History of the Trust
In 1903 Mark Edwin Pescott-Frost, Secretary to the Admiral
Superintendent at Portsmouth Dockyard, began collecting artefacts and
historical items relating to Portsmouth Dockyard. By 1906 the collection
had grown and Pescott-Frost was able to persuade the Admiral
Superintendent to allocate space at the end of the Great Ropehouse to be
used for a Dockyard museum. The museum was opened in 1911. However when HMS VICTORY was brought into dry dock a new museum was created to
contain items connected with her and Lord Nelson at the expense of the
Dockyard museum. Some of the items were transferred to the Naval Museum
and some to the National Maritime Museum but the remainder have been
In 1982, following the announcement of the run-down of Portsmouth
Dockyard under the terms of the 1981 Defence review, Portsmouth Royal
Dockyard Historical Society (PRDHS) was established composed chiefly of
former Dockyard employees. Intensive efforts were made to collect
representative samples of machinery, tools, drawings, photographs,
scientific testing apparatus and other important examples of the
material culture of the Dockyard before they were lost to posterity and
the skills and trades they represented had disappeared. In particular it
was hoped to establish a new Dockyard Museum to tell the story of the
Dockyard through the ages and of the men and women who spent much of
their working lives in the Dockyard through peace and war, to complement
the Naval story as told by the Royal Naval Museum and the several
historic ships. An oral history programme was initiated and a wide
cross-section of former Dockyard employees has been interviewed with
some assistance from Portsmouth University. Over 400 interviews have
been recorded are currently held by Portsmouth City Museum which is
undertaking the task of transcribing and digitising the recordings and
compiling a website catalogue.
From its formation, members of the PRDHS continued to add to and to
develop the collection, supported by the Naval Base Property Trust.
During this time the PRDHS was responsible for a number of temporary
exhibitions and displays in the Historic Dockyard. A permanent
exhibition sponsored by the Naval Base Property Trust, The Dockyard
Apprentice, was opened in Boathouse No. 7 in 1994 in which many of the
artefacts of the PRDHS are displayed.
In 1994 to formalise its status, particularly in relation to other
trusts in the Historic Dockyard, and to facilitate future access to
grants and other sources of development funding, the original Society
was converted into a charitable trust, The Portsmouth Royal Dockyard
Historical Trust (PRDHT). The trustees include representatives from the
Naval Base Property Trust, Portsmouth City Council, Portsmouth
University, the Royal Naval Museum and Fleet Services Limited.
When the PRDHT was established the Society as such ceased to exist but
members formed the PRDHT Support Group which in essence continues the
work previously undertaken by the Society by ensuring the safe storage
and maintenance of artefacts and arranging displays for public interest
and education, in support of the Trust under whose jurisdiction it
Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Trust is registered as a charity,
Charity Number 1040207, Company Number 2956399.
The objectives of the company are:
- To promote research into the history and
industrial archaeology of the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth and to
disseminate the results of such research.
- To promote the education of the public on
matters connected with the history of the Dockyard.
- To advance the education of the public in
the history and archaeology of the Dockyard by the establishment of
a public museum.
The Support Group
What is the Support Group, and what does it do?
The Support Group comprises members of the
previous Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Society, a group of like
minded, mainly ex-Dockyard employees, who had the common wish to
preserve something of the “Old Dockyard” and to present it to the
This was achieved to some
extent by the exhibition which was built by members in Boathouse 7,
which featured a limited range of trades and artefacts. At this time
members, on a rota basis, manned the exhibition daily from about 10.00
to about 16.00. To raise funds, there was a voluntary contribution
barrel, a souvenir counter selling various maritime related small items
for children, and as primary source, the sale of Dockyard Books and
Maps produced mainly by the Curator.
