Monday, 4 February 2013

Early Influential Steamships Timeline

I have started to put together a timeline of early influential steamships. The timeline is a work in progress and will evolve:

Click here top open the timeline (opens in a new window)

Monday, 15 August 2011

New Frank Abney-Hastings Biography

An eagerly anticipated new biography on Frank Abney-Hastings titled ‘Commander of the Karteria’, written by Hastings’ descendant Maurice Abney-Hastings,  is due for release shortly.

Read a preview from the book on the books official website which also contains a wealth of other information, including a great recent article on Hastings’ pistols.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Frank Abney-Hastings Memorial

Frank Abney-Hastings (1794-1828) was one of the most influential of all the philhellenes who fought in the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829). A naval tactician he pioneered military techniques and technology to great effect against contingents of the Ottoman fleet and supply chain. Ultimately giving his life fighting for the freedom of the Greek people, he was mortally wounded while leading an attack on a fortification on the island of Anatolikon (modern day Etoliko) expiring several days later on June the 1st 1828.

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Hastings was mourned greatly and given a national funeral. He was interred at the site of the old arsenal on the island of Poros. A site that from 1830 became the home of the Hellenic Navy and is currently a naval training base. A memorial to Hastings has been erected at this site in his memory.

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Hastings memorial was commissioned in 1928 by the then minister of the Hellenic Navy Panagiotou Merlopoulou and commemorates the centenary of Hastings death. The memorial is is referred to on a plaque in the Anglican Church of St Pauls Athens, where Hastings heart is immured. The centenary was marked by a service which was attended by Sir Percy Loraine British Ambassador to Greece and other dignitaries.

The memorial carries two plaques which are illustrated below along with a translation of the inscriptions.

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“ERECTED TO COMMEMORATE
THE CENTENARY OF THE DEATH
OF THE PHILHELLENE
FRANK ABNEY HASTINGS
WHO FOUGHT IN THE HELLENIC NAVY
FOR THE REBIRTH OF GREECE
DONATED IN GRATITUDE BY
THE MINISTER OF THE GREEK NAVY
PANAGIOTOU MERLOPOULOU
JUNE 1928”

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“IN GLORIOUS MEMORY OF
FRANK ABNEY HASTINGS
WHO GAVE HIS LIFE FOR
THE CAUSE OF GREECE
THIS SITE WAS VISITED IN REMEMBRANCE
ON THE CENTENARY OF HIS DEATH
BY SIR PERCY LORAIN AMBASSADOR TO GREECE
REPRASENTATIVE OF THE KING OF ENGLAND
AND REPRESENTATIVES OF THE BRITISH NAVY”

What a testament to the enduring legacy of Hastings distinguished role in the Greek revolution.

These particular photographs are not licensed for redistribution.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Frank Abney-Hastings Heart and the Anglican Church of Saint Pauls Athens

Frank Abney-Hastings heart is immured in the Anglican Church of Saint Pauls in Athens, Greece. Consecrated in 1843 the church has many monuments of historic interest.

IMG_0222_edited_coloursPhotograph by Mark Notaras

It is my understanding that Hastings heart was in the possession of his great friend George Finlay, philhellene and historian, who served with Hastings aboard the Karteria. On the death of Finlay’s widow, Arthur Hill church warden and treasurer from 1885 to 1903, found the heart in a box at her house. He subsequently had it immured in the west wall of the church, the location of which is marked by a plaque with inscription.

IMG_0227_edited
Photograph by Mark Notaras

“HERE LIES DEPOSITED THE
HEART OF CAPTAIN FRANK
ABNEY HASTINGS, YOUNGER
SON OF LIEUTENANT-GENERAL
SIR CHARLES HASTINGS
BART: WHO, HAVING BEEN
MORTALLY WOUNDED IN AN
ATTACK ON ANATOLIKON
DIED IN ZANTE, ON THE 20TH (OS) 
DAY OF MAY 1828, AGED
34 YEARS. HE WAS BURRIED IN
POROS, WHERE AN OBELISK
IS ERECTED IN THE OLD
ARSENAL TO HIS MEMORY.”

As indicated on the inscription the date of death is in the Old Style or Julian calendar.The 20th of May 1828 converts to the 1st of June 1828 as we would expect. Though it seems there may have been some confusion around the date for the plaque as it appears to have been amended by a stonemason at some point in time.

Among the many other interesting monuments in the church are the stained glass windows in the north and south transepts. Dedicated to Sir Richard Church (1784-1873), commander of the Greek military forces in 1827 during the Greek War of Independence, and statesman thereafter.

IMG_0229_editedPhotograph by Mark Notaras

St Paul’s is located on Philellinon Street about 250 meters south of Syntagma Square and makes a great visit when open during one of the services that are regularly held there. Details of current services can be found on the church gate.


View Larger Map

References
J.W. Day, et al. (1998) “The Anglican Church of Saint Paul’s Athens, A Short History”
Unknown, (1938) “Church Quarterly Review, Volumes 125-126”

The church booklet listed above contains a rich history and can be purchased from the church.

