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Update on HMS Trincomalee’s Paint Analysis March 2021

Update on HMS Trincomalee’s Paint Analysis

In January 2021, paint samples were taken from HMS Trincomalee in order to determine what colours and finishes have been used over the centuries.

We have just received an initial report on three items that are no longer attached to the ship but that we had sampled because they once were, and because they all showed signs of intact paint layers.

The Catheads

First of all were two catheads, these carvings once adorned the end of the timbers which hold the anchor when it is raised.

Traditionally, the ends of these timbers on ships had cats’ faces on them, though no one really knows why.

The two we have were removed from the ship some decades ago but were always kept on board for people to see.

The paint layers tell us that one (with the lower face missing) is older than the other and may even date from the ship’s original build in 1817. We did suspect that this was an older design and the paint now confirms it.

The earliest cathead which may date to the 1817 build of the ship

The other cathead also has some age to it and may have been fitted shortly before the ship received its first commission in 1847.

This cat head is slightly later and was probably added around the time that HMS Trincomalee was prepared for her first commission (this is also when the ship had a new figurehead)

Both catheads were gilded in their early lives, and re-gilded when they got worn.

Later, probably when the ship became a training vessel, they were painted with gold paint, a cheaper option than gilding.You can still see traces of this in some areas in the form of a slight shimmer.

Catheads on the ship today (1990s replicas)

The Gunner's Store

The other item examined in this report is a spindle from the Gunner’s store which is down in the hold of the ship and was used to store equipment related to the ship’s cannons, and possibly other arms and ammunition.

Spindle from the Gunner’s store which was first painted white when the ship was built

There are lockers around this area which have spindled doors and this one was removed and replaced when the ship was restored in the 1990s.

The paint layers show that this also dates from the ship’s build era, and was originally painted white, then ochre, then green, and finally, black.

The information we have acquired from just these three items can help us when we come to repaint as we now know the correct colours for each given era.

We are looking forward to seeing the report for the whole ship, and sharing more news about HMS Trincomalee's historical colours when we receive the full and final report.

Keep an eye on our social channels for more updates.

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