complimentary.

The truth will never be known, but by comparing Warrior to her probable opponents, conclusions may be drawn.

In any naval action the role of a ship is to strike the enemy with more devastating blows than those received over a given period. The hitting capability depended upon: the number, calibre and layout of the guns; the stability of the ship as a gun platform, and the height of the gun port sill above the waterline; the effective range of engagement and rate of fire; the weight, terminal velocity and nature of projectiles; and the efficiency of the gun crews in loading, and firing the weapon accurately.

Equally important was tactical mobility of the ship; at greater ranges speed was important, as the range decreases the ability to turn quickly and tightly becomes paramount.

Whilst the power of the guns was utilised in both offensive and defensive situations, the protection provided by armour and watertight sub-division in an iron hull was vastly superior to that afforded by a wooden hull.

With all the above taken into consideration, more often than not it was the morale of the crew that was the deciding factor in any engagement

In 1863 the Controller of the Navy reported that the French Ironclad fleet, viewed by the Admiralty as the most likely adversary, consisted of Gloire, Normandie, Invincible and Couronne who combined 148 guns, 130 of which were behind armour. The British fleet of Warrior, Black Prince, Defence andResistance mounted 116 guns, 80 of which were behind armour. Warrior and Black Prince's superior speed was countered by the slower Defence andResistance. Whilst the higher gunport sills of the British ships would provide an advantage in the Atlantic, once in smoother waters this edge would disappear, added to this the French ships were armoured from end to end and had greater manouevaerability. Impinging upon this advantage was the fact that only Couronne had an iron hull and the French 55lb guns were substantially inferior to the British guns in terms of armour penetration. On balance, the Controller conceded that individual power was on the Royal Navy's side, but emphasised the "Compactness and homogenous qualities of the French ships".

With the outbreak of hostilities in the American Civil War the situation became serious enough for Warrior or Black Prince to be stationed to the North American Squadron. The Federal government backed down, but it may be worth examining the fighting capabilities of the latest Union ship, the Monitor.

Launched in 1862 with an overall length of 172 feet, Monitor weighed in at a little over 900 tons, or 1/10th of Warrior's displacement. Armour plating consisted of between 2 & 4 inches for the hull, and 8 inches for the gun turret. The ship was armed with 2 11inch smooth bore guns that had a practical rate of fire of one round every 7 minutes. Monitor had an extraordinary low freeboard, a mere 6 inches, and with a speed of perhaps 5 knots she could not hope to make headway in an open sea.

Warrior was first commissioned into the Royal Navy on 1st August 1861 whilst still being fitted out on the River Thames. The Honourable Arthur Cochrane, the third son of Admiral Thomas Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald, was her Captain.

As she was a new and innovative ship the next few months were spent establishing her performance in trials. This led to some minor modifications and, in June 1862, Warrior was ready for active service in the Channel Squadron, patrolling coastal waters and making voyages to Lisbon and Gibraltar.

Warrior was the focus of attention wherever she went and when she toured the British ports in 1863 as many as six thousand people a day came to marvel at this symbol of British Naval power.

No wonder, as she was the largest, fastest and most heavily armoured and most heavily armed warship in the world. Not for nothing was she described as "The Black Snake amongst the rabbits in the Channel".

Although not the first iron ship, nor the first to use both sail and steam, Warrior combined these and other technological developments together and presented the greatest advance in ship design for centuries. She kept the peace by deterring the enemy. All other warships were obsolete the day Warrior was launched.

Warrior kick-started a change in naval technology which went at a pace never seen before. When her first commission ended in November 1864 she spent two years in harbour before rejoining the Channel Squadron for another four years in 1867. To many on board it must have seemed that Warrior's career would go on forever.

Foreign navies soon copied Warrior's design. Ships were built with ever thicker armour and ever more powerful guns. Engines too became increasingly efficient and, with coaling stations, and later oil, being established in many ports throughout the world, sails soon became obsolete. In only ten years, Warrior, once at the peak of Victorian technology was herself overtaken by progress. She was no longer a fearsome deterrent.

In 1875 Warrior began life as a Coastguard and Reserve ship, taking the officers and men from HMS Royal Alfred. Having been in refit since 1871, Warrior's masts, rigging and decks had all been renewed, and a poop deck had been added at the stern as it had been intended to make her flagship of the Admiral commanding the Mediterranean squadron. This star role was not to be, however, and so she found herself moored at Portland harbour for the majority of the next six years, making a single extended voyage each summer in the company of the reserve squadron.

