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Author Topic: HMS Chesapeake Figurehead  (Read 16044 times)

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  • Guest
Re: HMS Chesapeake Figurehead
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2013, 22:00:12 »
Hello Nova, welcome to the 'right place' for your enquiry.  Interesting to read of your connection with the ship. I was only really researching her American History, and therefore am of little value to you. However, the original figurehead was in Sheerness Dockyard and I saw it most days when I worked there. The pictures and narrative you read (below) are as much as I know. I will make enquiries for you with a few experts on the subject and get back to you.

There are many knowledgeable and very kind people hereabouts who will, no doubt, be along shortly to help (looks around for Bilgerat)

Offline kyn

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    • Sheppey History
Re: HMS Chesapeake Figurehead
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2013, 12:54:13 »
This is the correct place as you are asking for information on this ship :)

I hope some members will be able to help you with your request!


  • Guest
Re: HMS Chesapeake Figurehead
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2013, 12:50:43 »
I stumbled on this Forum site when searching for any information at all about HMS Chesapeake 1857-1861.  My Great Grandfather joined this ship in 1857 as a 'Boy 1st Class', rising through 'Ord.', 'A.B.' 'Lg.Seaman', and eventually 'Acting Ship's Corpl. 2 Class' in 1866.  He served on her until 1861, so must have seen battles fought during the 2nd Opium War in China. 

I'd be grateful for any information at all about the ship - is there a picture anywhere?  I have found reference to a Journal 'The Young Idea' edited by AD MacArthur, a clerk aboard HMS Chesapeake, from weekly contributions on board.  The 58 issues have been digitised and I am hoping to be able to have sight of the Journal in any form - the only copy seems to be at the British Library.  I have found pictures of the replica figurehead, thanks to this forum, and any further information on HMS Chesapeake would be much appreciated.  Where is the figurehead now? 

Am I posting this request in the correct place for my query?  I've never joined a Forum before and am not sure how to use it.  Guidance would be welcome.


  • Guest
Re: HMS Chesapeake Figurehead
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2013, 21:49:53 »
It is remarkable that as Bilgerat was posting the query below, I was in the midst of a project concerning the Six American Frigates that were the very beginning of the US Navy, of which Chesapeake was one. I too remembered the figurehead in the Dockyard at Sheerness. In fact my father-in-law used to paint it once a year (as a dockyard painter not an artist!)

My project was to draw the six frigates to scale and write a potted history on each.

I followed the Bilgerat research route and found as exactly as he records. The figurehead was that of Pocahontas (who, incedentally, died and is buried in Gravesend).

Although there is no official motto in the United States Navy, the phrase, "Don't Give Up The Ship", resonates throughout its history. Captain James Lawrence, who coined the phrase, did so as he lay dying on the quarterdeck of the frigate, USS Chesapeake, on the first day of June, 1813. The 12 minute battle with the British frigate HMS Shannon, took place at Saint Ann's Head, off  Boston.

In the event, the ship was captured and towed to the British base in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Eventually it was taken to England where it became HMS Chesapeake, and served with the Royal Navy for about 30 years until she was scrapped.

Many years later, in 1976, the old watermill in Wickham, Hampshire,  ground to a final stop. It then began to deteriorate for lack of maintenance, and in the new millennium the decision had to be made regarding pulling the mill down and redeveloping the site.

On surveying the building the local villagers were reminded that large portions of the mill had been rebuilt from whole sections of the Chesapeake. Although it was argued that this had rather more to do with American history than British, it was agreed that the Mill be maintained as a heritage site.

Today the mill is owned by Anthony and Sandy Taylor, and is now a large antique centre. I was introduced to them through the American broadcaster and writer, Chris Dickon, with whom during my project I had been in a long correspondence, concerning the Chesapeake. He was the expert

                                       Dickon C, (2008) The Enduring Journey of the USS Chesapeake: Navigating the Common History of Three Nations ISBN 978.1.59629.296.7

We drove down from Yorkshire and visited the Mill. Above the door we noticed there was a  tarnished plaque. Sandy gave me the run of the place ...two floors of pure Chesapeake

Some of the beams had race marks cut into them by the shipwrights that had built her in the US.

But for me the crowning moment was the graffiti left by the crew.

By the way, she was designed by a British Shipwright.


  • Guest
Re: HMS Chesapeake Figurehead
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2012, 16:44:29 »
I'm afraid I don't recall the figurehead, but this is where some of CHESAPEAKE's timbers ended up:

Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Chesapeake Figurehead
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2012, 14:02:53 »
The figurehead of HMS Chesapeake used to stand at the entrance to Sheerness Docks. I remember it still being there in the mid-80's.

It was a replica of the figurehead (reputedly a representation of Princess Pocahontas) of the former USS Chesapeake,  taken by HMS Shannon in 1813. The ship was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Chesapeake and was broken up in 1820. In 1855, a 51 gun Forte Class screw frigate was launched and was named after the former American ship. The later HMS Chesapeake had a replica of the former American ship's figurehead. When HMS Chesapeake was broken up at Charlton in 1867, the figurehead was taken to Sheerness and put on display there.

The figurehead was taken to Chatham for preservation as a temporary measure in 1990, but seemingly was too far gone to be properly restored. As of November 2011, a replica is being made by Andy Peters at Maritima Woodcarving.

Here's some links to a couple of web pages about it (amongst other things).

Does anyone have any pictures of the figurehead in place at Sheerness?
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent


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