Admiralty's 1758 building programme for ships-of-the-line

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1500 – 1830 Admiralty's 1758 building programme for ships-of-the-line

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  • #9942
    Malcolm Lewis
    Participant

      In 1758 Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder gained Parliamentary approval to build twelve ships of the line, one of which to be a first rate of 100 guns. In December 1758 the Admiralty instructed Chatham Dockyard to build the first rate, later to be named Victory. England was at war with France, to be known as the Seven Years War, and was short of ships of the line having relied on captured vessels to make up the fleet. In what was the biggest building programme of capital ships ever attempted, and probably not repeated until the 1906 Dreadnought programme, presumably the ships were all to Thomas Slade’s designs. It would have put heavy demands on both the Crown and civil dockyards and especially the requirements for oak – some 40,000 ‘loads’, or trees, would have been required as well as ‘fir’ for decks and masts.
      Building of Victory was slowed down in 1763 when the war came to an end and labour in Chatham dockyard was reduced. She was finally ‘launched’ in 1765.
      Is there a reference to the ships that were included in this programme and where they were built and dates launched?
      Malcolm Lewis

      #9944
      Frank Scott
      Participant

        You do not state when Pitt made this speech in 1758. However, David Lyons, The Sailing Navy List (London, 1993) has six ships of the line ordered in December 1758:
        1st Rate: Victory
        2nd Rate: London
        3rd Rate: 4 x Arrogant Class (Arrogant; Cornwall; Defence, Kent)
        That said they had an extensive building programme running throughout those years. For example, I note that between August & November 1755 orders were placed for 2 x Sandwich class 2nd rates, and no less than 7 x Dublin class 3rd rates.

        Frank Scott

        #9945
        David Hepper
        Participant

          I would add a further ship to the 1758 order – the 64 gun Essex.

          I do not know that it was ‘the biggest building programme of capital ships ever attempted’ – surely the Thirty Ships Programme of 1677 would take that accolade – one first rate, nine second rates and twenty third rates. This was almost matched by the Twenty Seven Ship programme of 1690, which provided for seventeen third rates of 80 guns and ten fourth rates of 60 guns.
          Throughout the French wars there was a steady flow of orders, sometimes with a peak – for example in 1812 eleven ships of the line were ordered –
          4 x First Rates (Britannia, Prince Regent, Princess Charlotte, Royal Adelaide)
          7 x 74’s – (Belleisle, Agincourt, Boscawen, Hero, Russell, Hawke, Wellesley)

          #9946
          David Hepper
          Participant

            To expand a little on the earlier answer by Frank Scott; all were Slade designs
            London – built at Chatham DY, launched 1766

            Arrogant – built Harwich by Barnard & Turner; launched 1761
            Cornwall – built Deptford by Wells & Co; launched 1761
            Defence – built Plymouth DY; launched 1763
            Kent – built Deptford DY; launched 1762

            In addition two 64’s were ordered in December 1758; Slade design
            Essex – Wells & Co, Rotherhithe, launched 1760
            Africa – Perry & Co, Blackwall, launched 1761

            Perhaps the best reference to ships of this period would be Winfield ‘British Warships in the Age of Sail’ 1714 – 1792′ or ‘The Ship of the Line’ by Lavery

            #10029
            Malcolm Lewis
            Participant

              Thank you members for this interesting information.
              Ships built in private yards were masted and had their carved decoration carried out in the Royal Dockyards. Those built on the Thames would presumably be ferried downstream to Chatham.
              Agamemnon, 64 guns launched 1781 at Buckler’s Hard on the Beaulieu River, was said to have taken six days to be ferried downriver and eastwards along the Solent to Portsmouth.
              Taking into account the complex tidal conditions and sandbanks of the Solent it would have presented a challenge to get this valuable hull safely to the dockyard. I have asked the museum at Beaulieu for any information about this regular task but without success.
              Few members of the ferrying crew would have been aboard so perhaps anchoring at a change of tide would not have been an option. I assume the hull would have been towed by rowing boats and maybe moored, when the tides were adverse, at dolphins.
              This situation would also have presented itself to shipbuilders on the Hamble River and the East Coast yards.
              Are there any references to ferrying new hulls to dockyards?
              Malcolm Lewis

              #10033
              Frank Scott
              Participant

                Anthony Deane, Nelson’s favourite: HMS Agamemnon at War 1781-1809 (London, 1996) has her being picked up after launch & towed by two oared vessels. First stop was the standard anchorage a short distance away at Fiddler’s Reach, where they overnighted, then over the next few days to Portsmouth. He quotes as reference Agamemnon Master’s logbooks at ADM52/2113 (TNA Kew), which should be worth checking.

                Back then access to the Solent was rather easier than it is now, as there was a short cut across the spit, known as Bull’s Run. Thereafter they would have worked the tides, rather than working against them as so many do these days. Note that without masts and spars windage would have been very much reduced, thus making the hull easier to tow, and not requiring the heavy anchors that she would use in service.

                Frank Scott

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