The years passed largely uneventfully, apart from the sinking of HMS Vanguard in 1875, but in May 1881 Warrior again lost out to the Hercules - the ship that had ended up as flagship in the Mediterranean - when Rear Admiral the Duke of Edinburgh hoisted his flag in the latter ship, forcing an exchange of crews with Warrior. This latest change saw Warrior stationed at Greenock, where she would spend the remainder of her career in the coastguard.

Warrior's sea-going service ended in May 1883, when during her routine pre-summer cruise refit it was discovered that her main and foremasts were rotten, and would need replacing. Time and money were against the ship, her place was taken by the armour-plated Shannon, and Warrior was relegated to rotten row.

Admiral Baldwin Walker, the Surveyor of the Navy, was not convinced that ironclad warships would ever completely replace wooden ones but he recognised that the safety of the country depended on bettering the French threat as soon as possible.

The simple solution first suggested was to clad existing ships in iron. However Sir John Pakington, the First Lord of the Admiralty, supported the building of iron-hulled ships and, in November 1858, he commissioned a design.

The new ironclad was to be called Warrior after a distinguished third rate ship-of-the-line which had recently been broken up.

Warrior and her sister ship Black Prince were the fastest, largest, strongest and most powerfully- armed warships in the world, and confirmed Britain's place as the ruler of the waves.

It was a time of transition from sail to steam and Warrior would prove to be one of the fastest ships of her day.

"I often wondered how I mustered sufficient courage to order such a novel vessel" Sir John Pakington, First Lord of the Admiralty.

Isaac Watts, Chief Constructor to the Navy, and his assistant Joseph Large, developed an entirely new concept in warships. Their revolutionary idea was to house the main guns, boilers and engine in an impregnable armoured 'box' or citadel.

This was to be constructed from 4 ½ inch thick wrought iron plates bolted to 18" inches of teak, then mounted on the 1 inch thick plating of the hull itself, behind which were the frames and timber lining. In all this represented a total thickness of some 2 feet.

The bow and stern were added to each end of this well-armoured box and were constructed of wrought iron plates 1 inch thick. Watertight compartments were formed to limit the spread of water inside the ship, the first time this technique - soon to become worldwide practise - had been used in a warship.

Portsmouth and Chatham Royal Dockyards were not equipped to build iron hulls, so the contract went out to tender and was won by the Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company based at Blackwall, London.

The plan was to complete the ship in nine months, but delays added 10 months. The Thames Iron Works had to be rescued from bankruptcy by the Admiralty during construction and work was made even more difficult by the coldest winter for 50 years.

"I often wondered how I mustered sufficient courage to undertake its construction".Mr Peter Rolt, Chairman, Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company

As Warrior's sleek profile rose slowly from the (building) slip like some huge iron curtain the crowds gathered eagerly, fascinated by the ironclad's progress. Over 2,000 workers swarmed night and day over the wooden scaffolding which cocooned Warrior's vast hull, rising like a monolithic iron skyscraper. Newspapers and magazines reported with great enthusiasm on every development, one week waving the flag patriotically; the next, doubting whether she would ever float. A favourite topic was the cost which escalated to almost £400,000, twice that of a standard wooden ship-of-the-line.

Only 4 months after La Gloire was commissioned, Warrior was ready for launching and to make the Royal Navy the envy of the world.

Warrior was launched on 29 December 1860. It was the coldest it had been for 50 years and the dockyard, even the Thames, were covered in frozen snow.

Sizable crowds gathered to watch as Sir John Pakington named the ship, but even though braziers had been lit down both sides of the ship the night before, Warrior remained frozen on the slipway. Extra tugs and hydraulic rams were used, while on the upper deck hundreds of men ran from side to side to rock her free.

After 20 minutes, almost imperceptibly, she began to move, "God speed the Warrior" shouted Sir John, and broke a bottle of wine on her bow. The spectators cheered, hats were thrown in the air, tugs blew their whistles and the stern took the water 'as gracefully as any yacht'. Her Majesty's Ship Warrior was now afloat. She, and her sister ship, Black Prince, were to become the most feared ships afloat.

The morning after her launch, Warrior's red-painted hull sat high in the water as she was moved to the Victoria Docks for fitting out. A week after her launch the first member of Warrior's crew - Engineer William Buchan - was appointed to the ship, and by the end of January the Penn steam engine was part-assembled inside the ship. Steam was got up for the first time on March 1st whilst the fitting of the armour plates carried on for the next few months.

Fixing the armour plates to the side of the ship was a complicated job - each one had to be bent to fit the curve of the ship's hull before being tongued and grooved in order to fit closely to the plates around. In all some 202 armour plates had to be put onto the ship, weighing a total of 960 tons.

