The Spirit of Britons collection
‘A view from the Redoubtable’ - Background Information: –
'A view from the Redoubtable'
Victory oak 41 inches long
‘A View from the Redoubtable’ is currently being carved from an original piece of oak removed from Lord Nelson’s Flagship HMS Victory during the restoration program. This bas-relief carving was initially to be one of a pair of proposed Trafalgar scenes Ian initially started carving in the early 1990’s.
To date only the first of this pair; ‘The ‘Battle of Trafalgar’ scene has bene completed which was gifted in the 1990’s for display to the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth Dockyard. Over twenty-five years later the ‘A View from the Redoubtable’ has yet to be completed……… but Ian’s working on it.
When Ian began working on HMS Victory during the Ships restoration program in 1991/92 when he was commissioned to carve the warships starboard side entrance port. He was later given some of Victory’s centuries old, worm damaged, rotten, oak beams, full of history along with odd pieces of assorted metal bolts and nails still firmly attached to the timbers, to see if he would like to try and carve something worthwhile from any of them.
These old ships timbers had been removed from the hull of HMS Victory during the restoration program as they were deemed un-restorable and consequently by definition in the worst possible condition. Since then Ian has been attempting to do just that on and off for over two decades. Ian thought it might be fun to give it ago at the time and it took him almost two decades to find out perhaps it wasn’t; challenging attempting to carve anything from these rock-hard, partially painted old ship’s timbers, full of rot, traces of worm and the odd bits of metal here and there that had all seen better days definitely, but on reflection in the end perhaps not always so much fun.
Victory’s Starboard side Entrance Port
After the Starboard side Entrance Port had been completed and fitted onto HMS Victory. Ian left the ship and once again began working from his studio on his other commissions and after the demand had abated somewhat for the series of Dockyard projects e had made from this Victory oak, he started going through the pile of odd shaped Victory oak beams he had left over in his workshop and pulled out a pair of longish oak beams. Although on the outset they both looked worse for wear, once again working in his ‘spare time’ he decided to try and carve a pair of high bas-relief carved Scenes depicting the English Fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar’ at two different stages of the battle in 1805.
‘The ‘Battle of Trafalgar’ scene in the Royal Naval Museum in the mid 90's and ‘A view from Redoubtable’ carving shown here to date
Ian eventually completed the first of this pair; the five feet long ‘Battle of Trafalgar Scene’ depicting the English Fleet in the distance preparing to form two lines, with HMS Victory more prominently, as would have been viewed from the French ship Redoutable. The other carving was to be a view much closer to the action, with Victory’s bow just feet away from the Redoubtable and about to break through the line of French warships, closely followed by the British Warship Temeraire’ which was to be the ‘A view from Redoubtable’ high bas-relief carving.
This particular oak beam used for this relief carving was carved from what remained of one of Victory’s outer oak frames removed from the starboard side of the ship’s hull during the ship’s restoration program. The beam like many others were subsequently replaced by the shipwrights with a replica made from Iroko. This oak cladding used for this relief carving still retains one of the original large copper nails stuck in the beam which was originally used to secure the ships hulls cladding.
Various Victory oak frames being replaced in the 1990’s and the starboard side oak frame used for both the BBC Children in Need’ carving and on the other side was used for the potential ‘A view from Redoubtable’ high bas-relief carving
One side of this oak framing was painted black and the other side had been sawn through at some point, but signs of rot and worm damage could still be seen. A year or so earlier Ian had also sawn several parallel thin slices down the whole length, at a half inch or so thickness at a time until sound oak eventually appeared to enable the potential ‘Victory in Sail’ one-piece carving, along with its thick oak frame which was produced for the BBC Children in Need’ fundraising appeal.
On the other side of the beam rot could clearly be seen as you carefully carved through the thin layer of black paint particularly in the middle where some rot was later discovered to also have spread underneath this thin layer of paint. One end of the beam was found to be too poor a condition so it was all cut away. The other end of the beam wasn’t quite so bad deep down so Ian was able could bring the potential image of Victory itself forward a bit and make the Victory a bit more prominent.
Due to the condition of the oak often the original planned design of the proposed carving was altered as you went along to avoid a lump of metal or further rot that might still be hidden away inside the beam which was often the case. In the end working with Victory oak the finished design or shape of the carving is often dictated entirely by the width and condition of the beam being worked on at the time.
From initial inspection the face of this oak ships framing timber didn’t look to bad but after careful cutting away into the beam more rot and worm damage presented itself, so the now proposed ‘A ‘View from Redoubtable’ battle scene’ like the previous ‘Victory in Sail’ BBC relief carving carved from the opposite side of the beam, was outlined initially by moving his cardboard outline template of the proposed carving around the face of the beam in a way to avoid any damaged oak.
The pair of carved ‘Battle of Trafalgar Scenes - Background Information.
