Ordered in 1788, laid down at Plymouth in 1791 and launched in May 1798, HMS Foudroyant was an 80-gun two-decker of 2,062 tons. Originally promised to Nelson but still unfinished when he was ordered to the Mediterranean in March 1798, she later served briefly as his flagship (June 1799-June 1800) before becoming flagship to Admiral Lord Keith. After an active role in the recapture of Malta, she was refitted in 1802-03 and then returned to sea until 1812 when her active career came to an end. Thereafter stationed at Devonport on dockyard duties, she was finally placed on the Sales List in 1891 and sold out of the service the following January for £2,350.
Bought by J. Read of Portsmouth, she was promptly resold to German shipbreakers, thereby prompting a storm of protest amongst the general public. An appeal was launched to save her and, thanks to the generosity of Mr G.W. Cobb of Caldicot Castle, Chepstow, she was towed back to the Thames estuary and restored at Erith by Mr Shuttleworth using her original plans loaned by the Admiralty. To offset the restoration cost of £20,000, it was decided to exhibit her at various seaside resorts and, in June 1897, she was towed to Blackpool. On the 16th of the month, during a violent storm, she dragged her moorings and ran ashore on the pleasure beach near the North Pier. All aboard her were saved but Foudroyant was so badly damaged as to be beyond saving. Still essentially intact, she continued to prove a major attraction to visitors but that November's gales dashed her to pieces and ended her long life rather ignominiously. The public remained fascinated by her however, to the extent that all her salvageable timber and metal was eventually recycled into a wide variety of maritime souvenirs, including furniture such as this display cabinet.