Sea Britain 2005 - Small display of carved objects by French Prisoners of War

Press Release: 28/06/2005

Winchester City Museum is exhibiting a small display of bone objects, said to have been carved by French prisoners of war during the Napoleonic Wars, found at Portchester Castle.

The prisoners in captivity led a very boring existence and the large numbers of them meant that they were not well provided for.  Many of the prisoners were craftsmen and carved objects such as these on display, were often bartered or sold so that the prisoners could feed themselves or fuel their gambling habits! 

Not all prisoners were held in prisons: officers who gave their word not to escape were often housed by local gentry.  A walk through Alresford graveyard reveals the graves of some French prisoners who died before they could be repatriated.

Cllr Therese Evans, Winchester City Council's Portfolio holder for Culture, Heritage and Sport, said "I am fascinated by two of the objects, a fold away comb and a paper knife, which have the initials S.W. carved on them.  Could these be the initials of the person who carved it? Or perhaps they were commissioned specially and they are the initials of the first owner.  We will never know!"

Sher Kent, the Council's Museum Visitor Services Manager, added "This is an intriguing small display of beautifully carved objects which coincides with the 'Sea Britain Festival 2005' which is happening throughout Hampshire".

The carved objects are accompanied by six small watercolours in the form of watch papers painted in 1762 by a French prisoner of war incarcerated in the King's House, Winchester.  The latter was designed by Christopher Wren as a palace for Charles II but he had died before the interior was started and the building was eventually used as an army barracks.  During the early-mid 18th century it was used to house prisoners of war.  The old barracks finally burned down in 1894 but new ones were built on the site and they now survive as apartments.

This small display of objects is situated on the first floor of the City Museum in The Square, Winchester, for the duration of the summer

City Museum Opening hours -
10.00 - 5.00 pm. Monday -Saturday;                            
12.00noon - 5.00 pm - Sunday