Home Page | Permanent Collections | Exhibitions | Library | Education | Publications
Visitor Services | Development Plan | Shop | Friends | Conferences/Events

Education Home Page | Education Main Page | Parental Guidance

The History of the Royal Navy

The Royal Navy

The history of the British navy dates back over a thousand years to King Alfred's first battle at sea in 882. Today's Royal Navy has a very different role to that of the past. The navy of the 21st century is involved in peacekeeping, fighting piracy and the prevention of drug trafficking. The navy of the past defended Britain from invasion, attacked enemies and eventually established Britain as the dominant world sea power in the 19th century.

The Museum

The Royal Naval Museum tells the story of the navy, and the people who have served in the navy, from the eighteenth century onwards. The museum is housed in the two great Georgian storehouses and the 'HMS Victory Museum & Panorama' opposite the ship. Having recently completed a 5 million re-development, the three new permanent interactive exhibitions, Nelson: The Hero and The Man, The Sailing Navy and The Story of HMS Victory & The Battle of Trafalgar, are now open.

The Story of HMS Victory and the Battle of Trafalgar, 1805

This exhibition tells the whole story of HMS Victory. Using a mixture of hands-on and computer interactives, visitors can get to know more about the Victory's crew and the different skills needed. Try your hand at tying knots like Ordinary Seaman George Aunger or practice using a block and tackle like Mr Bunce, the Carpenter. Find out how many of Victory's crew were French and, lastly, listen to the shipwrights talk about their work restoring this special ship.

Not sure of when the Battle of Trafalgar happened, who was involved or why? Trafalgar! the multimedia walk-through experience allows visitors to listen to Napoleon and Nelson explain their tactics, walk onto the gun deck of the Victory during the height of battle and witness the tragic death of Admiral Lord Nelson.

Nelson: The Hero and The Man

The Royal Naval Museum has an excellent collection of Nelsoniana - Nelson memorabilia. Using this collection and personal items belonging to both Nelson and Emma Hamilton, the exhibition focuses on the private life and the public persona of Admiral Lord Nelson.

There is a special video for children introducing Nelson through three of his famous portraits. They are invited to become detectives and decide if Nelson is really a hero. Also, there is a special 'hands-on' unit in the gallery for Early Years/KS 1 containing four different activities all relating to Nelson.

The Sailing Navy

How many pints of beer were sailors allowed to drink a week, how do you use a cutlass and what is a broadside? This exhibition examines the lives of ordinary sailors during the eighteenth century; what they ate and drank, how they fought and what did they wear? Discover more about Captain James Cook and the cure for scurvy and exploration in the 1700s.

The Twentieth Century

This older exhibition examines the role of the Royal Navy in the 20th century; a century of war from Gallipoli to the Gulf. Visitors may read the oral histories of men who fought in the Pacific during World War Two, some of whom became prisoners of war. The valuable and changing role of women in the navy is presented in the Women's Royal Naval Service (Wrens) and Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARRNS )exhibits.

Planning a visit

Visitors are invited to explore the exhibitions at their own pace. Please bear in mind that the museum is spread over several large buildings. There is seating available throughout the exhibitions

Visitors wishing to explore the Museum's exhibitions chronologically are recommended to start in the Victory exhibition, followed by the Sailing Navy and Nelson exhibitions and finally the 20th Century exhibition.

The multimedia walk-through experience, Trafalgar!, runs throughout the day, approximately every 10 minutes and lasts for 15-20 minutes. Visitors may enter the experience in groups of up to 25 people. During busy periods, visitors who especially want to see Trafalgar! are advised to queue in the Briefing Area to ensure their place.

We occasionally have special activities/workshops in our Education Room. Please ask for details.

Groups wishing to see the Nelson Portraits children's video should request this when booking their visit.


All exhibitions are accessible to visitors who use wheelchairs. There are accessible lifts in both No 11 Store and the Victory exhibition. Hearing Loops are installed in all the main exhibition areas and there are tactile objects and interactives in each exhibition. We can provide handling sessions for visually-impaired visitors, please book in advance. All showcases and panels are at a comfortable height for visitors who use wheelchairs. Exhibition text is at a minimum of 14pt and all introductory panels conform to the Ekarv Easy to Read philosophy. Please contact us in advance so we are able to ensure all our facilities are available.

Toilets (including Accessible Toilets and Baby Change Areas) are situated in the Sailing Navy and Victory galleries.

The Royal Naval Museum is a Registered Charity : No 266563

Home Page | Top of Page

Created 6 September 2000
Last modified 23 October 2003