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The Golden Hinde

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published October 15th 2013
A Ship Dear to our Hearts
golden hinde, london bridge, ship, sir francis drake
The Golden Hinde II

History shows Britain to be a seafaring nation; we were brave pioneers heading out for new lands to face the unknown (and admittedly to enslave the natives). In the sixteenth century it was an exciting (and dangerous) time to be a sailor. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I Britain saw religious tensions, political struggles, and foreign threats, but it was also a golden age of discovery in science, growth in trade, and expansion of a mighty empire.

golden hinde, sir francis drake, portrait
Sir Francis Drake

Pioneers at the forefront of this era were Martin Frobisher, Thomas Cavendish, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Francis Drake, Captain of the Golden Hinde. Although the original has long been lost, a faithful replica of this frontier ship floats on the dock of Pickfords Wharf by London Bridge. An impressive site, I have walked by many times, but never realised that it was open to the public.

My house is undergoing major building works at the moment, so to escape the chaos outside my door, I went rooting through a booklet of London attractions that would keep me occupied for the day. After dismissing Madame Tussaud's for being too expensive and having up to a three-hour queue, I found the Golden Hinde advertised for a mere 6 (4.50 for children).

Their website says that the ship is open between 10am-5.30pm, but this is rather deceptive. My dad and I arrived at half past twelve to a sign saying it was closed. The ship is actually open periodically between 10am-5.30pm, and the times change from day to day. You need to keep tabs on their timetable so as not to be disappointed.

golden hinde, living history tour

The ship was closed because of a Live History Tour, which is an educational programme primary school children, in which they get to dress up and learn through a theatrical experience. Self-guided tours were due to start again from 1.30pm, so we went to the gift shop to buy the tickets.

golden hinde, gift shop, pirate costume

Inside you will find souvenirs such as stationary, books, pirate costumes, a half-penny piece (that costs 63p), and CDs. One was called Music of London, and included songs like 'Old London Town', 'Oranges & Lemons', and 'Green Sleeves'.

golden hinde, foredeck

We spent our spare hour at The Clink Prison Museum, then returned to the ship. There is no particular route that you have to take, but I would recommend starting at the foredeck as it puts everything in context.

golden hinde,

I have kept referring to the ship as the Golden Hinde, but to be more accurate, it is actually the Golden Hinde II, a full sized-reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake's famous galleon, which circumnavigated the globe between 1577-1580. Unfortunately, the original was not well cared for, and by the 1600s became unsalvageable.

golden hinde, guided tour
Children's Guided Tour

The Golden Hinde II was built on a dream had by Art Blum and Albert Elledge. The Californians wanted to commemorate Drake's four hundredth anniversary landing on the West Coast of North America in 1579. Years of research and construction saw the ship launch on the 5th April 1973. It toured all around America, before finding its permanent home in London in 1996.

golden hinde

A tour of this ship will tell you all the ins and outs of the constructions process, including the people involved and the mechanics behind it. In an amazing feat of hard work and determination, the build took just two years to complete, and on a tight budget as well. The most interesting anecdote is about the figurehead, which during the ship's tour of America, was lost at sea. It was replaced a few months later, and then in 2012, refurbished and gilded with gold leaf. It was christened Lizzie, in honour of the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

golden hinde, cannon, minion gun, gun deck
Minion Gun

Sir Francis Drake's ship was originally called the Pelican, but he changed it to the Golden Hinde in honour of the ship's chief patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose coat of arms was that of a red deer. Drake swapped the figurehead with that of a female deer, which helped it to be identified. Many sailors in the sixteenth century were illiterate, so figureheads were important to help the men differentiate oncoming ships.

golden hinde, wheel

In 1577, Sir Francis Drake set out on his famous voyage. His initial mission was to travel into Pacific waters and explore Spanish territories, but it ended in the discovery of the New World. He found vast amounts of treasure, wrote of England's debts, and became a very rich man. Myth has it that Drake left buried treasure on the shores of Nova Albion because there was not enough room on the ship to take it back home. Many have searched, but treasure has yet to be found.

golden hinde, living quarters

It would help if we actually knew where to look, because no one is sure of where the true location of Nova Albion is. Nova Albion is the name of the spot where Drake first anchored in America; it was christened by Queen Elizabeth, and means 'New England'.
There are countless plaques along the coast of North America claiming to be Drake's first landing place, but there is no definitive proof.

golden hinde, dinning room, dinning table

Among the most interesting features of the Golden Hinde II were the recreations of Drakes Cabin and the gun deck. Housing fourteen minion guns (small cannons), the gun deck was also where the crew slept. It had very low ceilings to create stability and manoeuvrability in the low gravity environment.

golden hinde, gun deck
Gun Deck

If you are interested in visiting, there are a number of events coming up for children, such as Tudor and Halloween Fun Days, as well as a Halloween night for adults. You can take look around by yourself, or for 1 book a guided tour.
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Why? Discover England's seafaring history
When: 10am-5.30pm
Phone: 44 (0)20 7403 0123
Where: Pickford's Wharf
Cost: 6 adult, 4.50 children
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