HMS Conway - Click here to return to the menu HMS Conway 1859 - 1974

Alfie Windsor 1998
HMS Conway - Click here to return to the menu

Relics and Artifacts

Conway Inventory - whatever hapened to the....?

We welcome suggestions, submissions and links to relevant information, please contact us with details.


The Mother's Union Chapel of Penmon Priory
The ship's altar used to stand on the Main Deck and after an ignominious period stored in a garage was presented by the Conway Club to the Mother's Union Chapel of Penmon Priory. It was originally carved and presented to the Conway by Mr Percy Cox , the father of Cadet V S Cox (05-09), but apparently as a memorial to Captain Miller. It was donated to the Chapel at the suggestion of Capt Eric Hewitt in 1989. It is now in the Conway Chapel at Birkenhead.


Altar Rail

Presented by the parents of Cadet Payne in his memory. Recovered from the Ship and used ashore in the chapel hut and then the Conway Chapel at Plas Newydd. They are now safe in the Conway Chapel at Birkenhead.


Outside the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool, UK. This was recovered in 1968 by Brookie and many cadets. It was lifted by first removing the encasing concrete base, beaching cutters either side of it at low water, lashing it to the cutters by cross beams and letting the tide lift it out. Sounds simple but it was a close run thing. The anchors weighed 4-5 tons and were transported from Bangor, through the Swellies in the same way with only a few inches freeboard! . Interestingly it was Brookie who arranged that transfer and positioning many years before. Subsequently hauled from the Dock up to the Parade Ground where it remained for some years. Eventually transferred to the Museum. We are informed it is a favourite spot for tourist photos.


It was recovered from the Strait between 8th and 10th September 1987 by members of the Seiont Trust (a leading member was an OC). A series of photos of the recovery are at:

They restored the anchor and mounted it along with an explanatory plaque outside the Caernarvon maritmne Museum. There is a short video here.

When the museum closoed in 2015 it was refurbished and reloacted to the new Caernarfon seafront promenade


There are two smaller anchors still embedded in the Menai Strait where they were positioned to anchor the ship. They are very old anchors, but not original Conway anchors. They were brought to Port Penhryn in 1948 to complete the Plas Newydd moorings. Some say they came from Plymouth but The Cadet magazine of the time says they were two of the anchors used on the Rock Ferry mooring. The upper flukes have been removed. They were always overgrown and probably are now very difficult to spot. Perhaps some enterprising diver could tell us if the mooring rings and swivel are still there, should be easy to find, just follow the anchor cables.

Band Instruments

Transferred to Indefatigable. Current whereabouts not known. Indefatigable had a big sale when the school closed so they could have gone anywhere... unless you know otherwise.

Barnes Cup

The old inter-watch gig racing was presented to the St Helena Shipping Company by the Conway Club. It was on permanent display in the passenger area of one of the RMS St Helena which also carried cadets in two cabins named Conway and Worcester (see Summer 1991 Newsletter). The cup was awarded annually to the cadet who produces the best kept log or project through their training period aboard one of their mail ships. By 2106 following a refit the cup has been lost.


This is in a special display in the RN Museum, Portsmouth with the ship's wheel and the large model that used to stand on the quarterdeck of the 'Stone Frigate'.


Although I started this entry expecting to find one binnacle, so far I have turned up eight! It might be a good idea to stop looking! Photos are in the Image Archives Binnacles album:

1. The Ship's Wooden Binnacle
This was in the Ship on the Poop deck and is clearly shown in the photo "1928 cadet arnold 2". Its distinctive features are a wooden body and a distinctively shaped low rounded cover. It was recovered from the wreck and there are stories that it was mounted outside Hewitt's office in the Quarterdeck hut but none of the photos show it. Eventually it was mounted on the grass opposite the main entrance to the New Block. It remained there until paying off - see photos "new block exterior 08" and "1973 Parade Deck", although the black balls seem to have shrunk over the years. We should consider this as "the" binnacle. It is of a type introduced in1876 with two adjustable metal balls on the sides of the case to compensate for the strong magnetic influence of metal hulled ships. Older versions in wooden sailing ships did not need them. It had a Flinders Bar mounted on the back and seems to have a brass collar around the base. The covers of The Cadet magazine from 1908 onwards show a very similar looking binnacle so may assume it was in the Ship from at least that year. I am searching the Cadet magazines to see if there is any more information about it.

