Ultimate Ship Models 1: HMS Royal George

March 2022

The first of a new mini-series on ship models. Dr Sam Willis explores the extraordinary model of HMS Royal George held in the collections of the National Maritime Museum in London. The Royal George is widely considered to be one of the finest eighteenth-century ship models ever made. It was made for the King in the 1770s, as a means of encouraging George III to take an interest in the Royal Navy and some of the finest artists in the kingdom worked on it, resulting in a model that not only showcased the power of a First Rate ship of the line, but also the artistic ingenuity and skill in the kingdom. The ship modelled is the First Rate Royal George, launched in 1756, at the time the largest ship in the world, that would have had a crew in excess of 800 and was armed with 100 guns. The Royal George played a significant role in the Seven Years War (1756-63) and the war of American Independence (1775-1783) but sank at her mooring near Portsmouth in August 1782 in one of history’s worst maritime disasters. More than 900 souls died, including 300 women and 60 children visiting the crew.

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    Mariner’s Mirror ep 78 – Royal George mix 1

    Thu, 3/31 10:16AM • 38:20


    model, ship, guns, national maritime museum, rig, deck, stern, maritime, bulkheads, rudder, decoration, figurehead, dockyard, cabins, warship, painted, 18th century, podcast, port, royal


    Simon Stephens, Sam Willis


    Sam Willis  00:09

    From the Society for Nautical Research, in partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation, I’m Sam Willis. And this is the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast, the world’s number one podcast dedicated to all of maritime history.


    Sam Willis  00:24

    Hello everyone and welcome to the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast. Today, we have some exciting behind-the-scenes action for you. As part of our video offerings on the Mariner’s Mirror YouTube channel, which has been set up with a dedicated mission to bring innovative video content to maritime history, we have begun a little series shooting ship models in incredible detail, using the very latest in camera technology: in particular, something called a probe lens. Now you don’t need to know anything about it, apart from the fact that it looks a bit like a magic wand, long and thin with a light at the very end. It’s certainly one of the weirdest lenses on the market, but it’s able to create perspectives which are simply not possible with other existing lenses. It has a very unusual wide angle that offers increased depth of field, useful when shooting at very close distances. It has been used to great success in documentary-making, particularly filming things like wildlife and nature, and I’m certain if you’ve watched any of David Attenborough’s latest offerings on the BBC, you would have seen some extraordinary images created with this lens. And when I was also watching the same thing, it struck me that bringing such wonderful technology to the world of maritime ship models would be a very good thing. It has been an extremely long process producing these two episodes, one on HMS Royal George, a first-rate sailing ship from the middle of the Georgian period, and one on the Great Eastern, an extraordinary iron-holed steamship from a century later that revolutionised shipbuilding. I could not have done any of this without the extraordinary generosity of the folks at the National Maritime Museum who have made this all possible. Without their support, it would, without a doubt, have been financially, as well as logistically, impossible. So, thank you all very much, indeed. Curator of ship models, Simon Stephens, thank you so much for being so behind the idea from the very start. Paddy Rogers, I must thank you, the Director of the National Maritime Museum, for seeing the potential in what we are doing. And thanks also to Victoria Mottram for making it all happen – no easy process, let me tell you. And so, we’ve been able to bring you two of the most remarkable ship models ever made, shown in an entirely new way. And of all the fun and innovative things we’ve done on the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast, I think that perhaps this is my favourite, and I hope you enjoyed the listening and watching as much as I enjoyed the making. The videos will appear on the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast YouTube channel and the Society for Nautical Research’s Facebook page. Today we are focusing on the Royal George. Let me set the scene for you. I have a large and international film crew, a director from Spain, a camera man from Spain as well, a camera assistant from Italy. We are in the boardroom at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The windows have been covered over to prevent any light from coming into the room. Simon Stevens, the curator of ship models, has brought the ship in with a team of fellow curatorial technicians. The Royal George now sits on a table in the middle of the room surrounded by lights and at least six people scratching their heads, trying to work out how we are going to do what we have envisaged doing. Remember, no one has ever done this before. Everything we are doing is new. Within an hour, we have already tried to do one simple thing numerous times. Time itself is slipping away, as it has taken so long to get everything set up. But gradually the film crew get into their stride. The probe lens is mounted on a camera, the camera is attached to a device that allows it to glide forward and back as smoothly as possible. The lights have been positioned just so and then moved just so, to make shadows dance across this extraordinary model. We get to a stage where the camera crew have the bit between their teeth and the rattling off shot after shot, later to be stitched together, hopefully, into a video that makes sense. It’s at this stage that I pull Simon Stephens aside and ask him about this remarkable model. For a little context, however, it’s worth knowing a few things about the model that we are filming and why we have chosen it. The model was built for King George III in the 1770s as one of a suite of models and paintings to get him interested in the Royal Navy, illustrating the range of ships employed. It represents a first-rate ship of 100 guns and a crew of around 900 men. It was ships like this that changed the world fighting for territory and protecting trade. It is, without any doubt, one of the finest ship models ever made. The ship that it is a model of was the largest warship in the world at the time of her launch on the 18th of February 1756. Construction at Woolwich Dockyard had taken 10 years. She fought during the Seven Years War, in particular at the Battle of Quiberon Bay under Edward Hawke in 1756. At the time that the model of her was made, she was actually laid up, but was then recommissioned during the War of American Independence and went on to fight at Rodney’s Battle of St. Vincent in January 1780. At the time that this model was built, the model makers also did not know that, within a few short years, the Royal George would go on to take her place atop a ghastly list of maritime tragedies, because she capsized at Spithead in 1782 with immense loss of life. She was intentionally heeled over so that work could be done on her bottom, but they failed to control her angle of heel. Water poured in, and she capsized and more than 800 lives were lost. It’s almost impossible to describe the lavish attention to detail that has been put into the construction of this model. It took two years to build, and some of the most gifted artists of her time worked on her. It really was quite an extraordinary experience for me, being in such close proximity to such a remarkable work of art, and one that is the key to unlocking so many different aspects of naval history. You have, of course, the history of the model, and the artistry involved in making the maritime world in miniature. But you also have the history of the King, this King of England who needed to be instructed on the importance and value of maritime and naval history. And of course, you have the history of the vessel itself. This mighty first-rate ship of the line that was built at a crucial time in the growth of the British Empire, the development of the Navy and, more broadly, the development of naval power itself. As always, we like to bring you the best of the best for our guests. And so here is the brilliant Simon Stephens, curator of ship models at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and a man who has himself pioneered innovative ways of studying ship models, in particular, the use of medical cameras to actually get inside the ship models and see all the bits that are hidden to us casual observers. That footage has revealed a host of details about the model makers. This is a topic we will certainly be coming back to in the future and I very much hope to be able to get some of that footage onto our YouTube channel. But for now, here is Simon.


