Last week, Carolyn and I had a short break away staying in Yorkshire, or more precisely Oakworth, just north-east of Bradford and in the heart of Bronte country with Haworth, and its famous Parsonage quite literally just down the road.
I say Yorkshire because I am of an age when the county boundaries were the historic boundaries from Viking and Saxon times, that until certain governments in the sixties decided to break them up and assign us post codes, and local authorities to govern areas no one had ever heard of, and so I prefer to refer to all of Yorkshire as just that.
Whilst enjoying walking and some great weather to go with it, that has included the Bronte Trail and a walk around Malham Cove and its surrounding area that took in the film backdrops for Harry Potter and The Witcher I got to make the two hour trip up to Hartlepool to visit a ship that I have long wanted to see, but that is a bit off the beaten trail for me, namely the Leda Class, Bombay built, 38-gun frigate, HMS Trincomalee now restored to her 1817 look from the wreck of an old training ship she had become in her latter years before being saved for the nation.
HMS Pomone built in Frindsbury in 1805 - G.F. St. John
The second ship after Leda to be built in this class of frigate based on the design of the French frigate Hébé, designed by Jacques-Noël Sané
The ship really is unique in so many ways, that make her a must see option for anyone with the slightest most passing interest in the age of sail and particularly the Royal Navy of that era representing as she does the last surviving example of a frigate of the classical Georgian Navy that would have been familiar to Nelson, with only a few modifications brought in for her service in a later Victorian Navy and being the only survivor of her class of seven such ships ordered by the Royal Navy between 1812-1815 and having none of the 'Seppings' modifications that her much later sister HMS Unicorn, docked in Dundee displays.
HMS "Amelia" (ex Proserpine) Chasing the French Frigate "Aréthuse" 1813. - John Christian Schetky
The Amelia shows the lines of the Hébé class that influence the design of the British Leda and Trincomalee.
The Leda class itself was based on, of course, an original French design, the Hébé 38-guns designed by Jacques-Noël Sané and launched in St. Malo on the 25th June 1782 only to be captured by HMS Rainbow 44-guns the following September, close to her launch site, off the Île de Batz, on the Brittany coast, with the first use of British carronades deciding the issue after the first broadside with the French commander promptly pulling down his colours in response.
The Hébé was taken into British service as HMS Hebe, later renamed HMS Blonde in 1805, being paid off in 1810 and broken up in Deptford in June 1811.
|Scale: 1:48. Plan showing the inboard profile for 'Leda' (1800) dated 9th July 1796 - RMG|
On the 1st May 1799, the new HMS Leda, a design of frigate based directly on the Hébé was laid down in Chatham and launched on the 18th November 1800, completing a month later and heralding one of the most successful class of forty-seven sister ships built for the Royal Navy, including HMS Trincomalee laid down on the 25th April 1816 and built in Bombay, by the Master Builder Jamsetjee Bomanjee.
|Master Builder Jamsetjee Bomanjee of the Wadia dynasty, displaying in his right hand the drawing of the stern of HMS Minden 74-guns built and launched in Bombay alongside a number of other ships including the Trincomalee.|
With the consumption of wood a major consideration when building wooden warships and at the time one of high strategic importance with demand outstripping supply in Britain from the two main royal sources of supply the Forest of Dean and the New Forest with a report showing that in 1707 a Navy Forest survey indicated that there were 12,476 trees fit for ship building, a huge decline since only a century earlier in 1608 when a similar report indicted the number at 123,927.
These numbers are put into perspective when one considers that a warship hull could consume 2000 loads of timber from mature trees and a frigate some 350 loads with a typical load being defined as 50 cubic feet of timber, almost exactly one imperial ton of mature English oak.
The decline in available timber was probably more to do with poor administration as much as any other factor, but the fact remained that naval ships required mature oaks with the construction of HMS Agamemnon 64-guns in 1781 at Bucklers Hard in the New Forest requiring 2,000 such trees.