When Conway paid off in 1974 the Shipping Federation (Conway's owners) passed it to the Sir John Cass College in Gravesend. They put it in store. When Cass closed one of the Instructors found the binnacle and purchased it for a nominal sum (Christie's New York sold a similar model in Jan 09 for 2,500!). He subsequently emigrated to NZ taking the binnacle with him. It contained a few Conway related papers. The owner contacted an OC and so the binnacle appeared at the reunion event in Nov 08. The other shelf around the body has been added since to hold wine glasses.

2. The RN Museum Binnacle                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    When Conway paid off in 1974 a binnacle was apparently donated to the RN Museum at Portsmouth. A recent investigation at the museum found no trace of the body of a binnacle but did turn up the cover illustrated in the album. This is clearly marked as belonging to a Conway/Nile  binnacle but it bears no resemblance to the one that was on the poop (1 above) or any of the others listed below!    

3. The Ship's Brass Pelorus
OK, this is a pelorus rather than a binnacle so arguably it shouldn't be in this list but I've stretched the point for clarity. This was also in the Ship on the Poop deck and is clearly shown in the photo "1928 cadet arnold 2". Its distinctive feature is its shape and all brass(?) construction. Brookie is shown using it in the photo "Tour of the ship upper deck 24". I have no idea what happened to it.

4. The Chart Room Binnacle
There was another device which looks like a binnacle in the Chart Room and shown in the foreground of "Tour of the Ship upper deck chart room 03". Its distinctive feature is a black narrow base. I have no idea what happened to this one. PS there is a deviascope in the left background but that would be stretching the point too far.

5. The Dock Binnacle
There was a binnacle on the dock, outside the Seamanship Room, from at least 1958. It is shown best in the photo "1965 dock 05". It looks very similar to the The Ship's Wooden Binnacle because it has a wooden body and metal top but, its distinctive feature is a pyramid shaped cover. It also has very different openings to the The Ship's Wooden Binnacle, and a distinct wooden collar around its base. It also has a Flinders Bar. I have no idea where this came from, or when, or what happened to it.

6. The Pinnace's Large Binnacle
This was mounted in the pinnace and can be seen in many photos in the Pinnace album although none are very clear. The best one is photo "chapel bh binnacles 2" Its distinctive features are the large metal hood on the cover and the two light cans on the side. It also had a Flinders Bar. This also lacks the adjustable metal balls introduced in 1854 to compensate for the strong magnetic influence of metal hulls. It is now held by The Friends of HMS Conway and is on loan to the National Trust for display in the new Conway cafeteria at Plas Newydd.

7. The Pinnace's Small Binnacle
This was in the pinnace but where? Its distinctive feature is its size - it's small. It is shown in the photo "relics pinnace binnacle". It is held by The Friends of HMS Conway and is in the Conway Chapel at Birkenhead.

8. The Friend's Binnacle Covers
The Friends also have two more covers that seem to come from the Ship.

If you can help clarify things please get in touch but we don't need any more binnacles!


A very large block from the ship used to be in the lower area of Birkenhead Town Hall which closed some years ago. We do not know what happened to the block.

Captain's Cabin Doors

Thurnham Hall, Near Lancaster

This timeshare hotel claims to have the doors to the Captains Cabin. Photos below. Their research indicated they were probably bought by the Hall's then owners from the contractor who was dismantling the ship. They are a 'novelty' in the hotel because of their height and shape - the bottom is obviously slightly shaped to allow for the curve of the ship's deck, and are used as a feature by sales staff to describe the resort's attractions! They are very attractive with a lot of intricate carving, are well looked after and in excellent condition. Our thanks to their resident architect who contacted us with the information. Photos of the ship are on display near the doors.

2011 update: an OC has visted the hall and examined the doors and it seems most unlikely that they were actually from the ship. They are simply too tall to have fitted betwen the decks! Examination of the detailed ship's plans produced for the 1953 refit do not show any pair of doors in the Captain's cabin, apart from the doors onto his stern walk which are entirely different in design and shape. Please email me if you can shed any light on this mystery.

The original locks and plates, donated by Captain Hewitt's family are in Birkenhead Town Hall Museum. The lock to the Captain's Veranda Door is held by John Southwood - a gift from Captain Hewitt.

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Coal Hole Donkey Winch

Spotted by a diver lying on the bottom of the Strait with the rest of the wreck

Communion Silver

Reportedly passed to the Missions To Seamen but is held by the Friends of HMS Conway.

Communion Table

The table was donated in December 1903 as a memorial to Captain Miller (along with the Lecturn and a new harmonium). It is now in the Conway Chapel at Birkenhead.

Conway Chapel

The chapel built by the Conway Club alongside the New Block still stands and is very well used by the Conway Centre but it is no longer used as a chapel.

