Restoration of The Pendragon Castle

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.