When I was small, I was sometimes taken to visit my grandparents’ cousins’ farm at Swan Bottom in Buckinghamshire. On the way I always looked out for the figurehead of Admiral Lord Howe at The Lee. An incongruous place for a ship’s figurehead you might think. It was from HMS Himalaya, one of two wooden hulks purchased by Sir Arthur Liberty from the Royal Navy in 1926 and used to construct the mock-Tudor of Liberty’s in London.
Since then, the painted figureheads that adorned wooden sailing ships during the age of sail were not something that I had thought about much. That changed this year, when our research for Heritage Weekends took us to two of England’s great port cities: Plymouth and Portsmouth. Figureheads were often saved when the ship was scrapped because of their artistic value. Having visited these cities I can understand why.
In Plymouth, visitors to The…
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