There is now a Conway Chapel in Birkenhead Priory containing many of the items from the old chapel. Please see the Friends of the Conway section for more information.


Wood from the deck was made into a Lecturn that was donated by the National Maritime Board of Great Britain to the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Long Island, New York. It is kept in their House of Worship: the Mariners Chapel to the right of the altar.

Field Gun

A 2 pounder wheeled Krupp field gun, minus breech used to stand outside the gun room in the Ship - whether to protect the inhabitants or keep them in order is not clear. When the Ship was lost the gun was salvaged and transferred to the entrance of the Nelson Block. It was presented to the Ship by Capt H M Perfect RN (1882-84) or by Lt Herbert Mosley (OC) - differnet sources claim different donors!. It was captured from the Chinese by Capt H M Perfect RN and his boat crew from Undaunted at the storming of Tien-suin on 14th July 1900 during the Boxer rebellion. An engraved plaque describing its capture has been polished to illegibility by generations of cadets so we may never know the full story. When the ship paid off in 1974 the gun was transferred to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich but is not on display.


The ship had two figureheads over the years. Details are here. When Conway paid of a safe home was found for the figurehead at HMS Nelson in Portsmouth where it can be seen from the road.


Two Fifes were specially designed for Conway and the Menai Strait. Sail number 2 was Morwys with a white hull. Sail number 5 was Thelma and had a red hull. Thelma was a gift to the ship in 1954/5. Fifes are a 24 feet Bermuda rig keel boat also used by Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

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I'm pleased to report that Fife No. 5 is alive and well, having been lovingly restored by Bill Thompson (58/61). She has been acquired by another Old Conway - T A Kershaw ('Tak') who lives in Beaumaris. Anyone know what happened to Morwys? There is a small fleet of Fifes raced by the Royal Anglesey Yacht Club. They are now called 'Conway Fifes' -  They have adapted the Conway ensign as a burgee.

Goulding Cup

This is now presented annually by the Navy League of Canada Sea Cadets to the Corps demonstrating the highest degree of proficiency in small boat handling during their Spring Regatta. As many as 300 cadets are involved in the competition

Haig Trophy

Presented by the parents of J E Haig (41-43), this trophy was presented to the best mountain expedition of the year in a competition between each Division. Returned to the family in 1974.

Harley Memorial Shield

Held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich but is not on display.

Honour Boards

Birkenhead Priory Museum, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK.

Housed in the Conway Chapel in Birkenhead Priory.

Lectern (Ship's) 

The brass lecturn was donated in December 1903 as a memorial to Captain Miller(along with a Communion Table and a new harmonium). It is now in the Conway Chapel at Birkenhead.



This was normally kept in the dock Seamanship Room. It was painted white with the words HMS Conway painted on it and Conway crests. It is now in the Conwy Chapel at Birkenhead.

Magazine Panel

A decorated panel, possibly the section that allowed a light to shine through into the Magazine, is held by Bangor Museum (Gwynedd Museum Service) but is not displayed.

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Medal Board

In the Conway Chapel, Birkenhead

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Mizzen Mast

Twelve Quays, Egerton Dock, Birkenhead, Liverpool, UK.

The mast was re-erected on 25 September 1993 in memory of the 11,000 cadets who passed through the Conway and those who lost their lives at sea. Although called the mizzen mast details gleamed from The Cadet magazine indicate that it was actually the original Main Topmast.

TS Conway sea cadets provided a guard of honour at the unveiling ceremony. Members of the Vancouver Conway Club organised replacement spars and new wood for blending into sound sections of the original. Within a few years the mast needed significant repair which was completed in 2008. The current mast contains little of the original, although the Togallant and Gaff are original, so is best considered as the Conway Memorial Mast. There is film of it here and here.

Mizzen Mast

Pwhelli Sailing Club, North Wales has a portion of the original mizzen mast. OC's and Old Worcester members of this club made a substantial donation towards the restoration of the Mizzen Mast, in return the Mast Committee donated a nine foot section of the original mast to them. It has been erected within the Bar area flying a small Conway ensign.

Model Of The Ship - The Gee Model

This large and fine model was made and presented to the ship by Mr J Gee in 1956. It is actually a bit of a historical hotch-potch; it shows the ship in her Nile days as a pure sailing ship – note no funnel! Nile was only commissioned after she was converted to steam. It also shows the post-1938 figurehead – Nile's original   figurehead was only a bust of Nelson with far less body. It is now part of a Conway display which is the centrepeice of the RN Museum, Portsmouth. It previously stood on the quarterdeck of the New Block as shown below. I believe Mr Gee is the other gentleman in the photo!

