From Under HMS Victory’s mast…
A 127-year-old coin placed under the mast of the HMS Victory as part of a centuries-old sea-faring tradition has been sensationally uncovered and put on display at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to mark this year’s Trafalgar Day commemorations on Thursday 21 October.
The coin, identified as a farthing, was uncovered in the base plate of the 32-metre, 26-tonnes mast section which was temporarily removed from Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship during a highly complex three-day engineering challenge, earlier this year.
It will be put on display from Trafalgar Day in the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s newest gallery, HMS Victory: The Nation’s Flagship, which charts the extraordinary story of the remarkable survivor considered by many to be the world’s most famous ship.
The coin is a farthing from 1894, with a face value at the time of ¼ pence, which would be worth about 0.1p today. If in perfect condition it would feature Queen Victoria’s head on one side, with her hairstyle documented to 1874-94 and Britannia on the other with a lighthouse in the background, however this coin is impacted by corrosion, so this is less clear.
The tradition of placing coins under their ship masts may date back to Roman times and remains a naval tradition. The date of 1894 ties in with when these particular masts were inserted into the ship, when their ship, HMS Shah, had been decommissioned. The masts replaced Douglas Fir ones inserted in the 1850s that had since become rotten.