I set out to create this series of detailed drawings because, as a modelmaker, I needed the answers to a number of questions relating to the intricacies of square rig. I could find no publication which allowed me to study a ship's rigging in the way that one can, for example, in front of a model in a museum. And even then, of course, the sheer complexity is confusing and difficult to grasp. Most modelling books, while dealing extensively with hull construction, often approach rigging in a rather cursory fashion. The genesis of this book was, therefore, the desire to fill that gap. I decided to study and depict each item of a ship's rigging on its own, isolated on a page, so that the reader might understand where a particular sheet or halliard, for example, leads and how it functions.
One of the pleasures of researching and putting together all these drawings was the realisation of how logical and functional the rigging of a square-rigged ship is. This really should not have come as a surprise. Sailors are nothing if not practical, and the apparently complicated confection of ropes and tackles is, in fact, a wonderfully simple and ordered creation with no unnecessary or redundant parts. My intention in the book is to show this simplicity and, at the same time, draw to the reader's attention the basic principles by which square-rig functions; throughout the centuries, square-rigged ships have followed the same principles when it has come to catching the wind.
Though these principles have remained the same I felt it important, both for the sake of accuracy and for the benefit of modellers, to draw from a contemporary model, and I decided on an English frigate which should have retained most of its original rigging. By going to a three-dimensional source I hoped to be able to depict the intricate details in the clearest possible manner, and by choosing a contemporary model create a scheme which was authentic. With the help of the publisher I found a suitable model, with much of its original rigging intact, in the Bristol Industrial Museum, it is a beautiful model of the Melampus, a 36-gun, 18-pounder frigate. It was donated to the museum in 1844 and while it has received the attention of restorers over the years its rigging is considered a reliable representation. I photographed and sketched the model from every angle and the results of the exercise were the source for the drawings in this book.
Melatnpus seemed a suitable choice not just because of her authenticity but also because of her relatively small size and her long and quite distinguished career. All modelmakers, I'm sure, feel happier working on the model of a prototype which distinguished herself and Melampus had a long career during one of the most turbulent periods of the Royal Navy's history.
She is one of four models of ships which were built by the Bristol yard of James Martin Hillhouse and is assumed to have been commissioned by the builders. The ship herself was launched in 1785 and was one of the biggest frigates of her day. She was one of the first of a new generation of 18-pounder frigates and carried 36 guns rather than the 38 of similarly sized vessels and, subsequently, had more space on her gundeck and performed well at sea. Her reputation spread soon enough and she was coveted as a command by, among others, Prince William Henry - later William IV
During her thirty years of service in the Royal Navy she took part in a number of actions. In 1794, for instance, she was with the Arethusa and two other frigates in Warren's action against Desgarceaux's squadron, which ended in the capture of three French frigates. Under the command of Sir Richard Strachan, Melampus, along with four other frigates, chased a French convoy into Carteret Bay where every ship bar one was destroyed by the ships' boats. Three years later, in 17.98, under the command of Captain Moore, she was involved in the interception of the Brest fleet off Ireland and captured the Bellone, a 44-gun frigate. Two days later she took another frigate, the Resolue 36. She was later, in 1807, to experience the fall-out of the Leopard-Chesapeake action when two-hundred of her water-casks were burnt by the enraged inhabitants of Norfolk, Virginia. In 1811 she captured the slaver Fortune and brought her back to Plymouth, and, finally, in 1815, she was sold off to the Dutch navy. Despite being thirty years old, she continued to serve for another decade.
I hope this book will make the task of rigging easier for modelmakers at all levels. Certainly, researching and drawing out the illustrations answered a lot of questions for me. There are other works which any modelmaker needs to refer to and which have been stalwart guides for me. Foremost are James Lee's The Masting and Rigging of English Ships of War 1625-1860, and C N Longridge's The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships. Any modeller's book shelf also requires The Ashley Book of Knots.
Finally, the journal Seaways and The Nautical Research Journal, from Nautical Research Guild in the US, have been useful guides for me.
Habo, Sweden, 2000
Fore Channels & Dead-Eyes
Inboard view (port) Outboard view (port)
Main Channels & Radin,
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