    Sam Willis  08:15

    Simon we are lurking behind screens and huge piles of equipment watching a team of highly technically-skilled Spanish and Italian cameramen filming.


    Simon Stephens  08:28

    We’re going international.


    Sam Willis  08:29

    We are going international filming this model. Tell us about this: the Royal George.


    Simon Stephens  08:34

    Okay, what we’ve got here in front of us is probably one of the highest-quality models of the 18th century of an English warship. It’s the Royal George, launched in 1756, rated a first-rate with 100 guns, and it’s a full plank-on-frame model. So, you’ve got individual frames, which are then being planked on the one side, on the starboard side, and on the port side it is completely open frame. It was commissioned by Lord Sandwich in July 1772.


    Sam Willis  09:14

    First Lord of the Admiralty?


    Sam Willis  09:14

    Is that the Willis 09:14 collective noun for models?


    Simon Stephens  09:14

    First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Sandwich, as one of a suite of models that were commissioned for George III.


    Simon Stephens  09:15

    That’s a suite.


    Sam Willis  09:16

    A suite, that’s really good.


    Simon Stephens  09:17

    A flotilla, kind of a flotilla of dockyard models. And it was one of a collection of models, that Sandwich commissioned to get George III interested more in the Navy and also the Prince of Wales.


    Sam Willis  09:33

    So why was he not interested in the Navy?


    Simon Stephens  09:34

    Well, he was mainly an army man, that was his background, George III.


    Sam Willis  09:38

    That’s a problem, the King’s not interested in the Navy.


