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 Ship building programme 
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Post Ship building programme


I found the following interesting from The Times, July 26, 1786:

" .... it is said to be determined on by the Admiralty to build no more ships of war of above 100 guns, as the 90 gun ships are found to answer all the purposes of any increased number. The French were sensible of this since the year 1583, when a ship of 2000 tons, called la Grande Françoise,* was built at Havre de Grace; its cables were in thickness something more than the body of a corpulent man. In it was a tennis-court, and is had also a wind-mill. It was intended to carry 100 guns, sixty pounders; but after taking up two tides with much labour and difficulty in getting to the pier-head, the officers of the navy, were obliged to pull it down, and many houses were built of the materials ...."


Was the comment correct? Did the Admiralty build no further large ships? Or was it just social comment on the part of The Times?


*la Grande Françoise




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Tue Jan 08, 2008 11:11 am
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The Admiralty did build more First Rates (100 – 120 guns) during and after the Great War. On the other hand, the 90 gun ships were not a success, being slow and unweatherly (their only advantage was that in battle their superior height enabled them to make life very unpleasant for any two deckers they encountered). Some better second rates of 98 guns were built during the war.


Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:18 pm
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Post Ship building programme
Mil,

As Ionia pointed out, there were indeed first rates over 100 guns built after 1786, including one built in that very year - the Royal Sovereign (100 guns) - altogether about 25 or so, constructed every few years until well into Queen Victoria's reign.

She was just over 2,000 tons, but the ships gradually increased in size, the Queen of 1839 being over 3,100 tons. Armament increased too, although not consistently for various reasons, some of the latter ships having over 120 guns.

It is not generally thought that these later first rates were as good as the smaller, earlier, ships such as the Victory, which is considered to have been one of the fastest and handiest of her class. However they presumably made suitable, prestige, flagships and many of the later ones were fitted with steam engines. It should also be pointed out that these large ships, certainly the Queen, were approaching the maximum size for wooden sailing ships, even with the iron cross-bracing that they were fitted with.

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Thu Jan 10, 2008 5:51 pm
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From The Times, of June 2, 1804:

" .... several samples of teak-wood, from the East Indies, have been brought to England by the Company's ships, and have, upon trial, been found to be calculated for building ships of war. Orders were issued for two frigates to be built of this wood in his Majesty's dock-yards..."

Does any one know which two and where they were built? I know the Trincomalee was built of teak and would be grateful for more information.


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Tue Feb 26, 2008 11:38 am
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I can find no trace of ships being built in English yards of teak at this early period, however, this probably refers to the two 36 gun frigates ordered to be constructed at Bombay Dockyard (actually ordered during May 1802 and June 1803). Both suffered from a rather complex series of name changes, which included swapping names. They eventually saw service as the DORIS and SALSETTE.

Several later ships built for the navy at Bombay were also of teak; these included the TRINCOMALEE and the AMPHITRITE. Other Indian built ships were purchased into the service and were also of teak.


Tue Feb 26, 2008 2:54 pm
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From The Times, January 9, 1826, speaking of directions given by the Admiralty for ".... building another class of ships on the several principles of Sir Robert Seppings (the Surveyor of the Navy), the School of Naval Architecture, and Captain Hayes, RN. The frigates of 28 guns, are to be built at Portsmouth and Woolwich yards, in which the plans of these scientific projectors are to be worked out, and their comparative excellence afterwards put to the test, by experimental cruising. It is a difficult, and, with all the knowledge we possess, a very defective, but highly important science; and it is only by a course of experiments that any improvement in it can be attained. It ought to be said, with truth, by any other power on the face of the globe, that they build better ships than we do ....."

Who were "they"? From what I've read French ships were considered better built than British ones; is it to those that are being referred?

Does anyone know more of the School of Naval Architecture, or of Captain Hayes? The article also refers to him building ".... one at Portsmouth, on his plan, which shall excel the Champion in every qualification..... "

For information, The Times is quoting the Hampshire Telegraph.


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Mon May 26, 2008 9:12 am
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Posted: Mon May 26, 2008 9:12 am Post subject:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Does anyone know more of the School of Naval Architecture,

In 1808-09 Lord Barham's Commission to revise the affairs of the Admiralty made a series of recommendations; one of them was to set up a school which would train naval architects. It was felt that too much was put to the trust of the Master Shipwrights and the Surveyor of the Navy, responsible for the design of ships, was usually a former Master Shipwright from one of the Royal Dockyards. Although they had lots of experience, it was felt that the French were more 'scientific' in their approach.
The School was set up at Portsmouth and opened in January 1811, to train shipwrights in all aspects of building and designing ships.

