What happened to this proud ship’s figurehead?

HMS St Vincent being towed out of Portsmouth Harbour
HMS St Vincent being towed out of Portsmouth Harbour

Found: Old Portsmouth pub landlords

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Recently I asked about a photograph of a three-master leaving the Portsmouth Harbour at the turn of the last century and, as ever, I received some good replies. I must thank Peter Thurgill, Colin Baxter, Mike Noonan and Philip Pyke who all gave suggestions.

But it’s Colin, a marine artist from Gosport, who tells me it’s actually HMS St Vincent.

She is being towed to Falmouth Dock for breaking up in 1906.

Now Colin says that the figurehead was detached from the ship for display at the new St Vincent training barracks in Gosport. In her time as a training vessel, he says, she was moored off Haslar Creek and can be seen in a recent painting by him on show at the White Dog gallery, in Lee-on-the Solent.

Finally, Pete Thurgill sends me a report from his brother-in-law who works in the National Maritime Museum in London. He says the photo was taken in June 1906 and is indeed HMS St Vincent.

She was built as a first-rate with 120 guns at Plymouth Dockyard, before it became Devonport of course. Ordered January 15, 1806, and launched March 11, 1815, she was hulked as a flagship at Portsmouth in October 1841. In 1854 she was used as a troopship in the Crimean war. She was sold to Castle Ship Breaking Co on May 15, 1906, and towed to Falmouth, arriving on June 23, 1906.

But Pete states the figurehead was not put up at her namesake’s establishment but was set up on a plinth outside the main gate of HMS Ganges, at Shotley near Ipswich. A replica of the original was made and that’s the one located at Gosport.

What happened to the original and replica figureheads after St Vincent and Ganges closed is not known. Does anyone know?