The masts and rigging were all supplied by Chatham Dockyard, and on April 15th the masts were lowered into the ship for the process of rigging to be begun on April 17th. When completed the 100-strong party of seamen sent from Woolwich had installed 25 miles of rope, 660 blocks and 80 hearts & deck eyes.

Along with these works, the myriad of other tasks needed to convert the empty iron hull into the world's most advanced warship were being undertaken: everything from the gunpowder magazine to the sickbay, and from the galley range to the wallpaper of the officer's cabins had to be fitted. Captain Cochrane commissioned the ship on August 1st, and a week later Warrior moved out of the Victoria Docks under her own power, and anchored a few miles down river at Greenhithe to continue fitting out and take on her guns and stores. It was during her time at Greenhithe that Charles Dickens visited the ship, writing later "..a black vicious customer as ever I saw. Whale like in size, and with as terrible a row of incisor teeth as ever closed on a French frigate."

With the finishing touches made, Warrior left the Thames for Portsmouth on September 19th 1861.

Britannia ruled the waves when Queen Victoria came to the throne. Wooden sailing ships were on the decline, making way for new maritime innovations like the paddle steamer, Great Western and the iron-hulled, screw driven SS Great Britain.

The Admiralty had, however, grown complacent about Britain's command of the seas.

Steam engines had been installed in some wooden ships of the line, and smaller vessels had been constructed with the new types of propulsion or iron hulls, but it was a shock when in 1858 the French started building La Gloire, the first armoured wooden-hulled ship. La Gloire was launched in 1859.

The original intention of the French was to replace their whole fleet with iron hulls, but French industrial capacity proved incapable of delivering enough iron.

Instead, almost all ships had wooden hulls clad with iron up to 5 inches thick above the waterline. Emperor Napoleon lll was certain his projected new-look Navy could out-manoeuvre and out gun the British.

News of the construction of La Gloire and naval expansion across the Channel caused an explosion of anti-French feeling in Britain. The Press stirred fears of an invasion.

With the defeat of the French Fleet at Trafalgar, the RN had smashed its most powerful opponent at sea, but it would take another 10 years for Napoleon to finally be defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, in June of 1815.

After 1815 the Royal Navy took on the role of the World's policeman - suppressing the slave trade, attacking piracy and helping to maintain the diplomatic balance in Europe. From the Bombardment of Algiers in 1816, the Navy flexed its muscles and the fleet was involved in innumerable actions over the next 4 decades.

Ship design was also changing - on the declaration of peace in 1815 the largest of the Navy's sailing ships had been almost 50% larger than HMS Victory, thanks to advances in building techniques. Steam was introduced into the Royal Navy in 1821, and through the 1830's and 1840's the Navy gradually incorporated the new technology, initially with the paddle-wheel and by the 1840's with the propeller.

France, constantly looking for any advantage, quickly embraced the steam engine and there were worries in Parliament that "Steam has bridged the Channel". The Royal Navy responded and by the early 1850's the Battlefleet had auxiliary steam and propellers.

The origins of the Crimean War lay in disagreements between Russia, France and the Ottoman Empire as to who was the protector of the Christian Faith in the Holy Land. Britain, concerned that Russia would become too powerful, watched closely.

In November 1853 a Russian fleet armed with shell - firing guns destroyed a squadron of Ottoman ships at the Battle of Sinope. This provided Britain and France with a reason to declare war against Russia on the side of the Ottoman Empire.

The Battle of Sinope demonstrated how vulnerable wooden ships were to shell-firing guns. The French set about designing floating batteries that were to be protected by iron-boxes filled with cannonballs. The Admiralty's Chief Engineer - Thomas Lloyd, saw this design and realised that as soon as a cannonball hit the box it would break open, the cannonballs would roll out, and the protection would be useless. He suggested to the French that they use 4.5" iron plate as protection, and the armoured floating battery was born.

Britain was unable to complete any armoured-batteries before peace was declared, but the French batteries saw action at the Bombardment of Kinburn in October 1855 where they helped to destroy Russian Forts, proving the importance of armour protection.

On January 1st 1857 Henri Dupuy de Lôme was appointed Directeur du Matériel of the French Navy. Having observed the successes of the floating batteries at Kinburn, and a keen proponent of the use of iron in shipbuilding, de Lôme quickly set about designs for an armoured sea-going ship - La Gloire.

La Gloire was launched November 1859. The class were poor seaboats, suffered from unsound timber and generally failed to meet expectations. They were broken up in the 1860's.