    Simon Stephens  09:40

    That’s right, so they wanted to try and get him interested in the Navy more. And it was all sparked when the Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, paid a visit to Plymouth Dockyard and saw a plan of a model of the dockyard and was so taken aback by this he thought, right, I’m going to commission a model of all of the six royal dockyards: Chatham, Plymouth, Sheerness, Deptford, Woolwich, and show them to the King. They basically explain how ships were the raw material, then the wood arrives along the river and it goes through the whole process of how the wood is made ready for building the ship. And then in addition to the dockyard models, there are three full hull models, the Royal George frigate, and a shipping frame, completely as it would have been built, together with a whole range of paintings of each class of warship, painted by Marshall. So, what we’ve got here is this wonderful giant scale model of the Royal George, shown as it was launched. And it is incredibly detailed. Now, you’ll notice that a number of the features on it are made in bone and tortoise shell. So, it’s been blinged up to a certain extent to show certain features of it. The deadeyes for instance, on the channels.


    Sam Willis  11:04

    Let’s give our listeners a sense of the size of it as well.


    Simon Stephens  11:08

    Right, okay, so we’re looking at a model that’s over a metre long, it’s probably about a metre and a half long, and about 50 centimetres wide, in depth.


    Sam Willis  11:32



    Simon Stephens  11:32

    It’s a lovely sort of sandy brown colour, a lot of the wood that’s been used is box which has then got a natural varnish on it. And then you’ve got painted freezes on the bulkheads, on the longer side.


    Sam Willis  11:36

    So, we’re standing at the bow, the starboard quarter of the bow, and we got a view of, well, it’s not a figurehead, is it? What do you call a bit before they started making figureheads? It’s like an amazing cluster.


    Simon Stephens  11:46

    It’s a huge carving. This would only adorn a first-rate or second-rate, after that you would have the standard lion figurehead for the lower rates. And basically, what you’ve got is the King in a sort of classical warrior outfit on horseback: an equestrian figure trampling his foes, and it’s incredible. The actual figurehead really deserves filming on its own. It’s an incredible piece of art.


    Sam Willis  12:15

    Because at a distance, it looks stunning. The closer you get, it’s almost inconceivable how detailed it is.


    Simon Stephens  12:21

    It is: you’ve got the veins on the stomach of the horse, the flared nostrils of the horse, it really is incredibly detailed. And we think it’s a single piece of wood. So, I’m just watching the camera probe here.


    Sam Willis  12:37

    It’s getting quite close.


    Simon Stephens  12:38

    Yeah. Which is then set on to the stemhead, which is how a normal ship’s figurehead would be produced. But because this was made for the King, we’re very lucky, as it is quite rare in the 18th century, to have all these written references in the archives, giving us insights as to why it was commissioned, when it was delivered, the reaction, and that sort of thing.


    Sam Willis  13:04

    So, did it work? Was the king inspired by the Navy once he had these models?


    Simon Stephens  13:08

    I think he was actually yes. When the Prince of Wales then became George IV, the models were then presented to the Greenwich Hospital collection. So, they were taken out of the Royal Collection.


    Sam Willis  13:23

    Let’s talk a little bit about the detail because what we were looking at here is on the outside, but there’s more going on inside as well isn’t there?


    Simon Stephens  13:30

    There’s a tremendous amount in the inside. This is probably one of the most detailed models, internally, that I know of, but purely because the planking has been omitted on the port side, so you can actually look right into the model. So of course, if you can do that, you’ve got to make sure that everything that should have been there is there. So, you’ve got capstans, you got pumps, you’ve got cabins fitted out with bulkheads, lovely decorated floors, you’ve got little fires and hearths in there to keep the cabins warm. You’ve got a full cock cooking stove in the focsle (forecastle) and you’ve got a working belfry with a little clapper that moves as well.


    Sam Willis  14:05

    And the floor has this marquetry?


    Simon Stephens  14:06

    In the great cabins, that’s right; it’s an inlaid floor with the typical compass rose and the herringbone thatched fashion decoration as well. Because in a cabin, normally it would be a painted canvas floor, which they would lay in the cabin, and then roll up once they were using the cabin to run the guns in and out in times of war. That’s been depicted by this lovely inlaid marquetry, and of course, all the panels of the bulkheads and the doors have hinges that work, and they’ve got door latches that work. It just defies belief, really, that so much detail has gone into this model.


