Prisoners of war remembered

29th June 2021

A fine bone model of a ship, made by French prisoners of war over 200 years ago, has been sold for the first time in over a century.

The half metre long model of a three-masted Royal Navy frigate (lot 325) was made by prisoners held at Portchester Castle in Hampshire during the Napoleonic Wars and realised £21,875 when it came up for auction at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury on 6th July.

“The level of intricacy and skilled workmanship in this model is quite exceptional,” explained Works of Art specialist at Woolley and Wallis, Mark Yuan-Richards. “Artworks by prisoners of war in the 19th century come up at auction quite frequently but they rarely match the quality seen here.”

The model features 48 guns, three fully rigged masts and a polychrome female figurehead, and the stern is carved with a coat of arms featuring the British lion and the unicorn.

Portchester Castle, near Fareham, was first used as a prisoner of war camp during the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 1660s and the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th century were the last time it saw such service. In the first decade of the 1800s the castle was home to up to 8,000 prisoners at a time, coming from all walks of life.

The model is part of the collection of the late Edward Croft-Murray (1907-1980) whose uncle purchased the model from Lisle Court on the Isle of Wight in 1908. It has been passed down the family since then and is now being sold for the first time in 113 years.

“It’s a privilege to sell an object of this type, which says so much about the men who were incarcerated in Portchester Castle 200 years ago, and the length of time they must have had on their hands,” continued Yuan-Richards. “The incredible detail of this model shows that not only were they skilled craftsmen, but also experienced sailors who could accurately reproduce a ship of this type.”

The ship was sold as part of the Furniture and Works of Art auction at Woolley and Wallis on 6th July.

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