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Original British Officer Copper Food Warmer Marked HMS Polyphemus 1782-1813

Regular price $795.00

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is nothing short of glorious! The height of decadence, from a time of great disruption, with the French Revolution followed by the Napoleonic Wars. The poor peasants lived like animals and the upper crust lived like Kings!

This Georgian era all copper food warmer was used to bring the Officers of HMS Polyphemus their breakfast, no doubt of scrambled eggs, sausage and fried potatoes, while the crew got hard tack, ship's biscuits from which the weevils had to be removed. Little wonder there was a revolution in France and a fleet mutiny in the British Navy.

This is a beautifully made copper tray with removable hinged lid, having a hidden hot water compartment to keep the contents warm. The water tank fed from an aperture with cooper lid on the shaft of the wood handle. The hinged lid is engraved:

H.M.S. POLYPHEMUS under a fouled anchor.

Original 1780-1820 manufacture of fabulous quality. Even the hinges are made of copper. No. 4 is engraved on the lid of the water compartment indicating that each Naval officer had his own server.

Measures 3 in height and 10" across and 13 (including handle).

HMS Polyphemus, a 64-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 27 April 1782 at Sheerness. She participated in the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen, the Battle of Trafalgar, and the Siege of Santo Domingo. In 1813 she became a powder hulk and was broken up in 1827.

History of HMS Polyphemus (1782 - 1813)

Polyphemus was laid down at Sheerness in 1776. On 26 April 1778, His Majesty King George III visited Sheerness to inspect the dockyards. There he saw Polyphemus, which was standing in her frame to season. She was launched in 1782 and commissioned under Captain William C. Finch, who then sailed her to Gibraltar.

She was part of a British fleet under Admiral Richard Howe successfully resupplied Gibraltar, then under siege by Bourbon forces. Shortly after, the British fleet met the Franco-Spanish fleet under Admiral Luis de Córdova y Córdova on 20 October 1782. The consequent battle of Cape Spartel was indecisive. Polyphemus was part of the second division of the van, and suffered four men wounded.

In late 1782, Admiral Sir Richard Hughes took a squadron that included Polyphemus, under Captain Thomas Sotheby, out to the West Indies. On their way the British encountered a French convoy off Martinique. The action of 6 December 1782 lasted 40 minutes, during which time Ruby, under Captain John Collins, captured the French 64-gun ship Solitaire, under Jean-Charles de Borda. Solitaire had 35 men killed and 55 wounded whilst Ruby had only two men wounded. Two days later the squadron arrived at Barbados. The Royal Navy took Solitaire into service as HMS Solitaire. Polyphemus shared with Ruby in the head money for the capture of Solitaire, while the other vessels of the British squadron did not, suggesting that Polyphemus assisted Ruby.

At the end of the war in 1783, her crew was paid off in June. Then she received some repairs between December 1783 and December 1784.

Napoleonic Wars

After war with France resumed in 1803, Polyphemus underwent fitting out at Chatham between March and September 1804. Captain Captain Robert Redmill recommissioned her in July for the Channel, but apparently was only temporarily in command.

Polyphemus joined the Cadiz squadron under Admiral John Orde. She shared with Donegal and Defence in the proceeds from the capture on 26 November of the Spanish ship Virgen del Rosario.

In late November or early December (different records disagree), Polyphemus, under Lawford's command, captured several Spanish ships. One was the San Joseph (alias Favorite). The snow Saint Josef had been sailing from La Guayra to Cadiz with a cargo of indigo, cocoa, cochineal, and cotton. Another was the Santo Christo, which had been sailing from Montevideo to Cadiz with a cargo of hides and copper. She also captured the St Edward. The St Edward (or Edward), was sailing from Vera Cruz to Cadiz with a cargo of cocoa, cochineal, and cotton, and $98,539. Lastly, Polyphemus captured the Bon Air, which was sailing from Vera Cruz to Cadiz with a cargo of cocoa, indigo, and cochineal, and $20,000.

Three days later Polyphemus and Lively captured the Spanish frigate Santa Gertruyda off Cape St Mary. A frigate of 40-guns, she was armed only with 14, and was sailing from Peru and Mexico to Coruna when Polyphemus captured her. Polyphemus and Santa Gertruyda separated in a gale that damaged the Spanish ship, which nonetheless reached Plymouth on 10 January 1805, in tow by the armed defense ship Harriet, which had encountered Santa Gertruyda some days after the gale. Santa Gertruyda was carrying $1,215,000, and merchandize. Once she arrived in Plymouth, the Royal Navy took her into service as Santa Gertruda, but did not commission the 40-year-old ship. Instead she served as a receiving ship.

Lawford was still in command on 8 February 1805 when Polyphemus captured the Marianna. She arrived in Plymouth a few days later.


Under Redmill, Polyphemus took part in the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805. She fought in the Lee column, and lost two men killed and four wounded. She engaged the French ships Neptune and Achille and after the battle captured the Spanish ship Argonauta. Lastly, Polyphemus towed HMS Victory, carrying Nelson's body, back to Gibraltar.

Parliament voted a grant of £300,000 to the participants in the battle, payable in September 1806. Then in March 1807 there was a distribution of prize money for the hull, stores, and head money for four French and two Spanish ships captured at Trafalgar. In 1847 the Admiralty awarded the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "Trafalgar" to all surviving claimants from the battle.

In January 1806, Polyphemus and the frigate Sirius were escorting a convoy from Gibraltar when they encountered a French squadron under Admiral Willaumez. The French succeeded in capturing two of the merchant vessels and four of the French fleet unsuccessfully chased Sirius for two hours, but forcing her to separate from the convoy.

On 3 April 1806 Polyphemus, Fame, and Africa were off Madeira, having escorted the East India Fleet southward. Seventeen days later, Polyphemus shared in the capture of the Spanish ship Estrella. One week later Polyphemus, Fame, and Africa shared in the capture of the Spanish ship San Pablo and her cargo. St Pablo (or St Pablus), was sailing from Vera Cruz with a valuable cargo.

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