    Sam Willis  14:49

    And it’s also clearly of a period when manual labour was Willis 14:49 cheap. But, having said that, think about the guy who’s made this. I reckon he’s a talented model-maker, probably a champion shipwright in his own right, so he knows how the big ones are made. And he’s been given a commission to make a model for the king. How long did it take him, do you reckon? What do we know about it?


    Simon Stephens  15:09

    What we know is it was ordered in July 1772, and it was delivered in June 1774. So this model, not all of them, but this model, took roughly two years. It was put together by a team of people. It wasn’t one individual. We know who did the carving: Burrows. All of the painted decoration along the bulwark friezes and the bulkheads was done by Joseph Marshall who was an artist in his own right. And he produced the portraits of all of the different sizes of ships that were then presented to George III.


    Sam Willis  15:41

    So he’s got models and then portraits of the models or of the ships?


    Simon Stephens  15:45

    Portraits of the models, interestingly, which is pretty much unique. And then you’ve got the dockyard models as well. The people that worked on these were carpenters, joiners, carvers, and there were some metal workers as well: tin coppersmiths, who obviously did the metalwork for the channels, the chain plates, the guns (if there were guns included), the brass hinges on the gun port lids; that sort of thing. And then you’ve obviously got someone who would be able to fret very delicate wood and do bone-work and also be able to turn as well. So, there was a real range of skills that were needed for this. But only a number of people were mentioned in the correspondence, probably quite senior people, because the Artisans who actually worked on it, the low-ranked artisans, as far as we know, didn’t get a mention. But the amazing thing is that on the plank side, on the starboard side, the planking is still really tight. What you tend to find with these models is that over the years, because they were constructed using wooden brass pins and animal glue, the planks tend to move with different sorts of conditions like humidity, light levels, that sort of thing. This is as tight as anything. So not too close guys!


    Sam Willis  17:09

    Let’s talk about the unplanned side and what that reveals to us.


    Simon Stephens  17:12

    On the unplanned side, you’ve got how the ship was actually framed. It’s not a schematic framing as you would get in the Navy Board models. It’s actually how it was. And then every three frames have been omitted to give you access into the model so you can look inside the model. But they still left, within those frames, the positions of the gun ports, because again, it was important. This ship was designed to show a new style of construction and layer of the guns for this class.


    Sam Willis  17:41

    See the very distinctive gun, the beautiful, curved shape of the hole. Yes, for those of you listening, it’s like a wineglass. Let’s describe it like that. So, choosing and selecting the timbers for that – how did that work? To what extent are those lovely curves natural? Or are they carved and then put in position on the ship?


    Simon Stephens  17:41

    Certain timbers were grown, or they were sourced from grown trees. So for the knees, which are sort of right-angled timbers that support the deck beams,


    Sam Willis  18:15

    For those of you listening it’s like a shelf support


    Simon Stephens  18:17

    A shelf support, exactly that. You go along to a tree, which would have the correct shape in terms of its trunk and the relation to a bough coming out or a branch coming out, and you would have a template with you. You would just hold the template up against this tree and say, right, we want that tree that will do for three knees or something like that.


    Simon Stephens  18:35

    Yeah, that tree for three knees. How many knees in a ship? A lot!


    Simon Stephens  18:41

    Well let’s put it this way, there’s two per beam, and then you’ve got three decks. So you just can’t say, it’s hundreds basically.


    Sam Willis  18:47

    It is hundreds, isn’t it?


    Simon Stephens  18:48

    Absolutely. And also, not just vertical knees, you’ve got what they call horizontal knees, lodging knees, which support the deck beams on a horizontal surface. So, the amount of timber required for a ship of this size was vast.


    Sam Willis  19:01

    A thousand? Over a thousand trees.


    Simon Stephens  19:02

    Over a thousand yeah. It has been calculated with the Victory. Don’t forget Victory was 1765, so she came 10 years after the Royal George was launched so we know exactly the quantity and quality of wood required for that. And she’s the same size, she’s a three decker 100-gun first-rate. Timber was very carefully selected both in the UK and also abroad, which is another reason why we’re looking for timber supplies abroad. Like North America, exactly that because it’s not just one species of wood. There’s a range of species that were used for different jobs in the ship.


