H.M.S. Gibraltar (80-guns) - Snuff Box, 1836
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Diameter: 9.7cm (3.75in)
Turned wood with manuscript paper insert inscribed: ‘Gibraltar. 80 guns / Built by the Spaniards / in the Island of Cuba, and / launched 1751 by the name / of Phoenix; captured by Sir / George Rodney. Commanded / by Admiral de Langara. The / Admiral’s flag was presented / to His Majesty / George 3 by / his son Prince Wm. Henry then / a midshipman in the fleet / she was taken to pieces in / Pembroke Dock Yard / 1836.’
In 1779 Admiral Rodney (1718-1792) was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands and was given orders to relieve Gibraltar on his way to the West Indies. On 8 January 1780 he captured a Spanish convoy off Cape Finisterre, and eight days later at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent defeated the Spanish Admiral Don Juan Francisco de Lángara y Huarte, taking the latter’s flagship the 80-gun Fénix. Prince William (later King William IV (1830-37)) was then a midshipman in Rodney’s fleet and was present at Cape St. Vincent in H.M.S. Prince George, in which he quarrelled with Midshipman Sturt, and had a fist fight with Lieutenant Moodie of the Marines. Rodney subsequently delivered aid to beseiged Gibraltar and the Fénix was commissioned into the Royal Navy as the H.M.S. Gibraltar in March that year. She took part in the Battle of Cuddalore off the coast of India in 1783, and later served in the navy's Egyptian campaign (8 March to 8 September 1801). Gibraltar was hulked in 1813, and finally broken up in 1836.
Turned wood boxes made from the timbers of warships are known to have been prized possessions of sea officers who had seen service during the Napoleonic wars. Perhaps originally intended for snuff, the majority were produced in the 1830s-50s when many 18th century warships were being broken up.