with thanks to Orbis Conservation for the information and images that are featured in today’s post

Last week we posted an update about our Topaze figurehead, today it’s the turn of Royal William, the figurehead everyone affectionately refers to as King Billy.

Like our most recent figureheads post, today’s information and images come from Orbis Conservation, the specialist company based on London who are working on Topaze, King Billy and three other figureheads for us.

Adding colour to King Billy - colour swatchesAs part of the restoration work on this project, Orbis have designed a colour scheme, produced colour palettes and swatches and designed the recipes for each of these paints for all 14 figureheads……….

We created the colour scheme following extended historical research, paint analysis and consulting with David Pulvertaft, an expert in royal naval figureheads.

Interestingly, the figureheads were never intended to be painted when they were first made and were usually white and gold.

When they were removed from their vessels at the turn of the century and there was a new appreciation for them as impressive decorative objects, they were then re-painted in colour.

Adding colour to King Billy - high glossIn our schemes we are avoiding high gloss, this often gives a bit of a ‘fairground quality’ to figureheads. If you take a look at the image on the right of King Billy before his new paint scheme you can see the difference. Instead, we’ve decided on a colour palette that is slightly more subtle and muted, to help echo their history.

With carefully designed aging glazes, all the paints are UV protecting, giving the figureheads both a beautiful re-imagining and longevity.

Using gold leaf to highlight the details, the figureheads in their new colourful paint schemes will shine as the centrepiece of the entrance to The Box. Just take a look at the two images below to see how amazing King Billy now looks!

Adding colour to King Billy - matching colours

Adding colour to King Billy - paint scheme


In other figurehead-related news, the Maritime, Military and Industrial Heritage of the Atlantic Coast (MMIAH) project that the figureheads conservation is part of, has been identified as a ‘best practice’ cultural heritage cooperation project. The Interreg supported project has been included in an e-book called “Connecting Cultures, Connected Citizens”. The publication is available at Interact digital library here.