Figurehead of the HMS Canopus

Basic Information

Figurehead type
Figurehead of the HMS Canopus
Vessel name
HMS Canopus
Type (Naval/Merchant)
Copyright owner
© National Maritime Museum
Copyright notes
Photo: © National Maritime Museum
Current location
Kidbrooke Stores, National Maritime Museum
Location date

Physical Information

Figurehead from an 80-gun 3rd rate, formerly the French 'Franklin'. A bust-length Figurehead representing a classical warrior in a plumed helmet, from HMS 'Canopus'. Inscription reads: 'Canopus'.
Date made
Place made
H304.8 x W127 x D114.3 cms
wood: pine
Object history
The figurehead was presented by the Admiralty from the Rigging Loft at Devonport Dockyard in 1936. It is one of the few 18th-century heads that survive, the warrior figure being much favoured by French figurehead designers.
Vessel history
The ship was an 80-gun, 3rd rate, formerly the French 'Franklin', which was built in 1796 and captured by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, after losing half her crew and being left with only one gun capable of returning fire. She served under Nelson in the Mediterranean, 1803-05, but was not at Trafalgar, being one of the ships he sent down to Gibraltar for stores just before the battle. In 1807 she was at San Domingo. 'Canopus' was a fast sailer and when 50 years old, in 1847, took part in sailing trials against seven other ships of the line and four frigates. She overcame all opposition, beatiing HMS 'Superb' by a hundred yards and the rest of the field by two to six miles. She was placed on harbour service in 1863 as a receiving ship at Devonport and sold for breaking-up in 1887. The French named the ship after the American statesman Benjamin Franklin, a hero of America's struggle for republican independence from Britain in the 1770s and later American ambassador in Paris. Her later name, 'Canopus', is that of an ancient Egyptian city near Aboukir Bay, site of the Battle of the Nile. She was acquired by Castles for breaking up in 1887.
P. Norton, Figureheads, David & Charles, 1976
Giancarlo Costa, Figureheads, Nautical Publishing Co. Ltd., 1981
Admiralty Catalogue(1911) No 412

Ownership Information

Owner type
Public Institution
Owner name
National Maritime Museum
Contact details
Royal Museums Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
Ownership can be cited online
Accessible to public
By appointment
Data verified by owner
Date verified

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