The planks of this deck are over 200 years old, etched by the feet and guns which have run over them in the course of two centuries of naval service.
Stood on the Lower Gun Deck, alongside the massive 32-pdrs weighing more than 4 tons, it’s possible to get a glimpse of what it must have been like to live and fight in this little wooden world. Here the deckhead – ceiling – is lower, the light is dimmer, and the surroundings feel cramped. At meal times 600 men ate in this space, and at night 460 slept, hammocks interlocking so as to make any chance of privacy impossible.
It is easy to concentrate on the harsh nature of life in the Navy at this time, but for these men the standard of living was relatively good: they were provided with plenty of food, a place to live, and had access to relatively good (by the standards of the day) medical treatment, on top of which they earned a reasonable basic wage.