The wooden skeleton of an 18th century Royal Navy warship once captained by novelist Jane Austen's brother will form the centrepiece of a new maritime display.

The 245 giant timbers of the 90-gun HMS Namur - one of the Navy's most significant warships during the Age of Sail - were discovered by chance in 1995.

The timbers were found during routine conservation work beneath the floor of a wheelwright's shop at the 80-acre Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent, and have undergone careful preservation over the past 20 years.

Now they will become the centrepiece of the £9 million Command of the Oceans, a new permanent display which opens to the public on Friday telling the story of the dockyard's role in British naval supremacy.

Bill Ferris, the CEO at Chatham Historic Dockyard, said: "The story of the Namur is the story of Chatham. It illustrates how the innovation of the dockyard propelled Britain's power around the world."

During her long service, Namur took part in nine battles, from the Seven Years' War to the Napoleonic Wars, and she holds more honours than Nelson's flagship HMS Victory.

She fought in two of the defining battles of the so-called Annus Mirabilis in 1759 - the Battle of Lagos and the Battle of Quiberon Bay.

Jane Austen's brother Charles was her captain from 1811 to 1814.

The new dockyard galleries, part-funded by a £4.8 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant, also include objects from the 74-gun French warship, the Invincible.

She was captured by the British in 1747, taken into the Royal Navy and sunk by accident in 1758 before her remains were discovered in 1979.