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Art Marine

Model of The Royal George together with original antique Royal Navy sword - Dan O'Neill

Model of The Royal George together with original antique Royal Navy sword - Dan O'Neill

Regular price £12,500.00 GBP
Regular price Sale price £12,500.00 GBP
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This model is the only one of its kind, outside a museum. (There is one 18th-century original Navy Board model in the National Maritime Museum)

The sword displayed with the model is an 1827 pattern Royal Navy officers pipe back 'fighting' sword ie; a general purpose sword used for boarding etc. as opposed to a 'dress' item. When the George was salvaged, a sword cutler bought a small number of the giant bolts used to hold the timbers of the unfortunate ship together, and made them into sword blades. The blade is engraved, 'Made from the iron bolts of the Royal George. Sunk 1782, recovered 1839 These swords in themselves are very scarce as the pipe back pattern was only current for a few years and the number with Royal George blades are even rarer.

In the early hours of August 29th, 1782, the greatest fleet assembled on British shores lay off the Spithead. There were over 50 men of war, including the 100-gun HMS Victory and Royal George, and over 300 merchant ships. The Royal George was the flagship of Rear Admiral Kempenfeldt, and under the command of Captain Waghorn.

On the 29th of August, the Royal George was signalling the traditional "Wedding Garland", and the day had been set aside for the crew to say their farewells.

As desertion was a problem, shore leave was canceled, and the sailors wives were allowed onboard. As well as the families of the sailors, merchants, money-lenders, and even prostitutes came onboard, approximately 400 people, or an extra 70 tons of humanity.

While this was going on, Captain Waghorn ordered a minor repair to be made below the waterline. A water-cock that provided seawater for cleaning the gundecks needed to be replaced. Although William Nichelson, Master Attendant of Portsmouth Dockyard had warned against making the repair with the ship loaded with the 548 tons of stores and 83 tons of ammunition needed for the Gibraltar expedition, Captain Waghorn ordered the repairs to be made.
The proposed method of repair was to heel the ship by moving the cannon from one side of the ship to the other. At 7am, the 820-strong crew hauled and pushed the cannon into position to achieve the eight degree list to starboard.

While this was going on, despite the fleetwide ban on shore leave, the Master, the Boatswain, and the Gunner were in Portsmouth. These were the three officers who would normally oversee such an operation, and whose expertise would have been vital to prevent the sinking. No-one was left in charge of the operation below decks.

Captain Waghorn had also controversially ordered that the lower gundecks, normally closed when a ship was being heeled, remain open. This was so that extra stores could be carried through them, to prevent them have to be hauled up to the deck. Captain Waghorn was perhaps fooled by the lack of wind, forgetting that the Solent's unique double-tide makes the waters of Spithead choppy even without wind. The gun ports were only a foot above sea-level, and water was already beginning to splash inside in increasing amounts.

At 9 am, the 50 ton cutter Lark came alongside and began loading rum through the gunports. Ominously, rats and mice were reported to be leaving the ship, jumping onboard the Lark. The weight of the rum began to tip the gunsills below the waterline.

The Carpenter hurried to the deck to tell the officer of the watch, Lieutenant Monins Hollingbery, to give the order to "Right Ship". Hollingbery refused to listen and dismissed him, ordering below. On return to the lower decks, the carpenter saw that the situation had got worse, and returned to Hollinbery and repeated his request, who replied "Damme, Sir! If you can manage the ship better than I can you had better take command."

The Carpenter then went to warn Captain Waghorn, who sent the First Lieutenant to investigate. At 9:18 am, Waghorn finally gave the order to right ship, almost 20 minutes after the ship had began sinking. Before the drummer could comply, the ship began to capsize. Hundreds of men ran down hatchways to get to the guns to right the ship, but the slope was now so steep that not even 18 men could move a single gun. The water ran in all the gunports on the starboard side of the lower gundecks, and only 3 survived by escaping through the gunports out of the hundreds below decks.

