Portsmouth cathedral’s glistening icon em-barques on new voyage

The Golden Barque weathervane on top of Portsmouth's Anglican cathedral
The Golden Barque weathervane on top of Portsmouth's Anglican cathedral

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The Golden Barque, a long-time emblem of Old Portsmouth and landmark to mariners entering the port, has been restored as part of the ongoing refurbishment work at Portsmouth Cathedral.

Restoration and conservation work to the tower and cupola of Portsmouth Cathedral started in July this year. It is being carried out by Daedalus Conservation, and funded by the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repair Fund.

Reg Morris repairing the Golden Barque in 1969

Reg Morris repairing the Golden Barque in 1969

The Golden Barque, which serves as a weathervane, was removed in early October this year for restoration work.

It was added in 1710 to the cupola of the Anglican cathedral where it has acted as a weathervane and welcome sight for homecoming Portsmouth ships.

It was a local tradition that whenever the barque was taken down for cleaning, mothers of the port town would place their babies in it believing this act would prevent death from drowning.

The original Golden Barque was blown down in a gale in 1954 and is now mounted on an oak plinth in the nave, constructed from timbers recovered from HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Reg Morris today

Reg Morris today

The last major restoration of the barque was completed in 1969 by lifelong Portsmouth resident Reg Morris, now 93.

Reg, born in Staunton Street in 1923, was trained as a plumber at 14 and first worked for local firm Fookes & Son.

During the Second World War Reg was called up for service in the Royal Navy, spending most of his wartime service in Portsmouth Dockyard working on Monitor class ships used during the war as depot ships.

Reg says: ‘The Dockyard museum recently opened the M33 for the public. I worked on those ships and am probably one of the last people alive to have seen them in war service.’

In 1950, Reg joined local firm Gardiners and continued his work as a plumber where he would later establish a close connection to the barque and the cathedral.

In 1969, the cathedral cupola underwent some repairs and repainting.

It was during this time that the weathervane was found to be jammed and the Golden Barque in need of repair.

Reg was nicknamed Mr Cathedral by a verger because he spent so much time carrying out repairs in the building and restored the barque for several more decades of service.

As for Reg, he finally retired from plumbing in 2001, at the age of 79.

The restored barque, now newly-gilded in gold leaf, will be on display in the crossing of Portsmouth Cathedral, alongside the original 1710 barque, for inspection by the public for the first few weeks of December.