Object of the Month for September – HMS Victory fireplace companion set.
This month’s object was chosen by Desray Coward our digitization and collections volunteer. It is an old HMS Victory fireplace companion set. They have a very distinct design as at the top of each tool is a ship, this ship is the HMS Victory which is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission with 241 years of active service as of 2019. It was first commissioned in 1778 and was used in many battles for the British including the first and second battles of Ushant, the battle of Cape Spartel, the battle of Cape St Vincent and most famously the battle of Trafalgar.
The ship was captained by Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson who helped the British defeat the Spanish and the French at the Battle of Trafalgar. The British defeated them without losing a single ship whereas the French and Spanish lost 22 ships. Horatio Nelson was shot during the battle by a French musket and died near the end. His body was carried back to England by HMS Victory.
HMS Victory was in a very bad state after the battle of Trafalgar and had to be towed to Gibraltar by HMS Neptune and was then repaired. When HMS Victory returned to England it was considered to old by the Admiralty Board and in to great disrepair. It then went through many different uses and was relegated to a second-class ship. In 1831 the admiralty issued orders for the ship to be broken up this caused a public outcry as thee public did not want such a historical ship to be destroyed so the order was abandoned.
The ship was largely forgotten about until it had a royal visit in 1833 from the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria who would later become Queen. On the 12 of January 1922 her condition was so bad that she would no longer stay afloat. It was then moved to No. 2 dock in Portsmouth which was the oldest dry dock in the world still in use. The ship was kept in No.2 dock for the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar which it was repaired in time for in 2005. The ship now attracts 350,000 visitors a year and continues to get funding from the government for repairs.