New sources of timber became a high priority with the resumption of war with France in 1793 and law reforms at home for new plantations, with oaks planted in 1808 under the Enclosure Act being used to build mine-sweepers in the Second World War.
|The former training ship Foudroyant is towed into Hartlepool for her restoration back to the original Trincomalee of 1817.|
The other new supply options focussed on North America, Southern Russia, Austria and the Ottoman Empire, with mast timbers sourced in the Baltic, and with other new timber for hull construction such as Mahogany from Africa and Teak from India and Burma, the latter proving ideal for ship building with their natural oils protecting the ship from rot and extending its life which probably explains why the Trincomalee managed to survive in as good a state as she was when finally restored to her current appearance in the early nineties
|The stern gallery of the restored HMS Trincomalee retains the more rounded stern added to the ship in 1845 as part of her conversion to a ship-sloop and her decorations include the timber carrying Indian elephants with their small ears, seen at the extreme ends of the top layer of scroll work.|
Following the launch of HMS Leda the Admiralty ordered eight further ships to this design in 1802-09:
- HMS Pomone, wrecked on The Needles in 1811.
- HMS Shannon, the victor over USS Chesapeake, off Boston, on 1 June 1813.
- HMS Leonidas
- HMS Briton
- HMS Tenedos
- HMS Lacedemonian
- HMS Lively ex-Scamander
- HMS Surprise
In 1812 the Admiralty ordered eight ships to be built of "fir"(actually, of red pine) instead of oak; these were sometimes called the Cydnus class:
- HMS Cydnus
- HMS Eurotas
- HMS Niger
- HMS Meander
- HMS Pactolus
- HMS Tiber
- HMS Araxes
- HMS Tanais
The Admiralty ordered seven more vessels to this design in 1812–15, with those constructed in Britain reverting to oak and those constructed in Bombay using teak:
- HMS Diamond
- HMS Amphitrite
- HMS Trincomalee, has survived to the present day.
- HMS Thetis
- HMS Arethusa
- HMS Blanche
- HMS Fisgard
The sailing characteristics and performance reports on the Leda class was mixed with an acknowledgement that the French style of hull and general proportions meant that the class was fast, with most recording 13 knots when large and 10 knots close-hauled, but with the downside that those same proportions made the ships unweatherly, compared to frigates with British proportions, with many captains requesting the addition of a false keel to remedy this.
In addition, the ships were known to pitch excessively in heavy seas and were considered to be 'wet' as a result of their lively rolling and pitching, whilst those same French hull proportions also led to poor stowage capacity, somewhat alleviated by the introduction of iron fresh-water tanks.
|The starboard bow of Trincomalee, reveals her modern day figurehead, a copy of her original which is cared for in the museum, together with the rigging of her very long bowsprit. She is the second oldest warship afloat, here revealing her copper bottom, riding higher than normal due to her light replica guns and lack of wartime stowage. The classic frigate gun deck, high above the water line and able to fire in heavy seas is well illustrated.|
|This picture of the starboard forward hull illustrates the gun ports positioned below the channel with a spare yard, the length of black pole carried above the channel and the anchor stowed further forward|
|This diagram provides an illustration of our tour through Trincomalee and her various decks and compartments with my pictures here following this plan |
|The visitors entry port on to the gun-deck of Trincomalee - note the horeshoe shaped bracket to the right of the port which is one of the sweep-ports, designed to allow the Trincomalee to be rowed with oars by her crew when becalmed.|
|The classic appearance of the gun deck of an 18-pdr frigate. There had been a bit of rain just before our visit and the fact that a ship of this era required a wash of seawater each day to keep her decks watertight is revealed by the buckets and plastic boxes catching rain drips from the quarterdeck above.|
|A gentle tap on these eighteen pounders reveal glass fibre guns, designed to relieve this old lady of the weight on her timbers.|
