Myboatplans 518 Boat Plans

Build Your Own Boat

Get Instant Access

In 1748 the years were beginning to tell on the old Carolina (she had been renamed Royal Caroline in 1733, but will be referred to here as Carolina to avoid confusion with the later ship). In March that year, the King commented to Captain Molloy that the ship was not exactly in tiptop condition and it was reported to Anson that the hull was in need of urgent repairs.

Her last voyage as a royal yacht took place in November 1748, a difficult crossing from Hellevoetsluis in Holland to Kingsgate, in high seas under reefed topsails. This apparent willingness to set sail, with the King aboard, in all seasons regardless of the weather suggests considerable faith in the seaworthiness of the yacht. After this ordeal, the state of the ship made repairs essential, and the possibility of some improvements was considered.

At this time English shipbuilding was governed by two different bodies with very distinct duties, at least in theory. One was the Admiralty, which was responsible for naval policy and strategy under the King's high command, and therefore decided what shipbuilding programmes were required to achieve political objectives. The other was the Navy Board, a group of technical bodies and administrative offices, which carried out the Admiralty's directives, managed the dockyards, warehouses and the entire ancillary apparatus, designed, built and victualled the ships, decided on their repair or disposal,

Body plan of Carolina (1716). Note the keel section; a section like this is found in the Arcano del Mare by Robert Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, exiled to Tuscany around the end of the seventeenth century.

and, not least, defined the financial requirements and administered the funds allocated by Parliament. The Admiralty was made up of political men, usually from aristocratic families, and of high ranking Navy officers seconded to the committee so that their practical experience could guide the other members. Their number varied from seven to nine. Their term of office was not usually long, while on the Navy Board professional technicians of the highest level often spent all their working lives there and jealously guarded their prerogatives and their 'craft'.

Friction between the two bodies was more the rule than the exception. Admiralty orders on matters within its jurisdiction were often loosely interpreted, if not openly ignored. The opposite process also occurred, it must be added in the interests of objectivity, when the Admiralty meddled, sometimes not too happily, in matters that were the business of the Navy Board.

Main frame of Carolina from the plans in the National Maritime Museum.

This brief disgression is the background to an understanding of the rather curious circumstances which accompanied the building of Royal Caroline and to an appreciation of them, especially from a distance of 2lh centuries.

The Woolwich dockyard was asked for an estimate to repair and improve the old yacht. The amount was £2200, not counting regilding the carved decorations. While the Navy Board, whether out of disbelief or undue punctiliousness, asked for the estimate to be reviewed, this time by two dockyards together, the Admiralty cut matters short and ordered a new ship to be built. In a letter dated 26 June 1749, the Master Shipwrights of various yards and the Surveyor of the Navy in person were asked to prepare plans to be submitted for approval by the Admiralty. The new ship, the Admiralty specified, had to be the same capacitity and draught as the old one, and would be built according to the best plan from those submitted. Two of these plans have survived, that of

Carolina riding at anchor, from a contemporary painting. Her resemblance to Royal Caroline s obvious. Carolina, as far as we know, was the first three-masted yacht and the biggest built to date. To judge from some of the rigging details, the painting seems to date from before 1719.

the Surveyor, Joshua Allin, and that of the Plymouth Master Shipwright. It is not surprising that Allin's was chosen, and, objectively, it must be admitted that it was the better. The letter from the Admiralty ordering Royal Caroline to be built according to Allin's plans is dated 22 August 1749 and bears the signatures of Anson, Duncannon and Villiers. So Royal Caroline was built at Deptford, between London and Greenwich.