It was not a great success. The problem was that few new ships were ordered after 1815, and it was not until the late 1820s and 1830s that new designs were looked for. A series of experimental ships were built, by rival designers, some of them enthusiastic amateurs - who seemed to do as well, or even better, than the products of the SNA. It came to a climax when a naval officer - one of the 'enthusiastic amateurs' - Captain Symonds, was appointed to be the Surveyor, ahead of trained shipwrights and men from the SNA.



The historian Brian Lavery has written - "...the policymakers of the period were not equipped to reach informed conclusions on the value of science, and quickly became disillusioned with the cost and delay it seemed to involve. Political weight and prejudice were far stronger influence on design than science. In this respect the staff and pupils at the School were doubly unfortunate. They lacked the level of support that Symonds had acquired through his success as a yacht builder and they did not have the numbers to gain political support in return for votes. ...furthermore the course was too dull to evoke enthusiasm."


Tue May 27, 2008 6:57 pm
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.."or of Captain Hayes? The article also refers to him building ".... one at Portsmouth, on his plan, which shall excel the Champion in every qualification..... "

John Hayes had joined the Navy in 1787, after serving as an apprentice shipwright at Deptford Dockyard. He made a series of suggestions to the Admiralty on ship design, including the cutting down of 74 gun ships into powerful frigates, able to match the big frigates being produced by the US Navy - he later commanded one, the Majestic, which supported the Endymion to capture the USS President.

In 1826 his design for a sloop was accepted, to be built at the Sapphire. He later designed the frigate Inconstant. He was seen as a rival to Captain Symonds, and when asked to submit a design for an 80 gun ship, he refused, as he refused to work with Symonds, and " was unwilling to entrust his design the to Admiralty".
He died in 1838.


Tue May 27, 2008 7:05 pm
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Thanks, David, for both of your responses about the Architecture school and Captain Hayes; appreciated!


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Thu May 29, 2008 10:09 am
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From The Times, July 19, 1788::

".... The Umpire, a new three decker of 100 guns, ordered to be laid down at Chatham, will be the largest ship in the British Navy. Her tonnage is to be 2400, which is above 100 tons larger than the Royal Sovereign, a new first rate launched last year at Plymouth ......"

Was the vessel every built? The only one I've heard of is an RN sub.


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Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:06 am
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The name was changed and she was launched as the ROYAL GEORGE and was broken up in 1822. Her sisters were the two QUEEN CHARLOTTEs (1790 and 1810).


Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:47 am
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Mil,

A small point you made earlier about French ships being better built than British ones. I think you have to take into account the tasks they performed. The French may have been better built 'scientifically', but I believe it is generally considered that British ships were the more seaworthy in all weathers. I would hazard a guess too and say that Spanish ships were probably better built than French ones.

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Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:56 am
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Devenish!

You are right: it all depends on their purpose. One had to generalize here but if one is referring to frigates -

British ships were designed to be at sea in all weathers, to remain there a long time and to fight whenever they saw an enemy. Thus (before the surveyor Simmonds in the 1820s) they were robust, stable, had good cargo capacity, and were heavier and thus often slower that their rivals.

The French naval doctrine was to use ships for particular purposes and they saw battle as a secondary consideration. The expectation was that they would be at sea for limited periods and they were built to be fast. Thus they tended to be longer, narrower and lighter than the British, poorer gun platforms and, because of their length, they 'worked' a great deal. When the Brits referred to French ships as 'better' they often meant 'faster' and more scientifically designed.

Brian Vale


Wed Jun 18, 2008 5:02 pm
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Thanks to Peter for information about the elusive Umpire and to Kester and Brian for their comments about the French-built vessels.

Information and input, always gratefully received..... thanks!


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Thu Jun 19, 2008 10:52 am
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.....sort of following on from the first post in this thread, from The Times, November 6, 1786:

".... It has been stated that the Corunna, a new Spanish ship of war, built at the Havannah, carrying 114 guns, is the largest ship in the world; and that it will be surpassed only by the Etats de Bourgogne, or the States of Burgundy, a ship of war now building at Brest, at the expence[sic] of the States of that province, whose name it bears, and from whom it is intended as a present to his Majesty; this ship is to mount 118 guns.

But it may be remembered that there is at this moment in the Royal Navy of Spain a first rate ship of war, considerably larger than either of these two it is called the Santissima Trinidada, and carries 126 guns. The British ships that felt her fire when Lord Howe relieved Gibraltar, know what an immense sized vessel she is; they may well judge of her who heard the dreadful thunder of her guns, and nobly withstood her fire. Admiral Milbank in the Ocean of 80 guns defied her, and gave her blow for blow. He knows, however, and to his honour be it said, as he engaged her with so inferior a number of guns, that she is the largest in the world. .... "




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