|The capstan surrounded by drip buckets, connected to its partner on the quarterdeck above, with the brass pillars around the aft companion way behind, that could be removed when the bars were inserted into the capstan slots. Those same slots would often have draws containing bandages ready for use in action.|
|An eighteen pound gun with its two training leavers in place, used for aiming left or right|
|The galley of a frigate was simply part of the gundeck containing a Brodie stove on a tiled section of flooring and designed to provide food for a complement of 320 men. This is the Lamb and Nicholson 1811 modified stove which made the stove more economical to run with this stove being one of the most used types in the nineteenth century. Ignore the modern electrics above, definitely a twentieth century addition!|
|The sign on the gundeck, exhorting young sailors to 'Remember Nelson' was once mounted above the wheel at the fore end of the built-up after cabin on the Foudroyant as seen below|
|HMS Foudroyant, launched in 1798, was one of two 80-gun ships built for the Royal Navy and served as Nelson's flagship from 6th June 1799 to the end of June 1800. She was sold off in 1891 and was set for breaking up by a German company, but a storm of public protest saw her bought and restored by Geoffrey Wheatley Cobb, a philanthropist, who spent £25,000 restoring the old ship to her original look and offsetting the cost by using her as a Naval Training Ship.|
|The 80-gun Foudroyant pictured next to the Argentine gunboat Santa Fe circa 1897|
|Foudroyant would end her days wrecked on Blackpool Sands after a violent storm in June 1897 saw her cables break and the old ship washed ashore below Blackpool Tower. Cobb undeterred at the loss of his ship turned to Read's shipbreakers and secured the purchase of the Trincomalee, rebuilding her as the second Foudroyant and providing the link between the two ships, Tincomalee retaining her new name until restored to her original look as seen today.|
Another reminder of the old Foudroyant is this bench carved from some of her salvaged timbers.
As well as her role as a training ship for young naval cadets, Trincomalee's role as a mid-nineteenth century warship and gunnery training ship is revealed by some interesting scars on her gun deck around her eighteen pounders.
|During her first commission in 1847, Trincomalee was brought out of ordinary and classed as a spar-deck corvette armed with eighteen thirty-two pounders, similar to those carried on the lower deck of Victory. Her second commission in 1852 would see her armament change again to ten 32-pdrs and ten eight inch shell guns, plus a single ten inch gun on a trainable mounting on her weather deck. In 1872 she was a gunnery training ship and later fitted out with the latest naval guns, seven inch rifled muzzleloaders.|
The picture above reminded me at the time of the extra modifications Captain Philip Broke made to the Shannon prior to his battle with the Chesapeake.
|Captain Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke, 1776-1841 - Samuel Lane (RMG)|
Broke knew that his gunnery improvements would allow his ship to take on any American frigate with confidence, despite the Shannon being in a very poor state of repair at the time, and his training resulted in a very quick victory against a very well prepared Chesapeake with a seasoned volunteer crew, three quarters of which, 279 men, had sailed before.
The results of the battle are staggering with Shannon hitting Chesapeake with 44 round shot in just ten minutes whilst only receiving 11 in return and the casualty return reflects this accuracy with the USS Chesapeake suffering 146 casualties (69 dead and 77 wounded), nearly as many men lost as HMS Victory lost in several hours of battle at Trafalgar, whilst Shannon herself suffered 83 casualties (34 killed and 49 injured) indicating the Chesapeakes were not entirely unaware of naval gunnery skills themselves.
A gunnery expert and zealot for the time, Broke made every effort to make sure Shannon was the best prepared ship in the navy when using her guns and his introduction of director fire arrangements together with gun sights and locks on the guns would influence later gunnery improvements developed by the Royal Navy in the wake of the War of 1812.