    Sam Willis  19:41

    And then for the model with those very knees that we were discussing, those are not carved out of single trunks, are they?


    Simon Stephens  19:49

    No, they’re not. They’re carved out of smaller pieces of wood.


    Sam Willis  19:52

    And are they box as well or is it just the planking that’s box?


    Simon Stephens  19:56

    It’s likely that the planking is box because of the colour and the lack of grain. The great thing about box – the lack of grain which then does away with the scale – is that if you use something like pine, where you’ve got very obvious grain, or oak, which is very difficult to work at this scale, it ruins the effect of a scale model, whereas something that’s in box is very hard. It’s very crispy, you can carve it well.


    Simon Stephens  20:19

    Box is a very slow-growing tree. In Box Hill Down in Surrey, up on the North Downs, there was a big enclave of box there. But it’s been used for years for things like instruments, because it’s very, very finely carved. You can mark it; you can turn it on a lathe. And for something like figureheads, where you’ve got this really intricate deep carving, you can either make it from sections of box glued together, or you can make it from a single piece. So it’s a very, very adaptable material that can be used for car decoration. And also, the colour as well is lovely. It’s slow growing, it’s like our fruit woods that are slow growing, and again they’ve got very little grain. They’re hard, and they withstand time and tide as it were. The only problem is that they’re susceptible to worm damage unfortunately.


    Sam Willis  20:19

    Where do you get box from?


    Sam Willis  21:16

    The warships of the period, looking at this, were very different to say HMS Victory, which was painted. But is this what the model looked like? Or when that was at sea, did it look like this with the sides varnished?


    Simon Stephens  21:30

    Yeah it did, actually. It pretty much is as the ship was finished – like that. The thing about Victory is that later on in its career it had the gun ports painted with the yellow ochre and the black bands and things. That was much later in the 18th century, whereas this really depicts the ship as it was launched, within reason. Obviously, all of the bone decoration and stuff like that was carved in wood and then painted.


    Sam Willis  21:56

    Yeah, and it’s such a beautiful model, but encapsulating this period because it looks more like a 17th century ship or model, I think, than something later. It’s this sort of middle period, where there’s still the really elaborate design. It’s still nothing compared to a 17th century ship like the Sovereign of the Seas. For you listeners, we’re going to try and get a model filmed from the Science Museum, or possibly one from the National Maritime Museum. But, in comparison with this, let’s talk a little bit about 17th century ship design.


    Simon Stephens  22:32

    Yes. The big visual difference you’ve got is that with 17th century ships, they were highly decorated: all of the gun ports had carved wreaths around them. There was much more decoration on the bow and stern. And then as you go into the 18th century, there was an order issued, I think, in about 1715 saying: on the grounds of cost and maintenance, we’re going to reduce the decoration on all of our warship except for the first and the second rates.


    Sam Willis  22:56

    Yeah well they piled into them, they were unbelievable.


    Simon Stephens  22:58

    Incredible, you can imagine the cost of just keeping this decoration in good condition and also painting it and gilding as well.


    Sam Willis  23:09

    So, an important point to say is that even though this looks unbelievably elaborate and stunning, it’s nothing compared to what was going on the century before.


    Simon Stephens  23:16

    And then let’s go another generation on, so 1770, what was going on in 1870?


    Simon Stephens  23:16

    Alongside the St. Michael, 1670, they’re completely different.


    Simon Stephens  23:27

    Well 1870, yes you’re into the steel Navy now, the sailing steel Navy. So, the only decoration you’re getting there is possibly a figurehead.


    Sam Willis  23:37

    A small stumpy one.


    Simon Stephens  23:38

    Yeah. Let’s just talk about the doors on the bow. So, what are those for? There were certainly a lot: one, two, three, four, five, six.


    Simon Stephens  23:38

    Yeah a stumpy one. You would have a coat of arms on the bow, possibly, and then there’d be some decoration around the stern and that would be it. There was nothing elaborate like this, you wouldn’t have painted bulkheads or anything like that. I don’t know what was done internally, but certainly, completely different. If you look at the Gannet for instance, at Chatham Dockyard, the gunboat (that’s 1870 I think), that’s the stark difference.