These funds allowed the
Society members to add or amend the exhibits to extend the exhibition,
and to purchase any materials needed for construction and restoration
Following the formation of the
Trust in 1992, the members of the Society became the Trust Support
Group, and in essence continued to collect and to restore historical
material from the Dockyard, but without the exhibition which closed to
allow a major restoration of the Boathouse, and subsequently the
professional construction of the present Dockyard Apprentice exhibition
which opened in 1994.
The present exhibition,
mounted by the Property Trust is more comprehensive than the Society
members were able to provide, displaying many more items.
The Support Group are in
reality the Working Group of the Trust, and still fulfil the role of
collecting, storing, restoring, researching and recording Dockyard
related material, and to a limited extent, exhibiting small new displays
from time to time within the framework of the Dockyard Apprentice
When does the Support
Group meet ?
The Support Group meets
regularly every Thursday, between 10.00 and about 15.30, in the Upper
Room up the steel staircase at the North end of Boathouse 4, the large
corrugated iron building on the left a little way inside the Historic
Dockyard from the Victory Gate.
On the First Thursday of each
month, there is a business meeting, to review the achievements of the
prevous month, and to programme the next.
What are the benefits of
Membership of the Support
Group either as an active member, or supportive member, enables more of
the Historical Preservation of the “Old Dockyard” to be continued.
Active membership allows
real "hands-on" restoration of Dockyard artefacts, or recording the
large collection of Drawings, documents and registers. On the other
hand, as a non-active member, your interest helps keep the Support Group
going, and you may have information or memories which can help our
research work. Read more.
How do I join ?
You can download a leaflet about the Support Group and an application form here: Leaflet & Application Form.
Or contact the Honorary
Mr M. Smith, 29 Blake House, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 3TH.
Or the Honorary Secretary,
Mr M Roberts, 28 Leventhorpe Court, Elmhurst Road, Gosport, PO12 1NX.
A Dockie’s Lament
I never thought they’d shut it down
Our institution, the centre of town
It fed lots of businesses local and wide
Some rose and fell, just like the tide
A cauldron of tradesmen well trained and true
Some served the world and not just a few
Coppersmiths shipwrights fitters to start
Seamstresses painters blacksmiths an art
What about ‘sparkies’ they thought they were it
Riggers and laggers, not me in a fit
Foundry men pattern men and riveting crews
And many others, I forget, please excuse
We made up a family, formed by clock card
Never gave it much thought just called it ‘the yard’
Surprising its gone what Richard one started
Even Henry made bigger before he departed
It’s not just a place where Jack got his ship
Or watch a dreadnought slide down the slip
It was the first home, of the whole bloomin fleet
With its own Admiral Super, now that’s something to beat
But don’t forget them at the bottom of the box
Those that drove Listers even cleaned out the docks
They all played their part, for the graceful grey funnels
And what about them of the dock drain tunnels
Submarines, carriers, even ‘ton’ class
From a whole flipping refit
To just scraping their arse
We did them all and felt real proud
Though most of us were, just a face in the crowd
We enjoyed ‘Dockie’ banter and jokes for relief
Or ‘taking the mick’ out of Engine Room Chief
Sailors didn’t much like us, but some of em tried
Whilst officers thought, ‘put him over the side’
Lazy ‘dockies’, just watching the time
But when it was needed we used to shine
HMS would limp back, just after a crash
And we’d make them a new bit and fix it real flash
Of course the odd homer could sometimes be seen
But rabbits over, we’d do an hour for the Queen!
Even fixed her Royal Yacht made it shiny and sound
Always kept spick and span for just a few pounds
At time for out muster cycles would gather
And Joe who’d been sleeping and now in a lather
Hit the clock handle after hearing the hooter
Joined the pedalling armada, and a couple of scooters
Now it’s all gone and I think what a pity
No more donkey jacket swarm that could hold up the city
No more ten thousand plus that made up the whole
Just buildings and docks now lacking a soul
I know it all, still belongs to the crown
But I never thought, they’d just shut it down.
Copyright - Doug Seymour Dec 2012