|The large captains cabin is partially arranged as at quarters with the only furniture seen being the dining table and desk which would have been removed, together with the partitioning screen seen in the picture below. Additional eighteen pounders would have graced the cabin. The doors to right and left lead to the Captain's and Officers 'seats of ease'. The two large bolts below the window ledge would be used to secure the 18-pdr chase guns when required.|
|The Captain's seat of ease.|
|The floor, which would have had the classic chequerboard covering when in use as a day cabin, reveals how large a space the Captain and crew of a frigate enjoyed aboard ship compared with the officers and men aboard a ship of the line such as Victory, with the crew forced to sleep and eat amid their stowed guns. With just the one gun deck a frigate seems palatial in comparison.|
|The beautiful teak workmanship revealed in this hatch grating surrounded by ready shot that would needed to be kept free of rust, thus painted black.|
|The beautifully carved barley sugar twist pillars or stanchions seen around the companion way and in the picture below are the Wadia trade mark of the Bombay Dockyard.|
|The companion way leads to the lower or messing deck on a frigate, with the aft section below the Captain's quarters given over to the rows of officers cabins seen here and the dining area or wardroom.|
|Officers of a warship messed in the wardroom, traditionally reserved for commissioned officers, with the warrant officers and midshipmen messing in the gunroom. However with no gunroom on a frigate it seems that all the ranks shared the wardroom.|
|Either side of the wardroom can be seen the officers cabins and the whole area is lit by natural light from a skylight above the dining table. The redcoat to the right reveals the cabin of the officer of Royal Marines.|
Directly behind the wardroom is the lower end of the mizzen mast decending to its footing in the hold below and behind it, the steering linkage from the wheel on the quarterdeck above to the tiller connected to the ships rudder.
This steering system of ropes and pullies connected to a wheel on the upper deck remained the common way of steering in the age of sail for hundreds of years little changed and still to be seen on the last of the types such as HMS Warrior in Portsmouth where many of the ropes have given way to iron chains.
This area in the stern below the quarterdeck together with the wheel above and the helmsmen around it was a vital part of the ships steering, combined with the sails, and its vulnerability to enemy shot is clear, particularly if the ship is stern raked, with the subsequent damage possibly taking out the mizzen mast as well leaving the ship unmanoeuvrable and vulnerable to a follow-up killing broadside.
|Ropes via pullies lead either side to the tiller bar in the top centre of the picture and lead back via vertical pullies taking the ropes up to the quarter deck and around the wheel above, which when turned pulls the ropes and tiller bar to either side. Note the tiller could be manned itself should this rope and pully system be destroyed, with orders for steering shouted down from above in the heat of battle.|
Heading forward along the mess deck reveals the spacious accommodation for the crew aboard a frigate with ample messing and sleeping space in what would have been the gun deck on an old 4th-rate.
ORLOP & HOLD
Descending below the mess deck leads to the Orlop and Hold of the ship built up from its keel, into which the Wadia's builders would have driven a silver nail at the start of construction to give Trincomalee good fortune.
This area of the ship is split level forward, that includes secure facilities for the magazine, and to aft, providing rooms for the surgeon, pursers slop room, marines store and carpenters store, the lower area reserved for food stuffs, ropes in the cable tier, sails and water provisions together with ballast in the form of pig-iron bars that can be readily moved to allow a captain to set up his ship accordingly for best sailing performance.
Ascending back up through the ship inevitably leads to the weather deck or quarterdeck, the command area at sea, providing extra gun space more usually for lighter guns, often 9-pounders on a British 38 together with 'Ship-Smashers' which for Trimcomalee would originally have been 32-pounder carronades, the British designed weapon, first used back in 1782 that led to the capture of the old Hébé and the later development of the Leda class frigates.
In addition it was from the quarterdeck that a captain commanded his ship, able to order sail changes, directions to the helmsmen, the launching and collection of boats from the spar deck and from where the ship would be defended during close action as well as where boarding attacks could be assembled to take the upper deck of the enemy once grappled.
The colour scheme seen is based on research for the ship as seen in 1817 with the inside of the bulwarks and ports painted 'longboat green' and 'gun port maroon'.
