Reply To: Trafalgar Flags at Risk

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I am astonished that this very important flag, perhaps the last of its type from Trafalgar remaining in this country, should be at risk of disposal. No matter what the financial position may be of the church which has responsibility for this artefact, disposal of such an object – whether loaned or donated – is inexcusable.
Appended below is the note in the Society of Antiquaries’ current newsletter SALON which Tony mentioned in his important Topic.
If you feel disturbed by the impending public sale of this important relic from Trafalgar, please make your feelings known before Thursday 15 September 2011 in writing, citing ‘Ref. 2062’, to:
The Registrar, Minerva House, 5 Montague Close, London SE1 9BB

Plea to oppose faculty application for the disposal of two Trafalgar flags
Another cause of considerable concern to Fellows is the increasing number of Church of England parishes seeking to sell their cultural treasures. The most recent example is the application made by St Mary the Virgin, Selling, in Kent (located some four miles south east of Faversham), for a faculty allowing it to ‘dispose of two flags’.
The flags in question are rather important survivals from the Battle of Trafalgar that have been in Selling village since at least 1828. They were acquired by Stephen Hilton, a young Master’s Mate who served in HMS Minotaur, at the Battle of Trafalgar. One is a Union Flag [worn by HMS Minatour herself], while the other one is traditionally held to have been flown by a Spanish ship, the Neptuno.
Hilton was one of three brothers who served at Trafalgar. Born in Selling, he retired from the Royal Navy in about 1828 to what became known as Trafalgar House, Selling, where he died in 1872. Some sixty years later, in 1930, the flags were presented to the church by members of the Hilton family who also obtained a faculty to refurbish the south transept as a Hilton Chapel, ‘with holy table, cross, candlesticks, curtains, kneelers, rails and chairs’ and memorials to various members of the family in the form of wall tablets and stained glass. There the flags hung until 1994, when they were taken down and sent to a textile restorer where they are believed to remain to this day.
[SAL] Fellow John Owen says that the sale faculty should be opposed for a number of reasons. The flags are an integral and original part of the Hilton Chapel and just as much integral to the furnishing as the fittings, the monuments and the stained-glass memorial windows. The flags are part of the continuity of three centuries’ connection of the Hilton family with this area of the church, and their removal materially affects the character of the chapel and the listed church of which it is part. The Hilton family, who gave and have protected the flags, oppose their disposal.
Selling PCC has produced no reason for disposing of them, no report on their condition, no ‘Statement of Significance’, no ‘Statement of Needs’ to explain why it is considered necessary to dispose of the flags. Selling Church has the space in which to reinstate them and they are physically capable of being restored and conserved in situ.
Campaigners seeking to prevent their sale are asking those who share their concerns to write setting out their objections by 15 September 2011 to The Registrar, Minerva House, 5 Montague Close, London SE1 9BB, citing ‘Ref. 2062’.

Justin Reay FSA FRHistS