Many thanks to Orbis Conservation

As well as working with us to analyse and restore a number of the huge Royal Naval figureheads that will be displayed at The Box when we open in 2020, we’ve commissioned London-based Orbis Conservation to conserve a beautiful collection of 288 maritime badges for display.

Orbis are specialists in a wide range of disciplines including stone and wood carving, decorative surfaces, condition surveys, conservation science and contemporary art. They also have a real respect for Art History and traditional craft skills, which makes them ideally placed to work on projects that are focused on the preservation of cultural heritage. Some of their other clients include the Serpentine Galleries, Imperial War Museum, Royal Opera House, William Morris Gallery, London Underground/Transport for London and English Heritage.

The badges – one of the largest collections of ship’s badges in the world – will be shown together in a mass wall display. The display will be 8 metres high and will be located in our main entrance space. It’s another element that will help create a real ‘wow factor’ for visitors when they first arrive.

Photo of brightly coloured historic ship's badges

Every single ship or unit of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy Fleet has its own crest or heraldic design to distinguish it from others. These plaques or crests, more commonly known as ship’s badges, are usually mounted onto a wooden backing shield and were offered as gifts when a ship visited a new port or hosted dignitaries.

Ship’s badges came in a variety of shapes and sizes including diamond, pentagon, circular and traditional shields. As the construction of figureheads declined with the military sailing ship after the First World War, it became more and more common for ships to carry these badges instead.

Each badge has a unique name and is mainly composed of plaster and metal on a wooden backing. All the badges are decorated with a gold border and detail.

After a thorough clean of the whole collection, Orbis toned and restored the paint where it was needed on the ship’s badges. They’ve also created a bespoke metal batten so they can be safely wall-mounted.

The images in today’s post provide a glimpse of how brilliant they’re going to look once they’ve been installed!

Photo of a close up of a group of historic ship's badges