The first figureheads that were carved to represent the names of British warships appeared during the reign of Henry VIII; the last ones were carved in the early years of the twentieth century. During the intervening three hundred and fifty years it is estimated that some 5000 ships of the Royal Navy carried a figurehead of some description. This book follows the development of these diverse carvings, examining how the figurehead carvers interpreted the names and the symbolism incorporated in their designs. Evidence is drawn from a wide range of sources: contemporary ship models, ship plans, designs submitted for approval of the Navy Board and, of course, from those figureheads that have survived.
Lavishly illustrated with much previously unpublished material, the book explores the wide range of subjects that were represented on the bows of Their Majesties’ Ships and recounts many of the stories that were told about them.
The narrative is complemented by a catalogue that provides a brief description of each surviving figurehead, each carver’s design drawing with its source and reference number as well as those ship plans and contemporary models that show the figurehead’s detail. This combination makes the book useful to a wide range of historians, researchers and anyone with an interest in Britain’s maritime past.
FIGUREHEADS OF THE ROYAL NAVY
The book takes us from the origins of the figurehead in the days of Henry VIII to the ending of this practice with the advance of the steam navy in the early 20th century. After looking at examples from the 16th-18th centuries, David also takes us in detail to the 19th century with specific examples of figureheads. Quite apart from the content of the book, the Figurehead Directory consists of 31 pages listing alphabetically all the approximately 200 examples of Royal Navy ship’s figureheads. The illustrations are, of course, the heart of this book and its raison d’etre. This book has become the standard reference for anyone who might need information on Royal Navy figureheads. A detailed bibliography setting out the sources is also included together with a comprehensive index.