A RARE and priceless trophy of Admiral Nelson’s fleet which was salvaged from the deep waters off the Scilly Isles, may soon take pride of place on the islands.
The 3.3m elm carving of a man in neo-classical dress was recovered from the HMS Colossus, one of Nelson‘s Mediterranean fleet, which ran aground near the islands in 1798.
Discovered in 2002, and described as one of the “most important historic carvings” by experts, it has been restored over the past few years.
However, it is now back on Scilly where it is hoped it can form the centrepiece of the collection of figureheads, known as Valhalla, on the island of Tresco.
Maritime historian and author Richard Larn said it was an amazing relic which would have originally adorned the upper port side of the ship’s stern.
“In the British context I would say it is probably one of the most important historic carvings that has been recovered from a shipwreck, it is top of the league in this country,” he said.
Bryher diver Mac Mace, together with archaeologist Kevin Camidge, raised the carving from its sandy grave at the wreck site off the uninhabited island of Samson.
For the past few years the carving has been with the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth where an islands’ initiative has paid for its restoration and conservation.
“We set up the Isles of Scilly Maritime Heritage Trust which raised enough money from donations, timeshare-owners and interested parties,” said Robert Dorrien Smith, who owns Tresco. “It’s now been restored to the point it is stable.”
The carving was returned to Scilly at the end of last year aboard the freighter Gry Maritha. Mr Dorrien Smith said it was currently in an “unflattering environment in a crate in a shed”.
He said the carving had to be treated in a different way to the current open-air collection of ship’s figureheads.
“The main difference is the Valhalla figureheads were mainly found on land, while the Colossus has been lying under water all this time and has to be treated in a different way,” Mr Dorrien Smith said.
“One possibility for the Colossus carving is a special climate-controlled case, although the Mary Rose people say it would be much nicer if its not in a case.”
Mr Dorrien Smith said a bid to find funding to put the artefact at the centre of a special display with interpretive boards was now underway.
There may also be an approach to museums in London to loan other pieces which have been salvaged from Colossus.