HMS Trincomalee figurehead back in the limelight after 20 years

Volunteer Sarah Morris, left, and curator Clare Hunt give some care to the figurehead.
Volunteer Sarah Morris, left, and curator Clare Hunt give some care to the figurehead.

A stunning figurehead is getting a spruce-up after 20 years out of the limelight.

Officials at The National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool have been doing a spring clean as part of their celebration of #nationalspringcleaning week.

HMS Trincomalee. Picture by Chris Armstrong.

HMS Trincomalee. Picture by Chris Armstrong.

They are getting maritime collections ready for the summer season.

After the former Maritime Experience joined the National Museum’s group last year, curatorial staff have been assessing the collections.

They were thrilled to rediscover HMS Trincomalee’s old figurehead.

Curator at The National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool, Clare Hunt said: “Our man was removed from the actual ship in the 1990s and since then he’s been waiting in the sidelines for his time in the spotlight again which should happen later this year with a project to get him conserved and on display.”

Considering what he must have been through on his travels on the ship, we think he’s in pretty good shape, but from now on he will enjoy a little brush down on a more regular basis.

Clare Hunt

In the meantime, Clare and volunteer Sarah Morris have set about cheering the old boy up for the new season.

Clare said: “Considering what he must have been through on his travels on the ship, we think he’s in pretty good shape, but from now on he will enjoy a little brush down on a more regular basis.

She told of the work which would be needed on the colourful figurehead.

“Our tool of choice is a large, soft brush to get into all the nooks and crannies and sweep the dust into a microfibre cloth. Any loose paint flakes that comes off can then be retrieved and saved in case they contain information about how many layers there are there and what colours and types of paint were used in the past.”

This was probably the ship’s second figurehead and was made in 1845 ready for Trincomalee’s first commission to the Americas and West Indies.

He was designed and carved by Hellyer and Sons, the most successful figurehead carvers of the 19th Century.

They served the major dockyards in the country, including Portsmouth where they had their original base.

Design drawings for more than 250 figureheads by Hellyers still survive in the National Archives, including the one for HMS Trincomalee.