Dartmoor prison was built between 1806 and 1809, mainly to confine thousands of prisoners of war. It was built in Princetown, a bleak part of Dartmoor and an ideal location because of its remoteness. It was designed by Daniel Asher Alexander, with buildings arranged like the spokes in a wheel, surrounded by a high perimeter wall. It was one of Britain’s first purpose-built prisons designed for 6,000 prisoners, and still remains a prison today, though now with a maximum capacity of just 659.
JMW Turner is one of Britain’s best loved artists. He became known as the ‘painter of light’ due to his trademark style and use of colour in landscapes and seascapes.The Fighting Temeraire, one of his most famous oil paintings, shows the warship Temeraire being towed by a steam-powered tug on its last ever journey before being broken up. It is said to symbolise the decline of Britain’s naval power, the passing of the ‘glorious’ age of sail and the growth of ‘modern’ technology in an increasingly industrialised Britain. The industrial revolution and the history of the Royal Navy were therefore both saluted, through Turner’s revolutionary brand of romantic landscape painting.
This print was one of over a thousand satires produced by the celebrated caricaturist, James Gillray, who became known as the ‘father of the political cartoon’. In the 18thcentury, cartoons and caricatures were a popular way of mocking the establishment and calling them to account. They would be discussed and enjoyed in shop windows, coffee houses and taverns. The arrival of the industrial printing press in the 1800s helped to spread them far and wide, through broadsides (posters), newspapers and pamphlets. This one was inspired by the resumed hostilities and ongoing rivalrybetween Britain and France in 1805.
This painting by Gustaf Wappers depicts the Belgian Revolution of 1830, which resulted in the independence of Belgium from the Dutch-ruled United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Napoleon rose to power during the French Revolution, crowning himself Emperor of France in 1804. He had ambitions to carve out a vast empire and dynasty, and successfully invaded and conquered countries across the European continent in a series of bloody battles, before he was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. These became known as the Napoleonic wars.
Travelling in Europe was very popular among the British nobility, gentry, and professionals of the 1700s and 1800s. It became traditional for upper class men and women to embark on a lengthy ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe, where they would experience the languages and history of the continent while showing off their own status and wealth. It was also popular with British artists, writers and thinkers of the time, keen to broaden their experience and exchange ideas – particularly with their counterparts and the new celebrities and centres thrown up by the upheavals of revolution.
During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, prisoner exchanges between Britain and France only occurred rarely, meaning large numbers of captives were held for long periods in each country. French prisoners in Britain were often invited or compelled to practice crafts, and manufactured many intricate models made from bones and other recycled goods.
This is one of three artificial legs made for Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge, who commanded the British cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo. He was hit on the right knee by a canister shot, after the missile had passed over the neck of Wellington’s horse, Copenhagen.
This hat was worn by the French Emperor Napoleon when he commanded the French Army at the Battle of Waterloo.
William Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister of Britain through the French Revolutionary and early Napoleonic Wars in the late 1700s and early 1800s.