|The view forward along the waist with the space between the bulwarks deliberately left empty to facilitate the raising and lowering of ships boats that would have normally been stowed on the open spar deck, seen here covered in wet weather covers that adorn the foreword companion ways. Note the hammock nettings to left that would daily have seen the hammocks aired and stowed here, also providing cover from small arms and grape to the deck crew during action. Two 'real' eighteen pounder chase guns complete the view to the bow.|
|The original Leda's such as Shannon would have carried 9-pounders on the quarterdeck and forecastle.|
|To compliment the quarterdeck 9-pdrs, sixteen 32-pdr carronades would complete the punch from the ships upper deck. These weapons were named after the Carron Foundry of Falkirk a result of experimentation going back to a General Melville in 1759 and originally intended as a defence for merchant ships against privateers, but in naval use it was best suited for laying alongside an enemy ship where its heavy shot over short range could wreak havoc among topside crew and disable rigging|
The 18-pdr became the standard gun for the heavy frigate of 38-44 guns pioneered by the French with ships like Pomone, that galvanised the Royal Navy to adopt more 38 gun ships as opposed to the earlier 32-gun twelve pounder standard of previous years. The next jump in frigate design came with the large American frigates armed with 24-pdrs and their Sepping style of crossed brace rigid hull design. In the end iron superseded wood, with the ultimate frigate design, HMS Warrior now at home in Portsmouth after being restored here in Hartlepool.
|One of the four 'real' eighteen pounders on Trincomalee |
that definitely doesn't sound hollow if you tap it!
At the foot of the mizzen mast can be seen the Captain's skylight and the two post projecting above it are the sheaves from which the running rigging would be secured with a horizontal dowel or belaying pin.
As well as the ship itself, visitors to the Trincomalee can get a feel for the historic environs that a ship like this relied on on shore to supply the men and arms needed to equip a man of war for this period and the historic shop fronts added to the Georgian style buildings with their sash windows really helps capture the look of those times.
In addition there are several presentations to see ranging from gun handling displays, ideal for entertaining young history enthusiasts and the future historical wargamers, to the animated displays illustrating how various parts of this ship would have operated day to day and in battle, with beautifully modelled manikins capturing the look of the crew and officers, as the visitor is led through an on shore version of the ship and shore life.
|This finely engraved dirk belonged to John Hindmarsh, a humble cabin boy|
who became a knighted Rear-Admiral and the first Governor of South Australia
|The loneliness of command is explained by the Captain as he consoles himself with a glass of port|
|Banter and fellowship among the officers in the wardroom|
|Men tasked with crewing a man of war required the calories to carry out their work and the ship's cook was a key part of the crew.|
|Another important aspect of keeping a crew fit to work was the ship's surgeon and naval medicine was ahead of most in the pursuit of cleanliness and care for the men including ensuring a good diet of citrus and vegetables as well as recuperating those who fell foul of the harsh discipline.|
|A gun crew in action manning one of the eighteen pounders. Gun crews required practice to become the team they needed to be to ensure rapid loading and accurate firing of their pieces.|
|The original figurehead of Trincomalee, safely displayed in the museum|
|One of the original carved decorations from the ships catheads at the bow used for hoisting in the anchors, with this one believed to have been an original one carved in Hartlepool when the ship was stationed there in the 1870's. New cathead carvings were added when the ship was restored and are of the same style.|
|The mast heads of Trincomalee tower above the period buildings around the quayside and create a perfect picture of Georgian Hartlepool.|
I hope you enjoyed this post covering our visit to this very special ship and I would heartily recommend anyone with the slightest interest and perhaps those with none to make time to visit should the opportunity present with access to the museum just £10 per person or £8 if you book ahead online.
The folks in the museum were very welcoming and these displays need to be supported by the public for the enjoyment of future generations.
|Building the models and playing the games are inspired by visits to ships like Victory and Trincomalee. A scene from our most recent games at the Devon Wargames Group.|
Devon Wargames Group - Small Ship Actions
I'm currently reading The Fortune of War, another Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr Stephen Maturin novel by Patrick O'Brian and had just finished the chapter covering the fight between HMS Java and the USS Constitution the night before driving up to visit Trincomalee and standing on the quarterdeck of this amazing ship brought the book into vivid reality.
Visits like this feed the imagination and spur me on to create more games around these incredible ships and I hope this post inspires others to make the trip to Hartlepool, you wont be disappointed.
Sources consulted for this post:
HMS Trincomalee 1817, Frigate - Wyn Davies, Max Mudie