One of the first things to catch the eye as you look out over Plymouth Sound is the breakwater. At first glance it might not seem a very remarkable structure, but without it, Plymouth would not have a Naval base and be the thriving city that it is today.
A marble model of the Breakwater has recently been consigned to Plymouth Auction Rooms and will no doubt be of local historical interest in the upcoming Collector’s sale.
An inscription on the front plaque reads ‘Joseph Whidbey to his friend Captain Z Mudge- Break Water begun, Aug 12th 1812’. This scale model, constructed from Paignton marble was given as a gift from one Joseph Whidbey to Captain Zachary Mudge, an officer in the British Royal Navy. The model comes with technical drawings, depicting a transverse section of the breakwater and a record of the amount of stone deposited over the 30 years it took to reach completion.
Joseph Whidbey was key in the planning and construction of the Plymouth Breakwater during the Napoleonic wars. He had previously made his name as being a competent mariner accompanying Vancouver to the Caribbean in the 1780’s.
History of Plymouth Breakwater
The lack of safe harbour for the Channel Fleet in Plymouth was a constant concern for the Admiralty. In 1806, they assigned John Rennie & Joseph Whidbey to survey Plymouth Sound and propose plans to make it safer for Royal Naval ships. Their plan for a detached breakwater was accepted and in 1811 orders were given to begin construction. In 1812, Whidbey was appointed Superintending Engineer and the first stone was deposited. You can read more about the history of the breakwater here.
Nearly 4,000,000 (four million) tonnes of stone were quarried and transported, using about a dozen ships innovatively designed by the two engineers.
The scale model will be offered for sale by auction at the next Antiques & Collectables sale on 10th October. We are inviting entries to this sale, so please do get in touch with the team by calling 01752 254740 or by filling out our valuation form.