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Author Topic: Disposal of Ships’ Figureheads in the Chatham Area  (Read 11088 times)

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Offline kyn

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Re: Disposal of Ships’ Figureheads in the Chatham Area
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2014, 17:06:02 »
I agree that we should not seek to sell any of these figureheads.  Nor would I disagree with the proposal to include the Dover Harbour Board and the Society of Merchant Venturers among the legatees.

2.   The biggest question, I think, is how we treat the museums.  The case for gifts to museums presumably rests on the antiquarian and historical value of the figureheads.  From that point of view I should have thought the right course was to concentrate them in the museum providing the most appropriate setting – i.e. the N.M.M.  I cannot see that figureheads are relevant to the functional purpose of the Science Museum, though they would doubtless form an embellishment of its galleries or grounds.  I would accordingly suggest that we offer the N.M.M. virtually first choice of six in good condition, plus any of the shaky ones that it would like to have.  (I have verified that the N.M.M. would like the opportunity to consider those in poor shape).

3.   The Board may wish to note the proposal that Chesapeake’s reputed figurehead should be restored and returned to America as a graceful gesture.  Personally I doubt whether this is a worth while idea.  The authenticity is apparently not established and in general, people (with the possible exception of the British) do not like to be reminded of their defeats.

4.   I am by no means convinced of the wisdom of handing over any figureheads to the local authorities in Sheppey.  It is, however, gratifying that they should wish in this way to commemorate the Island’s naval connection and to frustrate that wish would probably lose us much goodwill.

5.   My only other question is to wonder whether it would be quite fair to D.A.S. not to allocate even one of these figureheads to his Department, seeing that some will have come from the Gunwharf.

6.   In short, my proposals are as follows:-

(1)   Sheppey Local Authorities - 3 from Sheerness as proposed by C. in C.

(2)   N.M.M. – choice if any other 6 in good condition, plus any of those in bad condition which the Trustees were prepared to repair at their expense.

(3)   Otherwise as in M.II’s paragraph 8, except for the following amendments –

D.A.S.   1 – for allocation to an A.S. establishment at his discretion, and in consequence
F.O.S.T.   1 – for base.

7.   It would, I think, be as well to point out tactfully to all the recipients other than the museum the importance of careful maintenance.

8.   The gifts to the Dover Harbour Board and the Society of Merchant Venturers will be subject to Treasury sanction and I draw attention to X/ of paragraph 3 of G.F. II’s report of 28.9.1959.

9th February, 1960.

I have discussed this further with Dep. Sec.(G) and we are agreed that for the present the figureheads within Chatham Barracks should not be re-allocated.

2.   It is approved:-

(i)   To offer the three good Sheerness Dockyard figureheads to the local civic authorities, subject to the condition that if at any time they are no longer required their further disposal should first be agreed with the Admiralty.

(ii)   That D.A.S. be given the choice of selecting two figureheads out of the four from his establishments, namely one at Gunwharf, one at Lodge Hill and two at Grain, for re-allocation to other A.S. establishments.

(iii)   That the N.M.M. be offered the choice of any three figureheads from the two remaining ex A.S. establishments, the four from R.N.H. and the two at Admiralty House (Forester and Rinaldo).  Also the three in poor condition remaining in Sheerness; these would have to be move d before the Dockyard is handed over p.m. on 31st March.

3.   The five figureheads then remaining will be re-allocated by me to other naval establishments.

18th February, 1960.

Offline kyn

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Re: Disposal of Ships’ Figureheads in the Chatham Area
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2014, 17:59:48 »
The delay in dealing with this paper is regretted.