Captain Waghorn ran to the Admiral's Cabin to warn Rear Admiral Kempenfeldt, yet the door was jammed. At that point, the masts began to fall, and Captain Waghorn jumped overboard. His son was among the thousand that drowned. Only 255 of the 1,200 onboard survived. The end happened so quickly that it was reported that a local lady, writing a letter, looked up and saw the ship, with its pennant barely touched by the wind, and, after completing her sentence, looked up again to see that the ship had gone.

The Carpenter drowned, yet Lieutenant Hollingbery survived, and was later promoted to captain. For several days, bodies were washed ashore at Ryde3 and Portsmouth.

The Court Martial was held onboard HMS Warspite, with 5 Admirals sitting in judgement. They decided to clear Kempenfelt and Waghorn4 and blamed the disaster on the dockyard authority, the Navy Board, claiming that the disaster was caused by the bottom of the ship falling out through rot. Only two witnesses supported the verdict, a shipwright who said that some of the timbers were rotten, which was to be expected in a 26-year-old ship, and a Gunners Yeoman who had said that he heard a crack below the waterline.
The Navy Board was framed as the culprit as the funds given by the Government and Admiralty to the Board for ship repair were often embezzled by the Board, meaning that ships often went to sea in desperate need for repairs which had been paid for, but not started. 83 Naval ships had been sunk through decay during the American War of Independence. The Navy Board believed the verdict, and as a result sabotaged every attempt to salvage the warship.

The Royal George sat in the middle of the Navy's main anchorage, and could have been saved. William Tracey in 1783 suggested that the hull could be harnessed and raised with the tide. The Navy Board tried everything within its power to prevent this and even supplied Tracey with ships that sank. Tracey was forced to abandon his attempt after moving the Royal George 30 yards through being bankrupted by the Navy Board's refusal to pay for his services.

In 1832 the Navy Board was abolished, and work was begun on the Royal George. Between 1836 and 1839, John and Charles Deane, inventors of the deep sea diving suit, raised 29 cannon but reported that the hull was beyond salvage. In 1839 Colonel Palsey, a pioneer of marine demolition, raised the remaining cannon by using gunpowder.

The cannons were melted down and were used to make the bronze and iron capital at the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, celebrating the triumph of the Royal George's sistership HMS Victory.

This model was built using copies of the original lines obtained from the National Maritime Museum.

Double planked model, built to a scale of 1/70 in Navy Board style. The model is housed in a solid oak case with 1/4 inch plate glass and rests on a custom-made stand of solid oak. The legs of which are turned in the style of 'cannon barrel' legs fashionable in English furniture just after Nelson's victory at Trafalgar. Case measures, 43 inches long, 19 inches wide 21 3/4 inches high. The stand measures 29 inches high giving an overall height of 50 3/4 inches.

An industrial design graduate from the Kent Institute of Art and Design (University of Kent, England),
Daniel O'Neill has been an artist/designer/modelmaker for 20 years, with more than half that time in the museum design field. Based in London and Dublin, he worked initially for the Irish Department of Antiquities, and then for other European Union departments engaged in designing and building heritage centres. Now living on the beautiful island of Nantucket in Massachusetts, he is working exclusively for US clients.He has two studios, one on Nantucket and another in Hyannis.

Much of O'Neill's current work is in architecture. He enjoys recreating the architectural process in miniature and his experience in that area ranges from medieval buildings to modern office structures. Model ship commissions are regularly undertaken. His marine models and sculptures have been sold at Christies auction house in New York and can be found in many US private collections.

He has undertaken model work for television and film companies, museum and exhibition design firms, and architectural practices large and small. His clients include the BBC, Ove Arup, Event Communications (Europe's largest museum design group)The Royal College Of Art and the British Museum. He is also one of the few artists able to list Saddam Hussein as a client (though not currently!!) A full list of clients is available on request.

O'Neill's techniques are the result of art school training and years of experience. This generates a lifelike quality sadly missing in many 'modern' models that suffer from a sterile, overtechnical approach. This is most apparent in his shipwreck models. The movement of water is extremely well conveyed through the use of sculpted porcelain clay.

Dan O'Neill can be commissioned to make a model of a particular vessel through Art Marine. Please email for details.
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