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Conserving the builder's model of Sea Nymph

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The boat builders

Henry B Hornby was established around 1901 as a firm of small boat builders specialising in surf boats used for unloading cargo in West Africa. In 1923 the firm moved to new premises off Gorsey Lane in Wallasey. The company ceased trading in 1965.

The model

The model was used to promote the products of the company in exhibitions and boat shows. The labels in the case are in three different languages but those in Spanish and French are in a different typeface and would have been added later possibly for a continental exhibition. Another interesting feature are the curtains made from curtain material used in the full sized boats. On the real boat the deck fittings would have been a shiny chrome finish. In the post-war shortages the model maker was un-able to find a complete set of silver coloured fittings so has used aluminium paint instead.

Conservation work

The case of the model had very thin and brittle glass which was cracked, broken and dangerous. The case and model had become soiled and the model had become damaged. We have fitted new but thicker safety glass which involved making the grooves deeper and wider. This was carefully done using hand planes and chisels.

The model was cleaned using small cotton wool swabs and water, loose fittings were re-attached using pins and glue, and a new ‘button’ for the top of the mast was turned and fitted.

The green canopy at the stern of the boat was made from a thin veneer of mahogany and has dried out and cracked. We decided not to repair or replace this preferring to keep the original material. After all, the model is now over sixty years old and entitled to show its age! 

Click on the thumbnails beloe to see the conservation work in progress.

Although kept in a glass case, the model has become soiled and there is a grey bloom on the varnish. This photo shows the model after one side of the deck has been cleaned. The model was gently cleaned using moistened cotton wool swabs. The green canopy at the stern of the boat was made from a thin veneer of mahogany and had dried out and cracked. Some of the fittings, including one of the propellers, had come lose. The model is now in a case fitted with toughened glass for safe display on the galleries.

Sea Nymph, river launch, 1946, builder's model, scale 1:12

Accession number 1981.820