Restoration of The Pendragon Castle

Historic black and white magazine cutting from the “SHIP LOVER’S MAGAZINE published some time during the 1940’s, showing the “PENDRAGON CASTLE” with other Figureheads in the collection on Burgh Island “Getting Ready for the Season”.
Today she stands serenely in the showrooms of Trinity marine looking out over the beautiful South Devon Town of Teignmouth, a truly magnificent sight at over 7 feet tall as graceful and as charming as the day she was carved over 115 years ago, her name is “PENDRAGONCASTLE” perhaps her crew had a nick-name for her the “PENNY” or even the old dragon, who knows, what is known however is that she was built at the shipyard of RICHARD WILLIAMSON & SON of Workington, Lancashire one of several vessels built in this yard and known throughout the Maritime World of the time, as the Workington sisters, each one built to the same design and layout four-masted steel Barque with a tonnage of 2512 GRT and 2463 NRT, with a flush deck, like many hundreds of other sailing ships builtUp and down the United Kingdom, the very backbone of our Maritime Trade, “PENDRAGON CASTLE” was built for the Pendragon Castle Ship Company Limited and launched on the 23rd January 1891, for J Chambers & Company Limited of Liverpool, in all she made five round voyages under the British Red Ensign, the first over to India and the port of Calcutta and back to Hull in East Yorkshire, arriving back up the Humber in the worse blizzard to hit that part of the United Kingdom in over 100 years, 113 days out and almost within sign of port she touched the Halle sands, losing both her anchors and cables, and had to be taken in hand by the local tugs, on her next voyage she was loaded with coal in Cardiff for Colombo,a trip of 4351 miles, she did this in 19 days, with a 24hour best of 343 miles, her return voyage to the United Kingdom was to prove disastrous, she had cholera aboard and had to put into St Helena for assistance, some of the crew has already died of the disease in Rangoon, her master died soon after her arrival in England.

Post-card PENDRAGON CASTLE FigureheadIn 1899 after only 8 years with J Chambers she was sold to the German company of Schmidt and re-named the “LISBETH”, after the First World War she was allocated to the French Government as reparation, after a very short period in French hands she was sold again this time to new Germany owners, Claus Hinrichsen ship-agents of Hamburg they in turn used her on a number of voyages during the 1920 and 30’s.
The next time we hear of the “PENDRAGON CASTLE” is in the April 1933 issue of the British magazine “SEA BREEZES” Vol XVII, with a small note,

Rock Ferry stands on the opposite side of the Mersey estuary looking towards the great seaport of Liverpool, it is quite possible that the figurehead was taken off the vessel when she was first sold to Schmidt and company in 1899, a common practice at the time, and placed in the grounds of the Rock Ferry Hotel, together with other Figureheads taken from local vessels and used to decorate the Hotels Tea Gardens, after the Second World War the entire area around Rock Ferry was extensively redeveloped and the Hotel demolished, to make was for the ubiquitous road improvements, all the figureheads in the collection being sold and dispersed to new homes around the United Kingdom, “PENDRAGON CASTLE” moved down from the North West to the South Coast to become one of several Figureheads used as decoration around the grounds of the Burgh Island Hotel off Bigbury-on-Sea, South Devon, and here she stood at the entrance to the Hotel until the late 1980’s when age and the effects of the beautiful Devon climate proved too much and she was almost lost.

Photos of the restorationShe was taken down to a workshop in Southampton for a full conservation and restoration programme ensuing that the true essence and character of the figurehead has survived, during her years as sentry at both Rock Ferry and Burgh Island, she had been re-painted countless times, and not always with the same colour scheme, it would appear that any paint at hand was used in this “Touch and go” approach, hiding much of her beautifully detailed carving, particularly around the face and hair, a detailed record was taken as each paint layer was removed until it was possible to see details of the first paint scheme, making the final re-painting as accurate as possible.

Once the “Hard” work was done I was brought in to the project by the restoration team to give her back her dignity and style, the owners of “PENNY” had seen my work on the Queen Victoria Figurehead over in Wales, plus the Lord Beaconsfield head and shoulders in the Town Docks Museum in Hull, the re-painting of any carving of this type has to be handled in a sensitive and sympathetic way, too many figureheads in the past have been re-painted in a totally unacceptable way, faces looking more like clowns or marsh mallow, than a real person, any kind of depth of feeling lost in a rush to put paint to wood, this was not to be the case with the “PENDRAGON CASTLE”, Colour post-card showing the “Lady of the Lamp”working on a blank canvas, and using a limited palette of just five colours, in keeping with the traditional Figurehead carvers materials used throughout the nineteenth century, she was totally re-painted over a period of time, each colour and layer toned together to give an overall look very much in keeping with contemporary figureheads of the time.

Today the “PENDRAGON CASTLE” can be viewed in the showrooms of Trinity Marine Company of 18-20 Station Road, Teignmouth South Devon, together with the largest stock of Marine Artifacts in Europe, she would make a magnificent focal point at the entrance to any corporate development, or maritime establishment, a true survivor from the great age of sail, and one of the few Figureheads for sale today in the United Kingdom to have a full and eventful pedigree.