Photographs by Mark Notaras, subject to Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivs creative commons licence.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Frank Abney-Hastings

This is a brief history of Frank Abney-Hastings (1794 – 1828), a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy who became a key philhellene in the Greek War of Independence.

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Hastings began his naval career in 1805 as a Volunteer 1st Class in the Royal Navy. Serving aboard the HMS Neptune at the Battle of Trafalgar at the age of just 11, he quickly climbed the ranks to lieutenant. In 1819 he was dismissed for challenging a Captain who had insulted him to a duel and as a consequence of his dismissal sought to continue his career on the continent.

He spent sometime in France where he learnt of the Greek revolution and became determined to join the Greek cause. Resolute that he could bring about a change in the effectiveness of the Greek irregular navy, which at that time was comprised of skilled sailors but lacking in military effectiveness.

In 1822 he landed in Greece on the Island of Hydra. Being one of the early philhellenes, of which the Greeks were suspicious, he was at first treated as a spy and had to persuade Alexander Mavrocordatos of his motives. He was eventually given a position as volunteer aboard the Greek ship Themistocles where he earned great respect through his acts of bravery and tactical prowess.

Hastings went on to become one of the most influential of the philhellenes. He was not only a proficient captain but also a military tactician and engineer with ideas far ahead of his time.

In 1823 Hastings petitioned the Greek Government, through Byron, to provide a war ship to his specifications. He was confident he could use this ship to give Greece the naval superiority needed to support Greece’s irregular land army.

In his memorandum Hastings specified an Iron Clad steamship, armed with fore and aft 32 pounders and two 62 pounder carronades. He specified to use the 32 pounders to fire red-hot shot, a first in naval ordinance and only made feasible by Hastings own innovations, designed to counter the dangers which had previously prevented their use aboard ships.

Hastings innovative vision was difficult to appreciate at the time and it wasn't until a distinct improvement in Ottoman naval operations in 1825, that the Greek contingent turned to the London Greek Committee to fund and organise the ships construction.

The ‘Perseverance’ was finally completed in 1826 and was to become the first steam powered warship ever used in battle. On her maiden voyage to Greece Hastings renamed her to her Greek equivalent the ‘Karteria’.

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There were some inevitable issues, but it wasn't long before Hastings was proving his ideas in action, using the Karteria to devastating effect. Out manoeuvring and striking the enemy with great precision with destructive fire from explosive shells and red hot shot.

He had great successes against contingents of the Ottoman fleet and supply chain and was eager to encounter a large Ottoman fleet at sea. His only opportunity came however at time when the steam engines of the Karteria had broken down, perhaps Hastings reputation preceding him, the enemy left without an engagement.

Yet indirectly it was to be Hastings that would be a catalyst in a a series of events leading to the annihilation of the entire Ottoman navy at the Battle of Navarino in 1828.

The lead up to the Battle of Navarino is an interesting and relevant topic. The recent alliance of Britain, France and Russia attempted to impose an armistice between Greece and the Ottoman Empire. Greece represented by Alexander Mavrocordatos agreed to the terms of the armistice but Mehmet Ali and the Sultan did not and so hostilities continued on both sides.

The presence of the combined allied fleet commanded by the British Admiral Codrington did however force Ibrahim Pasha to agree to postpone his planned attack on the island of Hydra, the loss of which would have been disastrous to Greece. His fleet blockaded in the bay of Navarino, Ibrahim instead opted for a barbarous land campaign on the Peloponnese.

During this time Hastings continued his operations and though Codrington promised Ibrahim that he would attempt to put an end to the hostilities, a misunderstanding meant that the message was never delivered. In any event Hastings actions were arguably justified, as ultimately the Ottomans had not agreed to the armistice and so the two parties were still at war.

Hastings most notable action during this period was the battle of Salona. Where in the opening stages of the battle after just a few ranging shots, he destroyed the four largest enemy ships in quick succession. The conclusion of the battle saw the total destruction of the Ottoman squadron of seven warships and two transports by the smaller Greek contingent commanded by Hastings.

News of Hastings success at the battle of Salona antagonised Ibrahim into sending out a fleet of twenty six men-of-war to engage Hastings and his squadron. Though the allied fleet was temporarily much diminished Ibrahim’s attempts were successfully repelled by Codrington aided somewhat by gale force winds.

A combination of these actions and the destructive effect of Ibrahim's land campaign led to a distinct rise in tensions. The allies, fearing that unfavourable weather conditions could allow Ibrahim's fleet to evade their blockade, decided to anchor inside the bay of Navarino. The Ottomans were unaware of the allied fleets intentions and almost inevitably the advance escalated into a full scale battle.

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The Battle of Navarino ended in the total annihilation of the Ottoman fleet, a turning point in Greece’s revolution and poignantly the last major naval battle fought entirely by sailing ships. The tide turning in favour of the tactics and technology pioneered by Hastings.

After Navarino Hastings continued his successful naval sorties including the destruction of the fort of Vasiladhi. But he was to give his life for the Greek cause, for on the 25th of May 1828 he was mortally wounded in the arm, from a musket shot while attacking a fortification on the island of Anatolikon (modern day Etoliko) off Mesolonghi.

