Object of the Week

Object of the Week – The Trafalgar Sundial

At Whitby Museum we have several exhibits relating to the Battle of Trafalgar, the naval battle in which Admiral Nelson was killed at the moment of victory over the fleet of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Perhaps the oddest is the Bar Shot sundial, which must have made an ironic subject of conversation at a tea-party at Airy Hill given by Mr and Mrs Turnbull in 1941, in aid of comforts for the Free French Forces. Mr Turnbull had bought the sundial with the house and grounds in 1898, but it had actually been built in 1790 by Richard Moorsom.

A Bar Shot was a missile invented many years ago to destroy the rigging of an enemy vessel. This particular one was fired onto HMS Revenge, entered the bridle port, killed a midshipman, glanced off the foremast and finally embedded itself in a deck beam.

The commander of the Revenge was Captain Robert Moorsom, third son of the builder of Airy Hill, and was taken home by him as a bizarre souvenir. Moorsom carried the Great Banner in Nelson’s funeral procession in January 1806 at St Paul’s Cathedral. Also in the museum are a pair of pistols owned by Captain Moorsom which he used at the battle; these were presented to the Society by his son.

Moorsom later became an Admiral, and was knighted by the Prince Regent; his uncle was the first President of Whitby Lit and Phil and his nephew stood as Liberal candidate in the 1832 General Election, which he lost. One son became Vice-Admiral Constantine Moorsom and another, William, was a very distinguished engineer with the London and Birmingham Railway.

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