The first old beam used for the carved Battle scenes still had an old iron hook attached to it which protruded through one side of the partially painted side of the beam was removed from the deckhead of the Warships lower gun deck. The iron hook was used to attach the rope supporting the Crews Mess table which was originally hung between a pair of 32 pounder guns.
The first of these carvings was to be simply named ‘The Battle of Trafalgar scene.’ The second relief carving ‘A view from Redoubtable’ ‘The Trafalgar scene’ was finished in the early 1990’s however although both carvings were initially being worked on at the same time, after a few weeks Ian concentrated all his efforts on the first relief carving and over twenty years later due to Ian’s ongoing commitments with his commissions ‘A view from Redoubtable’ is still has to be completed.
The Battle of Trafalgar Scene’ was eventually gifted to display to the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth Dockyard in the late1990’s and it was placed on display in the Museum for over a decade, , before it was placed in a glass cabinet on-board Victory’s middle gun deck, greeted the visitors to the ship as they entered the ships gun deck via the port side entrance port, where it remained for a further decade; shown above.
It was just after Ian completed the ‘Battle of Trafalgar’ scene and managed to get a grip on the backlog of his commissions, he once again gave serious thought of finishing ‘A View of Redoutable, when he once again got side tracked after visiting his nephew who gave him what remained of an old battered hull of the Airfix model of HMS Victory. The exact model which had eluded Ian as a child as his pocket money wouldn’t quite stretch that far.
Apart from the hull, as most of the bits required to make the model were small and having what remained of a few larger old Victory beams in his workshop, along with a box full of small lumps of Victory oak of all shapes, sizes and lengths doing nothing he thought once again after any rot or worm damaged was carefully removed from a couple of the larger oak beams, the timber there just might be enough good quality enough of this old Victory oak given to me by the dockyard years ago left over to carve a large scale model of HMS Victory in full sail and the whole concept of the Victory Sculpture began.
So, Ian decided to try and create something totally unique, a large-scale replica of HMS Victory in full sail in a way that has never been done before. All the carved ropes, rigging, flags and sails were to be carved entirely from Victory’s original solid oak timbers and nothing else. After eighteen year working on the Victory Sculpture, on and off; and in the end it took Ian three times longer to carve than it took to build the somewhat larger version which was launched at Chatham Dockyard in 1765; it was finally completed.
The Victory Sculpture
So once again during this period working on one Victory sculpture from what remained from these old rock-hard timbers would be enough for anyone, so the ‘A view from Redoubtable’ was once again put on the back burner so to speak, the relief carving was turned over onto its back to protect what had been carved so far, covered over with a cloth and placed at the back of his studio and eventually ended up as a rather thick shelf to put his work in progress and various other odds and sods on and the carved panel was left alone undisturbed for over a decade.
Almost twenty five years after it was started, Ian decided to finally try and finally finish ‘A view from Redoubtable’ and made a really good start for a month or so and then once again commissions took up all his time so it was once again abandoned, but this time it was placed on his work bench just feet away in full view from where he is was working. as a constant reminder, that none of us are getting any younger!
The ‘A view from redoubtable’ relief carving shown here in Ian’s studio in 2019 awaiting completion, along with in the foreground commissions for both Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle including the Crown for the King of the Netherlands.
HMS VICTORY OAK BACKGROUND INFO -
The HMS Victory oak used to carve the ‘A view from the Redoubtable’ base-relief carving amongst other carvings.
During Ian’s time working in Portsmouth Dockyard carving the Starboard Side Entrance Port he was given some Victory oak beams that had been removed from the Ship’s Hull during the ships restoration program as they were deemed unrestorable and unsuitable for returning back to the Ship to see if Ian would like to try and carve something ‘worthwhile’ from any of them.
These first year or so working with this old Victory oak attempting to navigated his way around the old oak timbers rot, worm damage, bolts and nails and he has produced a number of large and small carvings from some of these ships’ timbers. These old centuries old ship timbers were of all shapes, sizes and various stages of disrepair; however, Ian enjoyed the challenge of working with them especially as they well all surplice to requirements and many of the early carvings them ended of up being used for a wide variety of charity projects and gifts around the Dockyard and beyond.
The first carving Ian produced from Victory oak was for a small relief carving of the Victory in sail for a member of Staff in the Dockyard and then as word got around further requests were made for various different carvings projects from the dockyard staff from the Victory oak he worked on during his tea and lunch breaks, all for no charge. Ian has always liked to keep busy and being self-employed since 1976 only took tea breaks when he was working only if they were absolutely necessary, so having to take these lunch breaks in the Dockyard made the day drag a bit, so Ian found witling lumps of Victory oak during these breaks worked out rather well especially as he also enjoyed the challenge of trying to produce something from these old rather special pieces of oak.
Eventually these ‘rabbits’ (a term used for doing odd jobs for others for free is commonly known in the Dockyard) began to build up, it became necessary for Ian to spend some time working on them, sometimes even before he was due to start work on carving the Entrance Port and even on occasions to try and finish the carving off, often after he had finished his shift for the day.