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This is the only model with one side left unplanked so that you can see inside.

Model Of The Ship - The King's Model

On July 22 1932 HM the King was presented with a model of the Conway made onboard by the carpenter Mr John Bullis Williams assisted by cadets. It was paid for by the Conway Club. The hull was cut from the African Oak of a starboard side lower deck fairlead. It was to a scale of one-eight of an inch to the foot. It took two years to complete. It has 156 dead eyes and 91 blocks made from old school rulers. The metal is silver plated ship's copper. There are 120 yards of rigging (wire and silk trout line), 622 bolts (domestic pins), 6 feet nine inches of chain on boat davits, 1798 clove hitches in the rigging. There are 16 coats of paint and enamel. The model is now in the Science Museum, London but not on display. He made a clock from the remaining wood - photos are in the Image Archive

Two photos of this model are below. One was published in The Cadet in 1933. It shows the ship in her converted state as Conway in 1931-3 – witness the various additions on deck, especially the foc's'le, and the powerboats, cutter and gigs on the davits. Note also there is no figurehead as the original was lost in 1918 and not replaced until 1938. In the second photo the model has been removed from its stand, the ensign removed and some adjustments mde to the masts. You will see this model is very different to the Gee Model but is very similar to the Williams Model.

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Model Of The Ship - The Powers Model

In October 1933 many cadets exhibited models at the Ship Model exhibition in the Bluecoats School, Liverpool. Instructor Powers had made a very fine model of the ship, "...a very beautiful representation...". I wonder where that is now?

Model Of The Ship - The Williams Model

This model was also made by the ship's carpenter Mr John Bullis Williams, at the request of Chief Officer Commander George Witheridge Couch sometime after 1932. It is approx 26" long x 16"high. It was very similar to the King's Model although it has a seagull on the mainsail yard whereas the King's did not! It is in private ownership.

Moody Cup

Donated by Moody's family in memory of James Paul Moody (1904-06), 6th Officer on the Titanic. Competed for at Conway as an open sailing competition in MSOD's by Cadets choosing their own crew. After the closure of Conway the Moody Cup was presented by the Governors to the Conway Club Cruising Association for the best Annual Cruising Log submitted by an Old Conway. The Cup was on loan to the Merseyside Maritime Museum but is now on display in the Conway Chapel.

Please also see the Notable Conways section and the Friends of the Conway section for more information.

MSODs (Menai Strait One Design) (1954 to 1974)

The MSODs (Menai Strait One-Design), were 20 feet long, built out of mahogony on oak frames, clinker built and half decked. Rumoured to be uncapsizeable. The first four MSODs purchased were numbered and named 18 - Lightning, 8 - Taeping, 17 -Ariel and12 - Flying Cloud. The fifth was 10 - Sobroan

“They were super boats – half-decked, carvel-hulled Bermudan sloops – that put up a good performance without threatening to drown their crews, they were all but impossible to capsize."

There is a great web site at learn what happened to them all and add your reminiscences.


The 'HMS Conway' brass nameplate is now in the main entrance of Conway House, Kelly School, Tavistock, Devon, UK. The school holds many other items of Conway memorabilia including a sword.

Nestor Bell

Originally stood outside the part of Plas Newydd - the Nelson Block used as dormitories. It is now on display in the Conway Museum at Birkenhead.

New Block, Plas Neweydd

Cheshire County Council now own the 'new block' built at Plas Newydd. It is called the Conway Centre and used by them as a residential centre for pupils from Cheshire. It is not open to the public but many OCs have visited anyway! Their web site has photos of the Nelson Centre and dock.

Painting Of The Ship Off Rock Ferry

Conway Centre, Plas Newydd, Anglesey, Wales, UK.

Captain Hewitt’s insistence on an office mezzanine floor above the quarterdeck had created a light three story space that is filled by Gordon Ellis’s magnificent 16 foot by 10 foot painting of the Ship at Rock Ferry. It remains in place to this day and every one of the 15,000 or so children and staff passing through the Conway Centre each year receives a brief explanation of the painting and Conway in general. National Trust visitors to Plas Newydd cannot visit the painting. The painting was the privately commissioned gift of Mr Leslie Harding (the Vice Charman of the committee and partner in Bibby Brothers & Co) especially for the New Block entrance in 1963. He wanted to ensure that, as first hand memories of the Ship passed away, there would be some tangible reminder of Conway's origins for future cadets. Mr Harding chose the highly appropriate words from the Navigation Act of 1660 that hang with the painting:

“It is upon ships and sailors under the good providence of god that our wealth, safety and strength chiefly depend.”