    Simon Stephens  24:01

    Yes you’ve got four. On what they call the forecastle or beakhead bulkhead, you’ve got these four opening doors. Now, in either side of those four doors, you’ve got these semi-circular, cylindrical buildings or constructions and they’re the heads, they’re the heads for the officers. But then for all of those you’ve got the heads for the crew, which are basically just open seats with holes in, but the doors themselves you could actually run a gun through if you wanted to fire a gun.


    Simon Stephens  24:39

    Well, you’d have to put them either side of the head but no, they give you access to the bow area, which is obviously where you’ve got to work the sails on the bowsprit in the jibboom. So, you’ve got to be able to have access to the bowsprit for the crew.


    Simon Stephens  24:39

    You’d probably blow off the figurehead though, wouldn’t you?


    Sam Willis  24:56

    Let’s walk over around the back and talk about the stern. Mind out for the kit. We’re now wading through loads of filming kit and lights. Here we are, we’re alright here I think. So the stern: enormously elaborate.


    Simon Stephens  25:15

    Incredible, isn’t it?


    Sam Willis  25:16

    So, you’ve got windows, but not only just windows, you’ve got balconies as well.


    Simon Stephens  25:20

    Absolutely, and what they call an open stern gallery. And over the years, they experimented with enclosing the sterns as well as opening them as well. And you’ll notice if you go and visit Victory, she’s got a completely enclosed stern which was added for her refit for Trafalgar. But yes, you’ve got these open sterns and you’ve got three tiers.


    Sam Willis  25:38

    It says quite a lot, I think. I’ve always been obsessed with windows in the back of sailing warships. It’s like having a conservatory on the back of a tank, it’s madness. But not only that, it’s not just important seeing the world as you sail through it, but also where you’ve just been. I quite like how there’s something proprietorial about it: it’s not just enjoying the view; it’s about seeing somewhere where your massive warship has just literally been. So, it wasn’t just enough seeing the world, they had to actually be out in the fresh air without being on deck and encumbered by the rigging and the shouts and the busyness of the deck.


    Simon Stephens  26:12

    I was just trying to understand the sentence you just told me. A single piece of bone? What sort of bone is it, do we know?


    Simon Stephens  26:12

    And obviously, that’s where the Captain and the Admiral would have had their meetings with the senior officers about plotting their courses, their action in time of war, and that sort of thing. And that that’s where they would eat as well. So, it was it was a multi-use space. And on quarter galleries, which as you come around the stern to either port or starboard, you’ve got the glazed windows, again to bring light into the cabins. And they also served as toilets for the officers as well. One interesting thing about the glazing on the windows is that it’s actually made from mica, which is like a mineral muscovite, which you can split into very, very thin, wafer-thin sheets. And at that time, they would use that instead of glass. And then the actual frames of the windows are carved in bone, incredibly, and also this lantern – they’re made from a single piece of bone, incredibly, and they’re all pierced, and they’ve got actual candles inside them as well. Yeah, it’s incredible detail.


    Simon Stephens  27:23

    It’s going to be bovine so it’s going to be some sort of ox or cow that they would use, and they would use one of the main leg bones for that size of thing. Sometimes they would use ivory as well, but this is clearly bone because of the colour and there’s no sort of grain to it either.


    Sam Willis  27:39

    And the rudder strapping is interesting. I’m looking at the rudder underneath the stern gallery, and it’s held on by one, two, three, four, five, six of – what are those bands?


    Simon Stephens  27:51

    They’re the gudgeon pintles, the gudgeons, they’re on the actual rudder itself. And then the pintles are on the stern piece so they’ve got the spikes, and they basically support the rudder. I think the other thing about the rudder is that, as you probably know, the ship is steered by the rig really, not that much the rudder, and the rudder was a fine tuning of steering the ship. A lot of people think that that was it: you just sail in one direction and you just turn left and pull your rudder over.


    Sam Willis  28:23

    It was all to do with balance, wasn’t it?


    Simon Stephens  28:24

    Exactly, yeah.


    Sam Willis  28:25

    So, let’s talk about the rig because the point about this model, very obviously, is it’s not rigged; it is an unrigged model.


    Simon Stephens  28:32



    Sam Willis  28:33

    But there are many in your collection which are rigged. So, what’s the decision-making behind not rigging it?