The Karteria was temporarily lacking a surgeon so an unfamiliar army surgeon was summoned from shore, who determined that the wound was not severe. In the following few days the condition of the wound deteriorated and it was decided that Hastings should be taken aboard the Karteria to Zante, where an amputation would be performed by a competent surgeon. Sadly the severity of the wound was identified too late and Hastings died from tetanus during the voyage.

Hastings was mourned greatly and given a national funeral. He was interred on the island of Poros, at the old arsenal which was to become the home of the Hellenic Navy, a navy which Hastings himself had helped to form. His heart is immured in the Anglican Church of Saint Paul’s, Athens.

A memorial was commissioned by the minister of the Hellenic Navy on the site of the naval base, to commemorate the centenary of Hastings death. Hastings centenary was marked by a ceremony at the site which was attended by Sir Percy Lorain British ambassador to Greece. A testament to the enduring legacy of Frank Abney-Hastings magnificent role in Greece’s revolution.

Recommended Reading
Finlay, G. (1861) History of the Greek Revolution, William Blackwood & Sons
St. Clair, W. (1972) That Greece May Still Be Free, Oxford University Press
Howarth, D. (1976) The Greek adventure, Harper Collins
(1845) Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine Volume 58, William Blackwood & Sons

All images out of copyright and obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The New Acropolis Museum, is Politics Undermining Art?

I recently had the opportunity to visit the New Acropolis Museum for the first time since visiting as part of an early preview last year.

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On the whole the museum is a fantastic achievement, yet I was disappointed at the scale that the political protest surrounding the marbles has been allowed into the galleries, at the expense of the art itself.

This begins with the Caryatids which have been displayed in relation to their original position on the Erechtheion, meaning that a gap is left for the Caryatid removed by Elgin's agents and now displayed in the British Museum. What benefit does this provide? In my opinion, none. It simply distracts the visitor from appreciating the Caryatids which do remain in Greece.

From here the political protest gets stronger. The top floor gallery has been designed to display the sculpture from the Parthenon including the frieze and pediment figures. Here plaster copies replace the pieces of sculpture located in the British Museum and other museums around the world. These copies forming a stark contrast to the original pieces on display.

At a high level this could be seen as acceptable. Until that is you consider the poor quality of the casts which are to the detriment of the visitors ability to appreciate the subject of the individual sculptures. And therefore the visitors understanding of the sculptures as a whole and the scenes that they cumulatively depict.

For me the prime example of politics over art is an original block which remains in Greece. Block III from the western inner frieze depicts a pause in the Panathenaic procession. A horseman stands in front of his steed which is being steadied by the reins by a groom. A fragment comprising of the grooms hand and part of the forearm is in the Munich museum. Even though this fragment is insignificant in relation to the rest of the block it has been replaced by a plaster copy. This copy is a positive eye sore which serves nothing but to distract the visitor from appreciating fully the beauty of the sculpture that does remain.

These poor quality casts are categorically a political statement, as I observed that pieces of original sculpture that have been removed for restoration have been replaced with far higher quality copies.

With the New Acropolis Museum, Greece has a fantastic opportunity to show that they have the ability to conserve, display and promote their heritage properly. But this has been tainted by the decision to bring politics into the galleries, to the detriment of the visitors appreciation of the pieces that remain in Greece and the visitors understanding of the subject as a whole.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Fifteen Times Estimate for Rare Horatio Nelson Memorial Ring

Collectors were given another opportunity to purchase one of a very rare set of memorial rings dedicated to Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, at Lawrences of Crewkerne's Silver, Jewellery & Ceramics sale this month.

The handmade gold and enamel ring depicts the letter N for Nelson beneath a viscounts coronet and the letter B for Bronte. Nelson was made Duke of Bronte by Ferdinand IV King of Naples and Sicily, in recognition of Nelson's defeat of the French fleet in the Mediterranean at the Battle of the Nile (1798). The shank carries an inscription in Latin PALMAN QUI MERUIT FERAT which translates to 'let him bear the palm of of victory he who has won it'. The reverse is inscribed lost to his Country 21 Oct 1805 Aged 47.

Only around fifty eight of these memorial rings were crafted by London maker John Salter who was Lord Nelson's favoured silversmith. The rings were distributed by the executors of Nelson's will to his family, friends and the pall bearers at his funeral. A list of the original recipients exists in the British Museum.

Sotheby's sale Trafalgar held on the centenary of the battle offered four examples of the ring and each carried an estimate of between £15,000 and £20,000. Prices realised were all above the lower estimate and ranged from £16,100, up to £25,200 for the ring descending from George Matcham. The last memorial ring of this type to appear on the market was at Dreweatts Donnington & Priory Fine Jewellery sale in June 2008. Despite the ring being in very poor condition, with much of the enamel missing and other damage, it realised a strong price of £3,600 against an estimate of £250 to £350.

Given this Lawrences of Crewkerne's estimate of £800 to £1200 for thier fine example of this ring was certainly conservative and it was no surprise to find that the price realised was 15 times high estimate at £18,000.