One of the greatest naval architects of his generation, de Lôme was hindered only by France's lack of industrial capacity - with French foundries incapable of producing enough iron, La Gloire was designed as a wooden ship, clad in iron 12cm (4.5 inches) thick. At 77.8m (255 feet) in length, and displacing 5,630 tons, La Gloire was 40% smaller than Warrior.

La Gloire made an enormous impact on the world stage when commissioned in August 1860. With a crew of 570 men and some 36 muzzle - loading guns she was quickly hailed as a success, however there were some problems: The guns were close together, and the gun-ports were too close to the waterline - making them very difficult to fight in anything other than a calm sea. In addition, the timberused was of poor quality - unable to dry out because of the iron armour, the hull rotted quickly and she was scrapped in 1883.

HMS Warrior

Weddings ~ Parties ~ Events

Wedding's on HMS Warrior


HMS Warrior Parties


Venue Hire

The Deck

Fish Dish

County Caterers

Venue Hire

Moored at the entrance to Portsmouth’s historic harbour, the Victorian splendour of HMS Warrior 1860 serves as a unique and memorable venue for all manner of private celebration. From the grand surroundings of the Captain’s cabin to the truly unforgettable setting of the gun-deck, HMS Warrior 1860 has spaces to suit a range of occasions and styles. 

HMS Warrior's Christmas Lights

Christmas On Board Warrior

Christmas Tree

Christmas On Board Warrior

Christmas cup cakes

Christmas On Board Warrior

Christmas table

Christmas On Board Warrior


Experienced Caterers


Christmas On Board Warrior

Christmas Parties On Board HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior's Christmas illuminations have become an iconic festive symbol, welcoming visitors to the Historic Dockyard and Portsmouth each December. With our excellent reputation for hosting events HMS Warrior is the perfect venue for a Christmas party guests will remember.

Enjoy a delicious Christmas menu, served by our caterers on board our fantastic harbour venue. Should you wish to arrange entertainment, live music or a DJ that keeps everyone dancing until midnight we can help.

Stunningly unique and bathed in over 150 years of history, what more traditional surroundings to eat, drink and be merry than the hospitality and atmosphere of a magnificent Victorian ship?

We cordially invite guests to wander the ship at leisure before being seated for dinner.

If you would like to hire HMS Warrior for your Christmas Party please contact the Special Events Department on 023 9277 8604, email:specialevents@hmswarrior.org or fill out the contact form.


To follow shortly.

Corporate Parties on HMS Warrior

Corporate Events & Parties On Board Warrior

Corporate Events

Corporate Events & Parties On Board Warrior

Nautical Training Corps Event

Corporate Events & Parties On Board Warrior

Tall Ships Youth Trust

Corporate Events & Parties On Board Warrior


Experienced Caterers

Corporate Events On Board HMS Warrior

Thank you for your interest in holding an event on board HMS Warrior 1860. The ship provides a superb maritime setting for those who seek a unique historical venue for corporate entertainment.

Warrior is one of the most sought after locations on the South coast. Able to accommodate a wide range of events, from a breakfast meeting for 10 to a sit down Dinner for 288 or 400 for a drinks reception or buffet, Warrior is a uniquely versatile venue for your special event.

Your guests will have the opportunity to tour the ship and talk to the knowledgeable Quartermasters and guides who will be on hand to answer questions. On fine summer evenings, pre-dinner drinks may be taken on the upper deck with views across Portsmouth harbour, before moving below to dine and absorb the special atmosphere of this Victorian ship.

If you would like to make an appointment to view the excellent facilities on board, please contact the Special Events Department on 023 9277 8604, email: specialevents@hmswarrior.org or fill out the contact form.


To follow shortly.

Private Parties on HMS Warrior

Private Parties

Live Music

Private Parties

Private Parties

Private Parties


Experienced Caterers

Private Parties

Private Parties


Great Menus

Private Parties On Board HMS Warrior

Whatever the occasion, from landmark birthday, wedding anniversary or just bringing family and friends together, HMS Warrior is a spectacular choice for those looking for a party venue with a difference.

We offer you hospitality of the highest standards, turning any dining event into a truly memorable occasion.

Party guests will have the opportunity to tour the ship and talk to the knowledgeable Quartermasters and guides who will be on hand to answer questions. On fine summer evenings, pre-dinner drinks may be taken on the upper deck with views across Portsmouth harbour, before moving below to dine and absorb the special atmosphere of this Victorian ship.

Working with our catering partners, Warrior has built an enviable reputation as the "venue of choice" for that special event If you would like to make an appointment to view the excellent facilities on board, or would like to find out more about party venue hire please contact the Special Events Department on 023 9277 8604, email: specialevents@hmswarrior.org or fill out the contact form.


To follow shortly.