    Simon Stephens  28:37

    Well, I suppose in this particular case, it’s going to be time and money. It’s going to cost more to rig the model, and also, it’s going to take longer to rig it. And also, at this date, the rig was a basic three-masted square rig, there was no advancement. Technically, in terms of the rig, it wasn’t until you get into the later 18th century where they extended the jibboom and they did some work on the fighting tops and stuff that the rig started to be tweaked.


    Sam Willis  29:09

    It’s interesting as it basically says that it’s so every day. It’s so alien to us, you might think oh, I want to see the crazy rigging and the miles and miles of the ropes. But for them, it was like oh, that’s how ships work.


    Simon Stephens  29:19

    And it’s very rare that you get sails rigged on models as well. We’ve got a number of models that are what we call fully-rigged, but without sails. Some of them have just got the sails bent onto the yards and stowed or filled. Others have gotten them actually flying but they haven’t survived very well over the years.


    Sam Willis  29:38

    I find I actually like it without the rigging. I find the rigging was often quite distracting because, in terms of the scale, it’s quite difficult to understand that the sheer size of the canvas utterly dominates the model, doesn’t it?


    Simon Stephens  29:54

    Yeah, the square footage of canvas is huge.


    Sam Willis  29:57

    All you end up looking at is huge big squares of yeah of Canvas.


    Simon Stephens  30:00

    And it does hide a lot of the deck detail as well, you just don’t get the equipment on the deck when you’ve got the lower courses flapping around in front of you. And you’re right, the eye does detract to the sails and the masts. So, there are reasons for not rigging a model, various reasons. But I think, in this case, you just completely focus on the hull and the decoration.


    Sam Willis  30:26

    I just noticed here that the portholes on the stern have got windows in because those go onto the officers’ quarters, and the rest of them are just gaping holes, so quite breezy on the gundecks.


    Sam Willis  30:35

    The orlop deck being the lowest deck?


    Simon Stephens  30:35

    It would have been, that’s right. Obviously, when she was sailing, they would run the guns in and drop the lids down and seal them. So they’d have to be made watertight, especially along the lower the lower gun deck, nearest the waterline. Yes, obviously when the guns were rigged out in times of action, it was quite a breezy place. But you’ve got gratings on deck to throw light into the hull, and also air because that was another problem: they had was stale air in the hulls, especially in the orlop deck.


    Simon Stephens  31:07

    The lowest deck, that’s below the gun deck. So, you’ve got three decks


    Sam Willis  31:14

    Below the waterline usually.


    Simon Stephens  31:15

    Below the waterline, exactly. So, you’ve got the gun deck, the upper gun deck, and the middle gun deck on the model, and then below that you’ve got the orlop deck as well.


    Sam Willis  31:24

    Looking on the side here, we’ve also got this – you described it as the front door. What’s going on there?


    Simon Stephens  31:28

    That’s right, it’s called the entry port really. That’s where the senior officers and certainly the captain and the admiral, when the ship was afloat on its moorings, would come alongside by barge, and that’s their access into the hull. They wouldn’t just clamber over the bow or anything like that or up the stern, that’s their official entrance. It’s still the case today in the Navy really when a senior officer comes on board, they board using the central gangway. It’s interesting that it’s still carried on that tradition really. On these big first-rates, they had an entry port on both sides, port and starboard. You can see they’re quite intricate as well. It’s interesting that some of these entry points were collapsible, because obviously having that thing hanging out when you’re at sea, it’s asking to be washed away. So it was kind of hidden.


    Sam Willis  31:37

    Mind your head mate!


    Simon Stephens  32:23

    The davits.


    Sam Willis  32:26

    I’m just going to take a photo because it’s all silhouetted, it’s very beautiful.


    Simon Stephens  32:29

    Yeah it’s lovely. You just think: it doesn’t show the anchors; a lot of these models were normally rigged with sets of anchors because there was a set of anchors on a warship: different sizes for different jobs. But there’s no anchors on this model, and there’s never been anchors as well.


    Sam Willis  32:45

    Interesting. I’ve noticed when you do look at a model with the anchor on ship, they are inconceivably massive.


    Simon Stephens  32:54

    They’re huge and weigh several tonnes. Just imagine manhandling those things to drop them and retrieve them and then stow them as well, because you can’t have them just swinging around on the end of a davit.


    Sam Willis  33:06

    No, they’d smash holes in the side.


