Peter Goodwin - Bringing HMS Victory Alive
|Author: Haley Storey||Published: 8th March 2010 14:42|
When Peter Goodwin first stepped on Nelson's flagship at the age of thirteen, little did he know that he had taken the first steps to his future career.
Now as the Keeper and Curator of HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Peter's role is to help visitors understand what life was really like for the men serving on it over 200 years ago.
Peter's interest in 18th century ship construction began when he was just eight years old and, like many boys his age, he enjoyed putting together wooden models. This childhood hobby developed into a lifelong passion alongside his career as a marine engineer.
In 1991, when the position of the first Keeper and Curator of HMS Victory opened, Peter knew he was the man for the job and has never looked back. Table display featuring bowls and cutleryPeter says, "It was as if a course had been set and I just had to work my way along that course."
When asked to summarise his role, Peter says, "It's as if I am a stage manager setting a scene for the public to learn from." Indeed, the role does have a theatrical element to it as he provides an in depth interpretation of the ship and the way that people lived in it during the 18th century. By providing bespoke replica items, and organising the displays, Peter gives the visitor the impression that the Victory occupants have merely left their post for a few minutes and will be back soon.
Part of the Grand Magazine Peter's largest project to date has been the research and design of the Grand Magazine. This was the main gunpower storage area which would have held up to 35 tonnes of gunpowder. Using specifications and archaology findings, plus information from items recovered from the wreck of HMS Invincible, Peter was able to build up a visual and accurate image of how it should look.
One of the things that Peter enjoys most about his role is building up a network of skilled specialists who use traditional methods to build his replicas. He has been lucky enough to find one such expert close to home in the form of Peter Clutterbuck who, as a traditional blacksmith, is currently working on a stove to be installed in Nelson's cabin in March 2010.
The Bosun's Store Such is Peter's level of expertise, he has worked as historical advisor for the film Master and Commander and took Russell Crowe on a tour of the Victory to help prepare him for his role. He also advised on the Hornblower series and even had a part in it as a rower in the background. Add to that his many published books on the construction of naval ships, including Nelson's Victory - 101 Questions and Answers About HMS Victory, and you start to gain an understanding of just how deep his knowledge reaches.
The Death of Nelson picture depicting
Nelson on his deathbedThose who are familiar with the painting "The Death of Nelson" may be surprised to know that it is Peter who was responsible for changing the place that marked Nelson's death. He studied the positions of the characters in the painting, particularly the area around Victory's carpenter, Mr Bunce, which led him to the conclusion that Nelson actually died 25 metres away from the original landmark position.
Away from work Peter can be seen taking part in re-enactments firing naval cannons and also has an interest in Egyptology. He lives with his wife in Southsea who is the Local History Officer and Curator of Portsmouth Museum and Records Service. It was through his role at HMS Victory that they met after Peter borrowed some copper saucepans and a kettle from the museum for a display.
Looking back on his nineteen years at HMS Victory, I asked Peter what the future holds. He said, "I had lots of plans in 1991 and most of what I projected to do has materialised but you never know what you will uncover next."
You can visit HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard along with other attractions. To find out more go to www.historicdockyard.co.uk.