Friday 22 March 2013

Don't Give Up The Ship!

Although there is no official motto in the United States Navy the phrase, "Don't Give Up The Ship", resonates throughout its history. Captain James Lawrence, who coined the phrase, did so as he lay dying on the quarterdeck of the frigate, USS Chesapeake, on the first day of June, 1813. The 12 minute battle with the British frigate HMS Shannon, took place at Saint Ann's Head off  Boston.

In the event, the ship was captured and towed to the British base in Halifax, Nova Scotia (above). Eventually it was taken to England where it became HMS Chesapeake, and served with the Royal Navy for about 30 years until she was scrapped. 

Many years later, in 1976, the old watermill in Wickham, Hampshire, England ground to a final stop. It then began to deteriorate for lack of maintenance, and in the new millennium the decision had to be made regarding pulling the mill down and redeveloping the site.

On surveying the building the local villagers were reminded that large portions of the mill had been rebuilt from whole sections of the Chesapeake. Although it was argued that this had rather more to do with American history than British, it was agreed that the Mill be maintained as a heritage site. 

Today the mill is owned by Anthony and Sandy Taylor, and is now a large antique centre. I was introduced to them through the American broadcaster and writer, Chris Dickon, with whom I had been in a long correspondence, concerning the Chesapeake.

Last Sunday Pat and I drove down from Yorkshire to Hampshire and stayed in a hotel near Wickham.

Wickam lies on the old Roman road between Chichester and Winchester where it began as a market town, getting its first mention in history in 826AD.

Our first sighting of Wickham was the Square. The space is usually taken up with car parking but it is often the centre of village life.
Morris Dancers - where else but England? 
 We drove down the Square and exited onto Bridge Street

passing the Barracks

and then the 'Dip hole'

And There was the Mill itself!

Above the door was a small plaque, so tarnished it was easy to miss... and meant little to the ill-informed.
Sandy made us welcome and gave me the run of the place, two floors of pure Chesapeake

Some of the beams had race marks cut into them by the shipwrights that had built her in the US.

But for me the crowning moment was the graffiti left by the crew. 

I shall add another posting later, as the blog won't let me import any more photographs


  1. I wonder where the Chesapeake was built. Baltimore was a ship building center for much of its history, and built the Baltimore Clippers right down here in Fells Point. Some say the attack on Baltimore was to destroy the ship building industry, among other things. Anyway, what an interesting post. The little mill is just fascinating salty timbers and all. Greetings from the top of the Chesapeake.

  2. Hi Bill

    Builder Josiah Fox, a British Shipwright employed by the Americans, launched her at the Gosport Navy Yard on 2 December 1799

  3. Hi John! I just loved these photos and seeing the pieces of the ship in the building itself. Just amazing. My favorite photo is the 4th one down from the top. For some reason that captures into one photo many of my own dreams of England. Such a beautiful country! Great post and I am just dying to visit that antique store myself!

  4. Hi Sherry - Yes Wickham is a nice place ... but we spent far too much on antiques!

  5. Hi John,

    I loved the photographic tour of Wickam and the old mill SO much! Oh, do I wish I could see it for real! Thank you so much.

  6. My pleasure, Kathryn. It is surrounded by stables with horses everywhere!

  7. Wonderful to read that the Chesapeake has been used and preserved in this fashion.I wonder why the timbers are white - have they been white washed? And were you able to read the graffiti? How fascinating this mill is - and how beautiful is the area!

  8. Fascinating history - you make it come alive! Shame there is only the one brass plaque and no more detail.

  9. Pretty cool that such a mighty ship was "repurposed" into something meaningful. I too would have been impressed by the graffiti... poignant! The marching villager reminds me of episodes of "Midsummer Murders"! lol! Thanks for the tour. Have you used your easel yet?

  10. I enjoyed your photo's John.
    And for a moment when I opened your post, I wondered if the painting was your first copy of a masters painting!! It wouldn't have surprised me you know ;0)

  11. Hi John,
    Yes I agree with Sandra, it's a wonderful post and I truly enjoyed your photos. I was actually thinking the same as Sandra, I thought possibly you painted a copy of the master painting. It wouldn't have surprised me either.

  12. What a magical fanciful land you live in! Thanks for the walk through Wickham and into the mill. I've been looking forward to this - and I am not disappointed. What does the graffiti say?! Can you tell?

  13. Amazing photos, John!! and as always, I enjoy your post so much!
    Now, I'm waiting for the painting!!