HMS Nelson wardroom figureheads in Portsmouth will be taken down and restored

PLANNING permission has been granted for the removal of two historic figureheads from the wall of HMS Nelson Wardroom due to concerns over their ‘deteriorating’ condition.
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National Museum of the Royal Navy, which owns the HMS Martin and HMS Seaflower sculptures and has loaned them to the Ministry of Defence, applied to Portsmouth City Council for permission to take them down to allow repair work to be carried out.

Approving the move earlier this week, the council said they were a health and safety risk and approved the application.

The HMS Martin figurehead at HMS Nelson Wardroom, left, and the HMS Seaflower figurehead Picture: Portsmouth City CouncilThe HMS Martin figurehead at HMS Nelson Wardroom, left, and the HMS Seaflower figurehead Picture: Portsmouth City Council
The HMS Martin figurehead at HMS Nelson Wardroom, left, and the HMS Seaflower figurehead Picture: Portsmouth City Council
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'The proposed works are considered to be essential to the upkeep of the building,' its assessment of the application said. 'The removal of the figureheads is deemed to be acceptable and the proposal would accord with the Portsmouth Plan and Planning Act.'

The figureheads have adorned the building since 1906 but a report warned that issues of cracked paint and corrosion are worsening and that conservation work is now required.

It said: ‘The figureheads are in poor condition and conservators have recommended they be removed to allow for their repair and to lessen the speed of their deterioration.'

‘Cracked and peeling paintwork on the figureheads has exposed the timber substrate underneath which may now be decaying,’ it added. ‘There isalso large amounts of vegetation growth on both figureheads.’

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The HMS Martin figurehead was mounted on HMS Martin - built as HMS Mayflower - which was one of the last wooden warships and was used as a training ship until its demotion to a coal hulk in 1907.

The HMS Seaflower figurehead was displayed on HMS Seaflower which was one of five training vessels launched in 1873. The ship was in use as a workshop in 1904 before being laid off four years later.

Once conservation work is completed, the two figureheads will be put back on display, albeit inside the building.

Discussions had been held between the city council and hotel operators about taking over the wardroom which was earmarked for sale by the government in 2016.

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However, these stalled when, in 2019, the Ministry of Defence gave the building, and almost 100 others across the country a stay of execution until at least 2023.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the council's leader, said in September that plans for the building had gone ‘back to square one’.