HMS Victory: Conservation workers find 127-year-old coin under ship’s mast

·2-min read
Diana Davis, Head of Conservation at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, holds a 127-year-old farthing on the gun deck of HMS Victory (PA)
Diana Davis, Head of Conservation at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, holds a 127-year-old farthing on the gun deck of HMS Victory (PA)

A 127-year-old farthing has been discovered under the mast of Lord Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory.

The Victorian-era coin was found when the mast of the Royal Navy’s oldest commissioned warship was removed for restoration work in May.

It will now go on display at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) in Portsmouth to mark Trafalgar Day on October 21.

The date of the coin – 1894 – marks the year a set of masts were installed on the ship. They replaced Douglas fir masts from the 1850s which had become rotten.

The coin, which was placed under the ship for good luck in line with Victorian tradition, was discovered next to a metal wedge between the mast and the base plate.

Diana Davis, head of conservation at the museum, found the coin – which would now have a value of 0.1p – when she was examining the base plate after the mast had been lifted out in May 2021.

She said: “I excavated it from the shim on the mast base plate with a leaf trowel and scalpel, after recording and drawing it in situ.

“Then, in the laboratory, I removed as much of the corrosion as possible without damaging the patinated copper alloy surface.

“There has been a little bit of loss to the coin’s surface from the impact of the mast with upwards of 21 tonnes resting on it, but I was able to clean enough of the sound surface to uncover the lighthouse to the lower left side of Britannia, allowing us to date it as an 1894 farthing.

“It’s been one of the more unusual projects I’ve worked on – being the first person to see the coin in over 120 years.”

In perfect condition, the coin would have shown Queen Victoria’s head on one side and Britannia on the other, with a lighthouse in the background.

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