The requests by both Victory’s Crew and Dockyard Staff ranged from small relief carvings of the Victory in sail, to small replica cannons, to later on as his expertise along with the size of the oak he was given to work on increased, much larger bas-relief carving started to be produced, obviously all depending on the size and condition of the Victory oak Ian was supplied with at the time. All the carvings were then donated to members of the workforce for a wide variety of Dockyard charity projects and some of these carvings over the months were also being gifted to other people including visiting VIP’s to the Dockyard. These ‘rabbits’ is a process Ian was happy to continue with years after he finished working in the Dockyard and still occasionally does when the time and right project comes along.
Various early dockyard projects all carved from Victory oak
Another dockyard term is ‘you’ve had your chips’. Portsmouth dockyard like many of the Naval Dockyards in the UK that built or repaired Warships often had materials, particular off cuts of timber left over after a ship build or repair and the workforce were allowed; with the Forman’s permission, to take any such material home after work. However, if they for some reason fell out with the foreman, this privilege was revoked and he was said to ‘Had your Chips’
It was always difficult to try and work out from any of these old Victory oak ships beams you were given to work with, if any sound oak remained beneath the old painted rotten and worm damaged timbers. So, to maximize whatever sound timber remains in any of the beams you had to just removed anything you couldn't carve. These freebee projects as far as Ian was concerned, later including two similar size but much larger bas-relief carvings of ‘HMS Victory in Sail’. The first carving depicting the Victory from the bow, the other carving the following year was depicting the Victory from the Stern. Both of which was donate to be actioned for the BBC Children in Need programs for consecutive years.
One year the BBC decided to film the Children in Need program from both inside and outside HMS Victory in Portsmouth and the Dockyard staff decided to get involved. Ian was asked if he also wanted to carve something from Victory oak for the fund, which he was happy to do. It was also agreed that as his Victory carving was going to be auctioned off live on the middle gun deck of the Victory and it was then decided by all that the carving should be made as larger as possible, as it was thought the larger more impressive the carving looked, potentially the more money it could make for the charity.
The dockyard office found a drawing of the Victory in full sail viewed from the bow for Ian to work from. This drawing was enlarged so the bas- relief carving of the Victory itself should then be around 10 inches wide x 18 inches high, plus the ships background. Apparently as it turned out it was far more difficult finding Ian a wide enough piece of worm and rot free Victory oak without any splits in it, as Ian needed to produce the relief carving from one single beam of 12 inches wide oak without any splits in it, including the ships background. It also had to have enough good solid oak to make its potential frame from the huge pile of old Victory beams that were covering the whole floor of the basement in the Georgian building alongside the Victory where they were locked away.
As Ian was working in number 4 boat house at the time so a Dockyard worker was asked by a supervisor to select some suitable large beams wide enough for Ian to try and work ofrom and a number of assorted oak ships beams of all shapes and sizes were pulled out from the unrestorable pile of Victory oak and placed in Ian’s car along with the necessary pass to remove it from the dockyard.
Over the coming days back home Ian slowly worked his way through of these old oak beams which looked like to some as just a huge pile of old, half painted firewood in the garden. Some of the beams he was given did appear to be in decent enough condition considering, but more importantly some looked wide enough for the first ‘Children in Need’ relief carving. The difficulty as always going through these old beams is as many are covered in thick layers of old paint it is almost impossible to tell just by looking at them whether what oak lies underneath is even capable of being carved.
Many such beams after cutting into them and working through the paint, rot and worm damage, avoiding any hidden bolts and nails that often got in the way, unfortunately in the end many weren’t really suitable, that is why of course why they were removed from the ship’s hull in the first place.
One particular oak beam looked wide enough which Ian was later told was one that was removed earlier from the deckhead of the warships lower gun deck. Another promising oak beam to work with was a bit longer but slightly curved and already had bits of oak taken from it. Apparently this one was one of the original starboard side oak frames from the Ship’s hull, but like all the other old beams were deemed unrestorable and therefore was also not suitable for placing back onto the ship.
The pair of ‘Children in Need’ ‘Victory oak one-piece carved panels were carved from two different oak beams. One shown from the Bow, the other carving from the Stern both were sold off to the highest bidder at charity functions on board Victory.
Ian also teamed up with various other people in the Dockyard who were also making things from Victory oak for the Charities including Keith one shown here with a large ships bowl he had turned on a lathe from a massive Victory oak beam. This wooden bowl which was also auctioned off on the middle gun deck during the BBC program along with Ian’s carving.
Both fortunately raised a good sum during the auction for the fundraising and Ian was then asked by the Victory’s crew if he would make a similar size carving the crew could then present to the Captain of HMS Victory upon his retirement. Likewise, a few years later when Ian was invited to give a Talk on the QE2 about his work, on route from New York to Southampton, he donated a similar carved Victory oak panel to the Captain of the QE2 for his own charity.