Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Puzzle picture: "Warships and the Forth Bridge" by George Washington Wilson



When I saw this picture in a shop, my first thought was "Wow!" Actually, having bought it, my thoughts are mostly still "Wow!". It's a photograph by George Washington Wilson, the celebrated photographic pioneer, showing warships by the Forth Bridge. The legend says that it was taken in the late 1800s, which is easy enough to work out as the bridge looks complete and it was finished in late 1889 and opened in 1890.

The main point of interest, of course, isn't the bridge itself so much as the juxtaposition of a "Ship Of The Line" (the same basic kind of craft as Nelson's HMS Victory) with both a smaller, steel-and-steam warship and the massive steel bridge. With its feeling of the old giving way to the new, the image always puts me in mind of Turner's The Fighting Téméraire, with the steam tug hauling off the ship of the line to be scrapped. However, Téméraire was broken up in 1838, more than half a century before this picture was taken.



Which leaves us with the question: which ship are we looking at here? GWW photographed HMS Royal Albert (which looks very like this) in the Forth, but as Royal Albert was scrapped in 1884 when the Forth Bridge was still mainly foundations that can't be it. He took various picture of ships of the line, but all the ones I've been able to identify were permanently moored on the Channel coast by the time this picture was taken. So - any suggestions, photographic history buffs?

12 Comments:

At 27 March, 2013 22:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an impressing picture! Well, that's HMS St. Vincent, a 120-gun first rate ship of the line launched in 1815. Later in her career she was serving as a trainig ship and broken up in 1902 or 1905. I'm angry with the idiots from the Admiralty, they destroyed all these beautiful looking old warships! Try to imagine that picture in colour!

 
At 01 June, 2013 23:36, Blogger Rob said...

Hi, and thanks for the response. Unfortunately HMS St Vincent is one of the ones I ruled out as by then it was permanently moored at Haslar as a training ship.


However, I think it may actually be HMS Impregnable which spent the last 14 years of the 19th century as a training ship at Queensferry, right by the Forth Bridge.

 
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