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Valhalla Museum



Tresco Map

Last Visited: 2012

Figureheads of the River Lune and Friar Tuck

Figureheads of the River Lune and Friar Tuck

The Valhalla Museum is situated within the Tresco Abbey Gardens.

It is included in the admission price of the gardens and only accessible through them, so for opening times and admission prices, please see the official Tresco web site.

However, it would be well worth visiting in its own right, if that were possible (and indeed practical), as it is a nationally important collection of shipsʼ figureheads and other artefacts.

The Valhalla Museum

The Valhalla Museum

The collection was started in the 1830s by Augustus Smith of Tresco Abbey, the founder of the gardens, and was moved to its current home in the 1870s. It was acquired by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich in 1972 in lieu of death duties.

The exhibits mostly come from ships which were lost around the rocky coasts of the Scillies. They are mainly merchant vessels from the middle and end of the 19th century.

Figurehead of the Serica Wrecked 1893

Figurehead of the Serica
Wrecked 1893

What interested me was the paintwork. Although a few pieces are exhibited as they must have been when they were retrieved from the sea, most have been fully restored (an ongoing process that begun in 1957), and they are none the worse for that.

Figurehead of a Chieftain

Figurehead of a Chieftain

However there seem to be two styles of paintwork, one naturalistic and the other reminiscent of fine porcelain, predominantly white with just a few key features picked out in gold or other colours.

I was too busy taking photographs to see if there was any information on these two styles on site, and havenʼt come across any thing subsequently.

The other thing I liked was that, close to, they were nearly all a bit wall-eyed, presumably so that, from a distance, they appear to be gazing at a far horizon.