In 1989 Captain Hewitt discovered the Prie-Dieu outside an antique shop in the town of Conway. It had been presented by the cadets in memory of Captain A T Miller and has a brass plate to that effect. By skilful negotiation an excellent price was agreed, the money being paid by the Conway Club. It is now in the Conway Chapel.

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Ship's Timber

I'm sure you are aware that timbers salvaged from the Conway are still in existence. You may not know that some have been sampled (by Dublin and Bangor Universities) and identified as African Oak (which of course is not an oak at all). A wide variety of woods were used in her construction, including English oak from Shropshire for the 1938 refit. African Oak was used only for the lower deck.

Western Australia Conway Club. A small piece of ship's timber from the 1938 refit at Cammell Lairds, Liverpool is the base of the Conway Senior Challenge 1938 sports cup originally won by W A Johnstone (37-38) on sports day Easter term. The cup found in an antique shop in Albany Western Australia by local Conways and is now held by the Western Australia Conway Club.

Timbers were used to create the various Honour Boards displayed in the Conway Chapel at Birkenhead Priory

Timbers and copper still survive and are held by an OC. I believe they spent some time in someone's back garden. He has kindly offered to turn them into items of interest for OCs - tankards, coaster, belaying pins etc. Contact details are on page 5 of the Spring 98 Newsletter, and I'm sure the Hon Sec could also put you in touch.

Timbers and copper litter the Menai Straits foreshore.

One enterpriising diving coupe from Bangor rescued enough timber from the wreck to make themselves a fitted kitchen

Sections of timber are in the Liverpool Arms, Beaumaris..

Lecturn made from wood from Conway's deck given by the National Maritime Board of Great Britain to the US Merchant Marine Academy (New York) and used in their chapel


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Ship's Wheel

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This is in a special display in the RN Museum, Portsmouth with the ship's bell and binnacle and the ship's model.

Ship's Window

A window from the ship is in a display case of the Liverpool Arms, Beaumaris.

Silverware & Trophies

The Conway Club owns a number of Conway's cups and these are displayed in the chapel at Birkenhead.


Sid Davies (42-43) has a piece of the sternpost - about 12 inches square by about 18 inches long - varnished and with a plate to record what it is. Also a copper nail, suitably mounted and a dowel about 3" diameter with a war department arrow on it.


A section of the Taffrail was mounted above the bar of the MN Officers Memorial Club, Aliwal Street, Durban South Africa. It was presented by a group of OCs in the 50s. When the club closed everything was sold off and the taffrail eventually eventually found its way into a pub run by P.G.Banks Pr Tech (Eng) A.I.Mar ex Brocklebank engineer. He kindly offerred to send a photo but his email address was lost. Mr Banks if you read this please email me again!


Since 1955 the "Conway Trophy" has been competed for annually by the the Cadets of HMCS Venture, HMC Dockyard, Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada.

It was originally awarded to the most proficient Division in Seamanship, Signaling, and Boat Work but more recently there has been greater emphasis on sports. Some 300 cadets complete every year. It is a section of Conway's taffrail, heavily varnished and mounted on four pillars. The base has a silver plaque bearing the Conway crest. It was taken to Canada by Capt HV Todd (17-18) and eventually obtained by D MacKay (15/18) who turned it into the "Conway Trophy".

Captain Webb Memorial Shield

Held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich but is not always on display. "Last time I saw it it was in the Queen's House in a display cabinet in the basement."


"The Menai Strait, which separates the Isle of Anglesey from mainland North Wales, was described by Nelson as: "one of the most treacherous stretches of sea in the world.

Whoever could navigate a ship here, could sail any sea in the world." Few would dispute his pronouncement; it is an area of overfalls, eddies and swirling water. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Swellies, as the Strait is known locally, has a wreck.

HMS Conway was a 96-gun line-of-battle wooden warship much like Nelson's flagship, Victory. Her ill-fated journey from her permanent berth off the stately home of Plas Newydd to Birkenhead for dry-docking and a refit in 1953 ended after only a couple of miles. She hit the Platters rocks, close to the shore just west of the suspension bridge, and a fire devoured what remained above the water. Nowadays she remains largely forgotten.

Oak, though, is solid stuff. Iron-hard baulks of it, along with a few copper rivets, washers and sheathing, is all that remains of the ship. These lie on the seabed, some partially covered, others standing proud, in just a few metres of water. As a wreck dive, the Conway is, perhaps, not up to much." Unlike her Cadets who were always up to a great deal!

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