Monday 19 October 2015

Trinity Hospital, Mile End Road E1

The lovely Trinity Hospital was built by the lights-and-buoys authority Trinity House in 1695, not for medical purposes but as almshouses for '28 decayed Masters and Commanders of Ships, or ye widows of such.'
The street facades are ornamented with highly detailed models of 42-gun warships of the 4th Rate. The ones you see today are fibreglass copies made when the almshouses were restored by the Greater London Council in the 1950s - the originals are now in the London Museum.
Carved in marble by Robert Jones, the ships are typical of the Stuart period with flamboyant decoration and big windows in the captain's cabin. The museum says: "The models are thought to be unique and of particular historical interest because they portray English warships of the late 17th century with great accuracy. Microscopic examination has shown that the ships have been painted black twice in the past (on one occasion to mark the death of Lord Nelson)."
Ships of the 4th Rate were not inferior in some way - the great Samuel Pepys as Secretary of the Navy had introduced the classification system both to determine if a ship was powerful enough to take part in pitched battles and also to determine the rate of pay of the crew. A ship of the 4th rate was, in Pepys's system, a ship-of-the-line mounting between 38 and 62 guns.
The models are larger than they look from the ground - more than 1.1m high and 1.2m long.
(Thanks to Hazel Forsyth at the London Museum)

1 comment:

Paul Nixon said...

It's a wonderful building. Coincidentally I walked past it the other week on my way from Tower Hamlets archives to Shoreditch. Quite a walk, but pleasant enough in sunshine, and there are some nice landmarks on the way. Keep up the good work.