Admiralty orders were to build the ship in the shortest possible time, the more so because the old Carolina was no longer available for royal voyages. She had been refitted, also in the Deptford yard, as an armed sloop (the smallest three-masted square-rigged naval craft) and returned to the Royal Navy. Deptford had given an estimate of £1494 for this work, advising against it since it was practically the cost of a new sloop, but the Admiralty, in spite of this, ordered them to proceed (letter of 11 July 1749). The actual cost of the conversion was £3331 - a consolation for modern budget planners! The ship was radically changed after this work (her hull was 3ft longer) and she was renamed Peregrine Sloop after her original designer. Her end was tragic: she was lost in the Bay of Biscay in 1762 with no survivors. Originally she was believed to have been captured by the French, as noted in the Progress Book.

Even the birth of Royal Caroline was not free from financial disputes; indeed these were lively and hard fought, as we shall see. The shipyard, following the orders of the Lords of the Admiralty, immediately commenced building operations. The Navy Board was responsible for expenditure, however, and since the new craft had not been budgeted for, she had to be financed from what we would now term hidden reserves. The estimated expenditure was submitted only on 26 October. Bearing in mind that a proportion of the carvings, furnishings, panelling, anchors, flags, ballast, and other fittings belonging to the old Carolina were to be re-used, the following totals were reached:

Hull, masts and spars Furnishings and fittings Sculptures Gilding


The bill must have been impressive since the total cost of a three-decked, 80-gun ship of the line, for example, was less than £38,000-fitted out, stored for 8 months and ready to sail. The documents we have been able to consult are not complete, but the impression they give is that the Navy Board did not look too kindly on the new project, while the Admiralty (or more probably Anson in person) was pressing for the new ship to be ready for the beginning of 1750. The Admiralty wrote directly to the Deptford yard, overruling the Navy Board, who retaliated by carping over costs. We shall see in a later section that the Admiralty had other reasons for desiring the new craft besides those of making a new yacht available to enhance the prestige of the King.

Letters passed from the Admiralty to Deptford urging completion, and from the yard suggesting means of speeding matters up (even working during the Christmas holidays was considered). Correspondence between the Navy Board and the yard, on the other hand, concerned the constant stream of high bills to be paid. It is thanks to these disputes over costs that the names of the craftsmen have been preserved, as it was their accounts which caused the disagreements. Heading them is Mr Thomas Burroughs the carver, whose bill came to £1100 lis Od, a considerable sum. The Navy Board did not wish to undertake the responsibility for paying without confirmation that such a bill was justified. The yard declared that it had no terms of reference to enable it to express an opinion, since the carvings were more numerous and of better quality and finish than on any ship before. The carver was paid his price.

Mr John Bladwell and Mr William Reavour, upholsterers, provided curtains and panels of silk, damask and the finest linens, cushions, upholstery, ribbons, braids and embroidery, amounting to more than £200. The stern lanterns were made by Widow May's company which was the only one to grant a discount, of £2 on the £18 invoiced.

One intriguing item in the fittings is 'Mr Sutton's Air Pipes'. On February 1 1750 the yard asked the Navy Board to send workmen to install these, otherwise they would be unable to proceed with laying the lead ballast. These pipes were part of a primitive ventilation system that conducted hot air from the galley stove to the below-deck spaces in an attempt to prevent rot and decay in the timbers.

The bill for gilding was especially high. Mrs Rosamond Turner's company, the yard explained, 'has laid on with gold size, one hundred and twenty thousand leaves of gold on HMS the Royal Caroline in gilding her head, stern and all the frieze and weatherwork fore and aft etc and being the greatest part which is to be gilt for which am humbly of the opinion she deserves to be paid after the rate of 15s for 100 leaves including gold size and workmanship'. This meant another £900. Here the patience of the Navy Board gave out and the curt order to suspend the gilding and painting work arrived at the yard. It was only resumed in July 1750, and with another firm (that of a Mr Stock, who presented a bill of £267 without discount for completing the gilding and painting). It is significant that the carvings were covered with gold leaf, the finest, but by far the most costly, gilding procedure. This was a tremendous luxury, even for those days. The few ornaments on warships received a 'gilding' consisting of a coat of yellow paint with a layer of metal powder applied to it.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment