Figurehead of the Rosherville

Basic Information

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

Physical Information

Finely carved long-bust-length polychrome figurehead from the wooden brig or brigantine 'Rosherville' of London, representing a gentleman in dress of about 1837 with a jewelled pin in his cravat.
Date made
Place made
H104 x W66 x D49.5 cms
Object history
Accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of Estate Duty in 1979 from Robert Arthur Dorien-Smith. The collection was begun by Augustus Smith (1806-72) who leased the islands from the Duchy of Cornwall. The figureheads in the Valhalla Collection came from vessels wrecked on Scilly.
Vessel history
The date and place of build of the ship are not recorded but in 1855 her registered voyage was from London to Rio de Janeiro. She arrived in St Mary's Roads, Scilly, with her pumps choked and was discharging some of her cargo (rice, beer, wine and brandy) when she caught fire on 3 March of that year. When her cable burnt through she drifted and was beached at Pendrathen, near Bar Point, the northern tip of St Mary's. The tide extinguished the flames and by the next day she was a gutted hulk. 'Rosherville' was traditionally reported to have been a French prize vessel when the Museum assumed responsibility for the 'Valhalla' Collection in the 1970s, presumably on account of her name and despite the fact that no such place in France could be found. That remained the situation until well after publication of the new NMM guidebook to the collection in 1984. We then fortuitously noticed (from REL0301, a passenger ticket long on display in the old Neptune Hall) that Rosherville was the destination from which the ill-fated Thames passenger steamer 'Princess Alice' was returning in 1878 when she was run down off Blackwall by the 'Bywell Castle', with heavy loss of life. Rosherville is a residential area just west of Gravesend, built on former pleasure gardens created in the early 19th century, on land formerly owned by the family of Jeremiah Rosher, who were involved in local chalk mining: the pleasure gardens were built on 18 acres of their estate comprising old chalk pits and had a passenger pier by 1840. This suggests that the 'Rosherville' may, in fact, have been a Thames-built vessel and that her figurehead is perhaps a related portrait. The apparent 1830s style of the dress suggests candidates may be Jeremiah Burch Rosher (1792-1847) who appears to have been the head of the family when the gardens were created, or possibly George Jones (d. 1872) the Gardens' developer and life-Chairman. Another possibility given the flamboyant style, though one suggesting the ship would have been built later, in the 1840s, might be 'Baron' Nathan, the Master of Ceremonies in the Gardens' 'Baronial Hall' from 1842 to his death in 1857. That said, no portrait of Jones is known and the figurehead is reported as being unlike Nathan (compared to a silhouette of him) or Rosher, from a known miniature; see Notebook field for details.
‘Valhalla’ The Tresco Ships’ Figurehead Collection (NMM, 1984)

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
Data verified by owner
Date verified

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