2.   Looking at this from a (naturally) biased financial viewpoint, G.F.II would expect the genuine offers to purchase to have precedence over all other applicants with the exception of Naval Establishments (not Admiralty Establishments such as R.N.A.D’s, etc.) and the National Maritime Museum whose requirements, if approved, should be satisfied first.  These figureheads which are in good or reasonable condition could fetch a fairly high sum and no reason is seen why we should not seek to obtain the best possible prices if there are people ready to pay them.  It would be safe to assume that we have cornered the market in these old wooden curios, and enquiries from private applicants indicate that there is a demand for them; some well-placed publicity might, therefore, be profitable.  (G.F.II would imagine that Mr. Hawley Lester Smith II of Brazil, who has offered to buy two, might be prepared to pay a good sum.)

3.   If it is proposed to give figureheads to the National Maritime Museum, and local Councils, this would be within Board discretion.  Gifts to other bodies including the Dover Harbour Board, and private individuals would require Treasury approval.  Any packing or transport costs would normally be recoverable (except in the case of museums when providing these services were effected by Government personnel and by Government vehicles no charge need be made).  All outside applicants would, of course, be responsible for installing the figureheads on their ultimate sites.

4.   Expenditure from Navy Votes on renovation, removal from site, transport, etc., of figureheads for Naval Establishments, would be subject to the provisions of O.M. 82/59, if unprogrammed.

J.G. Somerville
For head of General Finance Branch II.
28 September, 1959.

Offline kyn

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Re: Disposal of Ships’ Figureheads in the Chatham Area
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2014, 10:44:03 »
Following the decision to close down the Nore Command and to dispose of Sheerness Dockyard and various naval establishments within the Command, the question of the removal and redistribution of the figureheads which will thus become available has been examined.  (In this connection the First Sea Lord (Admiral Mountbatten) asked to be kept informed of any action proposed.)

2.   Although C. in C. Nore has undertaken to supply a complete list of figureheads which will eventually become available for disposal, it is understood that 44 figureheads are held in his command.  The enclosed Statement A shows the number at each establishment, the future of the establishments, and the resulting number of figureheads likely to be available for disposal between 1960 and 1963.  Statement B gives detailed particulars of the figureheads, etc.

3.   C. in C. Nore has suggested that the figureheads should remain where they are – but he agrees that this may not be practicable if the establishments are to be disposed of to commercial interests.  The Deputy Secretary (P) has also indicated that, in his opinion, some of the figureheads should go to the National Maritime Museum in indefinite loan.

4.   The move of these relics will, in all probability, attract interest and criticism from the local areas, mainly on sentimental grounds.  However, since there can be no guarantee that the new owners of the properties will either keep or maintain the figureheads appropriately, MII would suggest that it would be more sensible and less open to long-term criticism to offer some to the National Maritime Museum and to allocate the remainder to other naval establishments with a more permanent future and also, possibly, to some outside bodies with a strong interest or attachment to the Royal Navy.  This would ensure that the figureheads would be suitably preserved.

5.   The Dockyard at Chatham is now being retained by the Admiralty, so that the question of moving the 18 figureheads located there no longer arises.  A small portion of the R.N. Barracks is likely to be retained for accommodation purposes, and it has therefore been assumed that it may be considered desirable to leave for erection outside the block retained by the Navy, two of the 12 figureheads at present held at the barracks.

6.   Against the 18 – 19 figureheads which will actually be available for disposal as the various establishments close down, numerous requests have already been received from both naval and civilian sources.  These are shown in Statement C enclosed, and are placed in the order of priority which M.II considers appropriate.

7.   There are, however, the questions of (A) payment for the cost of removing, transporting and reinstalling these figureheads and (B) repayment by any outside bodies to whom figureheads are allocated.  The docket is therefore referred to G.F.II in the first place to advise on these questions.

For head of Military Branch II
12 August, 1959.

Offline kyn

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Disposal of Ships’ Figureheads in the Chatham Area
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2014, 17:48:15 »
Action with C.-in-C., Nore, and C.S., Sheerness, in regard to the Figureheads held in establishments under their jurisdiction was taken in A.L. D.23287/57, dated 4th December, 1957, as a result of an enquiry from Civil Lord.

