HMS Victory Copper

(c) Vin Callcut 2002-2017. Small extracts can be used with acknowledgements to '' website.

Helpful comments are very welcome.


HMS Victory Main Website

The world’s oldest vessel in continuous commission has well passed the bicentenary of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar that ensured her fame and preservation.

HMS Victory was ordered in 1759 during the Seven Years War but defence cutbacks at the end of the war meant that she was not launched until 1765.  This long period of seasoning for the timber has helped her long life.  She is 69m (226ft) long from bowsprit to taffrail and 62m (205ft) high from waterline to main mast.  She could spread up to 37 sails and has 42km (26 miles) of rigging cordage.  Displacement 3,500 tons.  She was sheathed with nearly 4,000 sheets of copper of 4ft x 14in nominal size (1,220 x 356mm). Armament 104 guns.  Of the crew of 821 men who were on board at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, 22 were Americans and 22 came from mainland Europe.

After the career that established affection with the public, HMS Victory became the flagship for the Port Admiral in Portsmouth but was listed for disposal in 1831. Fortunately she was preserved by public acclaim and in 1889 acquired her present title of flagship for the Commander-in-Chief.  Routine maintenance continued but in 1903 she was accidentally rammed, necessitating extensive repairs to be completed before the celebrations of the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1905.  In 1922 she was placed in her present permanent dry dock in Portsmouth Historic Naval Dockyard.  Now we look forward to the bicentenary of Trafalgar in 2005.

Many copper souvenirs were issued in support of the centenary celebrations, most of these being made by recycling copper from the sheathing.  Some brass items such as doorknockers may have been cast at this time but the big impetus for the production of brass souvenirs started when the public imagination was fired with enthusiasm in 1922 and thereafter.  These items were available in far greater quantities than were retailed from Portsmouth.  It was fashionable to fit ornamentation to most domestic tools such as fire irons, toasting forks, crumb trays and shoe horns.  Various representations of HMS Victory were among those commonly included in the catalogues of hardware manufacturers through the 1930s and again from the 1950s onwards.  Besides romantic marine items such as galleons and ‘Mayflower’, alternative themes included Dickensian and Shakespearian associations, cathedrals and other well known architectural features in provincial towns and cities.  Link to:   HMS Victory Brass

HMS Victory memorabilia includes a big selection of items made from brass or copper.  They celebrate the fact the HMS Victory is the oldest naval ship in the world that has been continuously in commission.  In 2005 there were  exhibitions and events staged to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Link to: Victory Memorabilia

Link to: Victory Copper Sheathing

These sections will cover many copper artefacts made from sheet that was originally used to clad the hull of the ship.  It will also mention some of the many rolling mills that made the original copper sheathing.

Link to: HMS Victory Medalets

A page of souvenir medalets, medallions and pendants.

Link to: HMS Victory Brass 

Brass souvenirs have been sold locally in the dockyard at Portsmouth and distributed worldwide through usual brassware outlets.  The major manufacturers of brassware in Birmingham had 'HMS Victory' emblems available to be used as finials on fireside wares and other brassware throughout the first half of the 20th century.  Since very little of these items bear a manufacturer's mark, it is interesting to find out which firms produced the best quality items.

hms victory

This recent photo taken in Portsmouth shows the wealth of detail in the hull and rigging that is sometimes well reproduced in good brassware and other representations.  The stern is much less conspicuous on the original than in many of the romanticised replicas.

Link to: HMS Foudroyant Copper

A page that briefly covers another of Nelson's flagships from which the copper has been  recycled to good use.