St Philip and St James’s church, Grafton Road, Cheltenham, GL50 2DD

Refurbishment of ‘old’ bench

In September 2009 the gardening volunteers made a huge difference by clearing out the hedges in the garden of Church House. Whilst resting on the old garden seat, David Thompson noticed a small metal plate on its front denoting its origin. The wood for the bench had come from HMS Arethusa which was broken up in 1933. HMS Arethusa, a 50 gun frigate was launched in 1849. Arethusa was a water nymph in Greek mythology. In 1874 HMS Arethusa a redundant Royal Navy frigate, and the last warship to go into battle under sail (Odessa, Crimea 1854), was handed over to The 7th Earl of Shaftesbury in the UK and moored on the Thames at Greenhythe as a floating children’s home. 200 boys were taught carpentry, cobbling, tailoring and seamanship, providing them with a trade for life. Training Ship Arethusa provided young men for the Royal Navy and the Merchant Service until 1934. At her end she was taken to Castle’s ship breaker’s yard on the Thames and timber was used to make the bench. The little metal disc is inscribed ‘Timber from HMS Arethusa, launched 1849, the last ship it sail into action Sebastapol. Broken up 1933, Castle’s Shipbreaking Co Ltd, 160, Millbank London’

We gratefully thank Clive Mitchell from Southam who over the last few months has done a wonderful job in voluntarily restoring the bench, which is now at the rear of the church.


There can be few garden benches with such a provenance. Can anyone tell us how it came to be in the Church House garden?

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