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A new display case exhibiting the bone models is now in the foyer of the Main Museum Building.
Prisoners of War: Their Art and Craft
During the Wars of 1793-1815, thousands of French prisoners of war were held in Britain. In 1815 a total of 24,000 were released from Portsmouth alone.
Many of the prisoners were skilled craftsmen. They used beef and chicken bones to make fine ship models, chess pieces and other items.
They used straw from their bedding to make braided dinner mats and boxes. Most of the items made were sold to sympathetic prison visitors.
The high quality of the items caused problems. In 1810 fake coins and notes produced by the prisoners flooded Portsmouth. The quality of lace goods they produced was so high that English lace manufacturers complained and the manufacture was forbidden.