Splinter Nets for Wooden Warships C. 1800

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1500 – 1830 Splinter Nets for Wooden Warships C. 1800

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Author
  • #2698
    Brian D. H

    I am trying to find out when splinter nets were introduced and to confirm their positioning when in use. Jean Boudriot’s The Seventy-Four Gun Ship vols 3 & 4, [trans D H Roberts, London 1987-88], and Falconer’s Universal Dictionary of the Marine, ed Wm Burney, London 1815 [facsimile published London 2006], indicate nets made of sennit ALONG the sides of the ship, whilst K-H Marquardt in Eighteenth-century Rigs and Rigging [London 1992] states ACROSS the decks. There appears no definition in Falconer’s [first edition] of 1780, or any earlier reference that I can find.

    Frank Scott

    Brian Lavery, The arming and fitting of English ships of war: 1660-1815, London 1987, covers this on page 251. There were two types of netting, both of which came into use in the RN during the early part of revolutionary war.

    Lavery quotes references from The National Archives (Kew) that date overhead netting rigged for protection from falling debris, sometimes called “splinter netting” and more commonly termed “sauve tête”, as standard in the Royal Navy from 1793. He dates the standard use of anti-boarding netting (along the side of the ship) slightly later, from 1795, and comments that they were only for frigates and [smaller ships]. He includes an excellent illustration of the sauve tête overhead netting rigged in the Venerable (74) in 1799 (National Maritime Museum collection).
    I am somewhat perplexed by your reference to K-H Marquardt, Eighteenth-century Rigs and Rigging, London 1992, because my reading of chapter XVI is that he mentions both types of netting, though he does indeed go into more detail on the overhead netting. Marquardt also mentions that such netting had a long history, and that its use in the Mary Rose contributed to the high loss of life by trapping crew members when she capsized in 1545.


    As to use in 17th century, Mainwaring’s Seaman’s Dictionary [full citation: The Sea-man’s Dictionary, Sir Henry Manwayring, written 1620-23, first published London 1640, facsimile 1972] gives this definition [page 70]:
    Nettings are those small ropes which are seized together with rope yarns in the form of a net with meshes, and are for the most part only used in the waist (yet I have seen Flemings have
    nettings over all, from the top of the forecastle
    over the poop); and are stretched upon the ledges, which are placed from the waist-trees to the roof-trees. In merchantmen it is chiefly used
    having a sail laid over it, for to shadow their men, and for a close fight; but I think they are in an error, for it is most dangerous for firing, of small defence if men enter, being quickly cut down, and being once torn down (as it may easily with small grapnels) it doth cloy all the waist. In a man-of-war it is good to have them for the pleasure and succour of the company [in foul weather or in extreme sunshine], but not to use them in fight.
    Netting-sails are the sails which they lay upon the nettings.’
    Fights or Close Fights were screens or waistcloths to keep the men hidden during a seafight.
    “Sauve-Tête” seems to have been an English rather than a French term. The French word was “Casse-tête”. This is the word used on page 168 of the second edition of P-M-J Bonnefoux et Paris’ Dictionnaire de Marine à Voile et à Vapeur, Paris c.1859, giving the English equivalent as “Save tate”. “Sauve-garde” is the term used by other sources and better expresses the underlying idea. Bonnefoux (p.638) reserves this term for bowsprit netting, rudder pendants and entering-ropes.

    Brian D. H

    Thank you for your input. Like many others, I have usually considered splinter nets as just the overhead ones, as distict from boarding nets etc, but a recent query directed my attention to those at the internal SIDE of the ship, hence the query. I am aware that the overhead has been used for a very long time but was not aware of the side ‘splinter net’ until recently.
    Having established the item in Falconer’s [Dictionary of the Marine] of 1815 I was following it up.
    K-H Marquardt (1992), page 262, right-hand column line seven offers: ‘Splinter netting was nailed to the inner part of the ship’s side extending right ACROSS the decks’. This seems to create an obstruction. Falconer (p319) states: “nailed to the inner part of the ship’s side…..” which seems sensible if they are ALONG the deck.
    I have also been advised that they were not very effective against shot coming in at an angle, as this just left a tangle of ropes on the deck.
    One could take the view that as overhead netting was quite an old invention, internal side netting has also been around for some time; so was it invented before the “Nelson” era?

    Nicholas Blake

    The guard nettings (aka sauve tetes) for the quarterdeck and forecastle of ships of the line established on 15 May 1793. Originally made of rope, then from 7 Feb 1799 from junk, worked up on board. (‘H.M.S. Victory. Report to the Victory Technical Committee of a search among the Admiralty records’, Mariner’s Mirror, vol. 10, 1924, no. 2, p. 204)

    Establishment for gunships’ guard netting:
    100, 9cwt. 98, 9cwt. 80, 9cwt. 74, 9cwt. 64, 8cwt. 50, 7cwt.

    THA: PRO copy, ADM 106/2512, 7 Feb 1799, no. 207

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.