2.   Reply received from C.-in-C., Nore, has been inserted in D.23287/57 attached, but no reply has yet been received from C.S., Sheerness.

3.   Sheerness has been hastened verbally, and it is, therefore, proposed that the action referred to in M. Branch’s remarks, dated 18th March, 1958, should be deferred pending receipt of Yard reply.

4.   C.E.-in-C. has been added to the marking.

5.   IT is requested that D.23287/57 may be returned to this department at an early date for insertion of further replies from Yards and Administrative Authorities.

Director General, Dockyards and Maintenance
24 March, 1958.

Concur generally in the proposals contained in C. in C. Nore’s letter No. 659/701/9/1, dated 7th June, 1958, enclosed.

2.   D.7460 which contains the application from the Sheerness Urban District Council referred to in para. 2(a)(i) of C. in C’s letter, has been attached.

3.   A further letter from C. in C. Nore, No. 807/701/9/1, dated 8th July, 1958, forwarding a request received from the Naval Ordnance Inspecting Officer, Royal Ordnance Factory, Chorley, Lancs, for the allocation of a figurehead to the R.N. Proof Yard, Chorley, has been inserted.  It is suggested that this application could be satisfied by the re-allocation of the figurehead “Resistance”, ex Humber Division R.N.V.R., referred to in M.111/39/58, to Chorley.

4.   Details of the figureheads available at R.N. Barracks, Chatham are enclosed in D.23287/57 attached.

5.   Requests for sale of surplus figureheads to private individuals are contained in M.11/111/44/58 and D.14253/58, which have also been attached temporarily.  In view of the remarks contained in Deputy Controller’s note dated 12th March, 1958 enclosed, it would appear necessary to obtain a policy decision in regard to such sales.

Dockyard Division
For Director General, Dockyards & Maintenance
23 September, 1958

C. in C. Plymouth’s letter sated 27th October, 1958 has been inserted.

2.   Before a decision can be reached, it is requested that C. E. in C. will make arrangements for a survey of the figurehead CHESAPEAKE to be undertaken and to furnish an opinion as to whether it could be sufficiently refurbished to warrant further consideration being given to C. in C.’s proposal.

R. Petril
For Head of Military Branch,
3rd November, 1958.

The overall question of disposal of figureheads which will eventually become available in the Chatham area will be considered nearer the time when the establishments concerned close down in 1960/61.

2.   Consequent on the closing down last year of H.M. Gun Wharf, Chatham, however, the figureheads Basilisk and Unite are available for disposal now.  The Flag Officer, Admiralty Interview Boards, in the enclosed letter (Tab “A”) has put in a bid for Unite to be transferred to H.M.S. Sultan in order that it may be mounted outside the unimpressive entrance used by candidates attending the Admiralty Interview Boards.  This figurehead is at present in store at Chatham, no other bids have been received for it, and M. Branch would have no objection to Unite being transferred for the purpose proposed.

3.   It is accordingly proposed to inform the F.O.A.I.B. that his application is approved, and to instruct Chatham to arrange for the transportation of Unite to H.M.S. Sultan.

4.   Submitted for approval.  (DAS has no objection to the application for a figurehead from RNAD B**** being limited to DUNCAN only)

for Head of Military Branch II,
16th February, 1959.

With reference to paragraph 2 of Head of M.’s minute dated 3rd November, 1958, the Superintending Civil Engineer, Chatham has reported that the condition of the figurehead “Chesepeake” is as recorded in C. in C. Nore’s No. 659/701/9/1 dated 7th June, 1958 (hereon) and that whether it can be restored to a suitable condition for removal cannot be properly ascertained, nor can a reliable estimate be proposed, until work has been put in hand.

2.   A rough order of cost for the work which is expected to be required is Ł100 exclusive of P.I. or similar percentage charges.  This sun includes for cutting the figurehead off the plinth base, repairs and re-painting.

18th March, 1959.


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