This turned commemorative oak bowl is of deep cylindrical form applied with a silver shield-shaped plaque inscribed ‘H.M.S. Royal George. (108 Guns) Capsised 29th Augst. 1782. This Punch Bowl was turned from a beam of Admiral Kempenfelts cabin, by James Gerrard. 1802.’
The Royal George was commissioned at the start of the Seven Years War (1756-1763). After serving with distinction, Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt was due to relieve Admiral Howe in Gibraltar, 1782. The 100-gun, first-rate ship of the line anchored at Spithead to carry out essential work on the cistern pipe. Once heeled onto one side, the vessel took on water through the gun ports, capsized and quickly sank in the Solent. This naval disaster holds significant importance in British naval history. Having been denied shore leave, several of the crew’s visiting families and dignitaries were among the casualties, which exceeded 900 in total. A controversial court martial acquitted the crew and officers of any wrongdoing and tainted the reputation of the Navy Board. The masts of the wreck remained visible from the shoreline as late as 1794, serving as a macabre reminder of the tragedy. Prompted by local sailors, a series of pioneering dives by Charles and John Deane recovered much of the Royal George’s timber and cannons, including a bronze cannon which later formed part of Nelson’s column. The masts and beams were reimagined into household items and souvenirs. The wreckage was destroyed in 1840 by the Royal Engineers in a controlled explosion.