Thursday, 12 January 2012

Wooden Top

This is the head of Admiral Lord Howe, and he stares imperiously out over a hedge as you approach The Lee, up in the land of my maternal ancestors in The Chilterns. It is course a ship's figurehead, taken from the navy's last wooden warship- HMS Impregnable. The rest of the ship, broken up in 1921, was used very visibly in the extension of Liberty's store in London, and the house he guards is 'Pipers', the then home of Ivor Stewart-Liberty. Many of my family members worked in various guises for the Liberty's (my Great Aunt Pattie was inducted as the local District Nurse by Lady Liberty) and a decade or so after the appearance of the figurehead my father bicycled up from Great Missenden station to visit my mother-to-be at her grandfather's house in Lee Common. Unaware of the figurehead, his gas-fired cycle lamp suddenly picked out the admiral looming over the hedge, (only comparatively recently was he encased in a wooden shelter), and he promptly fell off into the ditch in fright, the lamp being immediately extinguished.

9 comments:

Philip Wilkinson said...

Cor! That's a good one. A meticulous piece of carving and painting and a far cry from the rather lumpen maids and mermaids one sometimes encounters adorning the gardens of seaside houses. Good on the Libertys for preserving him, although it's a bit odd that he's ended up so far from the briny.

Peter Ashley said...

He is good, ain't he. Figureheads are, of course, usually found much nearer the sea, one of the most memorable being from the wrecked Caledonian and up on the inside of Hawker's Morwenstow church in Cornwall. A ghostly replica sits out in the churchyard above the sailors' burial ground.

Jon Dudley said...

What a gem! And what an amazing location! I was reminded of that fabulous image in 'Panoramas of Lost London' with two figureheads either side of the entrance to a long-gone ship-breakers. They have a jolly nice collection at the NMM, Greenwich I recall.

Peter Ashley said...

Jon: It is certainly one of the most unexpected things to find in the English countryside. And this being Midsomer county, (The Lee is constantly used for village fetes), I'm amazed it hasn't featured as a silent witness. To mix my crime series.

Peter Ashley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth said...

Ah yes, I remember it well....

Flat Stanley said...

When I first found your blog via our friend the Wartime Housewife,the first image I saw was the beautiful Christmas card (& I agree with other comment that we should be able to buy these!)
Cards generally this year were rather insipid in design. My impression was of Libertys so my surprise to read of your close ties to this wonderful store.

Peter Ashley said...

Welcome Elizabeth and Flat Stanley.
I must try and do something about greetings cards this year.

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