Located at the entrance of Mahebourg village, the Naval Museum was inaugurated sometime around 1950 and specialises in the history of Mauritius relating to the sea; sea battles, shipwrecks, naval war items etc. Image courtesy of: Sophie Cayeux
The Museum is housed in the Gheude Castle, a magnificent French colonial mansion, built around 1772, used to belong to the Commandant of the district of Grand Port, Jean de Robillard’s family, and played an important part in the island’s history. The house was bought by the government in 1950 and turned into a museum under the direction of the Mauritius Museums Council.
The museum occupies three floors, tow of which are accessible to the public. On the ground floor wreckage of sailing ships that took part in the Grand Port battle, original cannon, cannonball, paintings and swords and weaponry of Robert Surcouf, the eighteenth-century corsair, popularly known as the king of the Corsairs. Objects from shipwrecks along the Mauritian coast are also exhibited, and the museum also displays a preserved Mauritian village settlement, where visitors can gain a glimpse of the typical lifestyle of the rural island inhabitants.
The bell, recovered from the wreckage of the St Geran which sunk off the east coast in 1744, is also on display. There is an interesting newspaper cutting of Charles Seabourne, who with survivors from the ship Trevessa, landed at Bel Ombre in the south in 1923 after spending 25 days at sea. On display are the ship’s biscuits, a razor and the lid of a cigarette tin which they used to measure water rations. In a separate showcase is a Roll of Honour dedicated to Mauritians who died in World War II. Wreckage from the naval battle of Vieux Grand Port in 1810 can also be seen.
On the first floor are Labourdonnais’ four-poster bed, two palanquins or wooden sedan-type chairs, which were borne by slaves to convey their masters through the country and a collection of coins, curios, model sailing ships and early maps, labelled in French and English.
The Museum is accessible to the public as follows:
National Historical Naval Museum
Royal Road, Mahebourg, South
Tel: (230) 631 9329.
Fax: (230) 212 5717
Hours: Mon, Wed-Sat : 9-16, Sun 9-12 clock, free admission
Whilst it is normally not allowed to take pictures inside the museum, we were somehow discreetly allowed to do so given we were not professionals and that we don’t take much time in doing so. Glimpse of the Naval Museum of Mahebourg below: (Mobile phone photography)
These images somehow do not do real justice to the Museum’s real feel and it is highly recommended to visit it personally to enjoy all that it has to offer.