The 'Alarm' winning the Ladies Challenge Cup at Cowes, 14 August 1830

(Updated July 2017) Oil painting previously called 'The 193-ton yacht Alarm in a light swell' but now retitled from the related print (see PAD6514). This was one of 24 lithographed by Louis Haghe in 1832 as 'Views of the principal Seats, and Marine and Landscape Scenery in the vicinity of Lymington, Hants, from original Pictures taken on the spot by J. M. Gilbert, Marine Painter’ (see PAD1106 for information on the series). The ‘Alarm’, here shown as a brand-new cutter, was one of the best known early Royal Yacht Squadron vessels. She was built by Thomas Inman at Lymington in 1830 for the famous yachtsman and landowner Joseph Weld (1777-1863) of Lymington and Lulworth Castle, Dorset. This was her very successful first season in which she won both the Ladies Cup and, on 21 August, the prime trophy of Cowes Week that year - the King's Cup presented by the new king, William IV, who had only come to the throne in June: the latter is also in the Museum collection (PLT0256). The Ladies Cup commenced the week, on 14 August, pitting 'Alarm' against a sole competitor, James Maxse's 164-ton 'Miranda'. The course was about 60 miles, completed in four and a half hours, from Cowes to the Nab Light, then back to a buoy off Lymington and return to Cowes. Gilbert here shows her passing the stake-boat marking the finish, which fires a gun. 'Miranda' follows at far left, two minutes behind, after being one minute ahead at the Nab turn. Weld retained the Ladies Cup when presented, since this was the third successive season he had won it, according to the report in the 'Hampshire Telegraph' of 16 August: this adds that 'The weather was boisterous the whole of the day', as Gilbert shows it. 'Alarm' subsequently won several more King’s Cup races before the tonnage rules were altered to open it up to smaller yachts. In 1851 she raced the visiting US schooner yacht ‘America’ in the challenge-cup event which, when 'America' won, laid the basis of the ongoing 'America's Cup' still contested for the same silver trophy today. Probably as a result of ‘America’s’ influence, Weld then had her lengthened by 20 ft at the bow in 1852 and re-rigged as a schooner, in which form she continued as one of the most famous 19th-century British racing yachts until 1867. She was laid up on the mud at Lymington in 1869, becoming derelict before finally sold at Inman's yard on 6 September 1888. The hull was bought by Pollack and Brown of Southampton and broken up there the following year. The Museum has an oil painting by Nicholas Condy, the younger, depicting a deck scene on board the ‘Alarm’, c. 1842-51; see BHC4178. The Queen’s Trophy for 1838, which 'Alarm' also won, is another in the Museum collection (see PLT0257). Very little is recorded of Gilbert, the artist, who did mainly marine and coastal landscape views. He was born in London on 26 April 1799 and exhibited six marine subjects in London (two each at the RA, British Institution and Society of British Artists) between 1825 and 1855. Apart from his Lymington 'Views' series - of which the 1832 issue was dedicated to Admiral Sir Harry Burrard Neale - he did a smaller set, also lithographed by Haghe, of Queen Victoria's visit to the Experimental Squadron at Portsmouth in 1845. In 1829-30 he moved to Lymington, and probably by 1833 began living at 2 Holly Cottage, Boldre, where he died on 18 April 1876. The Roman Catholic baptisms of the Gilberts' first four children (of seven, two boys dying young), all at Lymington from 1831 to 1836, show that while originally Protestant, Gilbert had probably then converted to that denomination: records for the later children are missing. Godfathers to three were members of the landowning, Catholic, Weld family of whom Joseph, the yachtsman, was head (and that of the fourth the officiating local Jesuit priest): these baptisms, and many others, took place at Pylewell House, until 1853 the Weld home. This suggests the possible circles in which Gilbert's probably quite localized patronage lay, given the few pictures he exhibited in London. This painting is inscribed lower right, in capitals, 'Alarm’ 193 tons, built in 1830’. There may be a fragmentary signature at an angle below 'J G....t'.

Object Details

ID: BHC4182
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Gilbert, Joseph Miles
Vessels: Alarm (1830)
Date made: circa 1830; circa 1831 Mid 19th century
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Painting: 660 mm x 896 mm; Frame: 792 x 1034 x 90 mm

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