Figureheads in Greenwich


I’ve always been fascinated with shipbuilding, particularly during the 18th century.  Figureheads were carried by nearly all warships of the time as a sign of strength and power, each representing the ship’s name. The end production cost could make up to 20% of the overall ship’s build.

Seen below are a collection of some of the most impressive wooden carved figureheads to survive the ravages of time. They are currently on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

As science advanced and the need for speed became of paramount importance, these heavy majestic emblems became obsolete and were all but gone by the start of the 20th century.

HMS Warrior figurehead. Source: Wikipedia
The warrior Ajax from Greek mythology belonging to HMS Ajax – a 74 gun ship built in London in 1809
The bulldog figurehead has the words CAVE CANEM (beware of the dog) etched on its collar. HMS Bulldog was set on fire by her very own captain to stop her from falling into enemy hands during a skirmish off the coast of Haiti. The figurehead was luckily saved from this wooden paddle sloop. HMS Bulldog and was made by Hellyer & Son, Portsmouth. The ship was built at Chatham dockyard in 1845.
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