    Simon Stephens  33:07

    Absolutely, it would cause untold damage.


    Sam Willis  33:10

    They were your best friend, but also your worst enemy. It’s interesting in maritime archaeology that the two best ways of getting a sense of a ship, if you haven’t got the ship itself, is to find its anchor or its rudder.


    Simon Stephens  33:21

    Yeah, that’s right. Or a gun or something like that. If it’s a warship, exactly, that’s the sort of giveaway, isn’t it?


    Sam Willis  33:26

    Absolutely, because you get a real sense of the scale of it. Guns are interesting, because, if you’ve got a really, really big one, then you get a sense of the scale of the beams that support it all. So, what do we know about the guns that are missing here?


    Simon Stephens  33:39

    Yes, again, the guns themselves are all different pounderage guns. They had different weights because they fire different size shots. So the main gun deck, which is the lower deck, would have probably had 32-pounders. The Middle Deck probably went up to 18-pounders, and then the upper deck would probably be a mixture of 8 and 9-pounders, because you obviously can’t have the big heavy guns on the upper decks because you make it unstable. So you’ve got to have your heaviest, larger guns lower down so that the ship was stable enough to be sailed and worked in action.


    Sam Willis  34:16

    Well, fascinating stuff. Thank you very much for telling me all about it. Let’s hope this film comes out well, I think it’s going to be amazing.


    Simon Stephens  34:25

    If you’re going to do this on a model, this is really one of the best to choose for the 18th century. It’s incredibly detailed.


    Sam Willis  34:31

    I’m excited about it particularly as it’s going to pick up things that the human eye won’t even be able to see.


    Simon Stephens  34:37

    Well, that’s an interesting point, because obviously we’ve got models in the collection which have got internal detail that clearly, without modern equipment, you would never have been able to see and people always ask: well, why did they put it in there? And my answer is I don’t know but I can make a guess that their craftsmanship was their pride. If they knew it was going to be for someone, especially the King, it had to be the best.


    Sam Willis  35:00

    We’re hoping we’d be filming with this probe lens which is like a magic wand. And what we’re hoping is that when we turn it around – we’re filming on the plank side now – we might even be able to get it inside the model, which will be mind-blowing.


    Simon Stephens  35:14

    The detail inside is incredible. You’ve got all the fixtures and fittings, pumps, capstans, windlasses. You’ve got the cabins which are decorated as well, the fire hearths, the stove. Even the bell on the belfry is turned in brass and it’s got a working clapper in it as well. It’s incredible.


    Sam Willis  35:32

    Brilliant stuff. Thank you so much Simon.


    Simon Stephens  35:34

    No, it’s a pleasure.


    Sam Willis  35:41

    Thank you all very much for listening. If you are listening on an iPhone, please scroll down the Podcast app, tap ‘five stars’ and leave us a review! It really makes all the difference. We will read out any new reviews that are left. Most recently, we have an excellent five-star review from Scott M083: “This is a really excellent, informative and enjoyable podcast” – right Scott, thank you very much – “presented by Dr. Sam Willis in his really engaging style with knowledgeable guests for each episode. Highly recommended.” Scott, thank you so much that really does mean the world. And Dave MC esq. – is that the hint of an esquire there? – “five stars. This podcast is truly outstanding, greatly detailed and informative, while still being very easy listening. More of these please!” And it’s not just a massage on maritime egos: every review helps us get discovered online and therefore helps us do what we are trying to do, which is spread the gospel of maritime history as far and as wide as possible. So, I really would encourage you please to take the time to rate us and leave a review. Please also check out our fantastic Mariner’s Mirror Podcast YouTube channel, it doesn’t only have these spectacular videos but other wonderful videos. Most recently, I think, my favourite is an animated 3D model of the Titanic created from the ship’s original plans. It really is quite extraordinary. Best of all, however, please, please join the Society for Nautical Research. Your modest membership fee will go towards supporting this podcast, publishing the Mariner’s Mirror quarterly journal, and towards preserving our maritime past. In return, you get to become a member of an extremely friendly society with regular talks and events. You receive the Mariner’s Mirror journal four times a year and you can come to our annual dinner on the gun decks of HMS Victory. You can find out about everything we do, and you can join at snr.org.uk.

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