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Thinking things through: Detail in Turners work on the poop deck railing

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Turner depicted a small detail of Victorys poop deck railing in both a sketch and in one of his paintings. What could this be? A lead? A clamp? A decoration?

 

post-182-0-55168900-1459868536_thumb.jpg

 

Thank you, Daniel

Edited by dafi
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Hard to tell, Daniel.  They're not cleats or fairleads are they?  The painting inset appears to have rope around it to my eye.  

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Hi Daniel

 

To me they seem to be fairleads, and to have a small roller in front.

 

(I have that picture in my computer, can enlarge it quite a bit but had never noticed it)

 

keep digging up this sort of stuff

 

Zeh

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Hi Daniel, could these be the base for buckets (fire - filled with sand).  I seem to recall a photo/drawing of Victory and other larger ships with buckets located along this area.  These could be 'interpreted' as projecting bases with metal strap supports from either side and wrapping around the base?

 

cheers

 

Pat

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Hi Daniel

Is the suggestion that this is Victory?

 

On the painting it looks like the guy just left of centre is trying to lift the item in question and maybe the guy far left as well.

So maybe it is actually a fallen spar or other misc. woodwork, the sail on deck could support that.

It does seem strange that the deck either side seems to be on the same level.

And then the poop deck sketch looking similar may be a red herring.

 

Nick

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Hy Nick, yes it is the Vic, thank you I added the info in the first entry.

 

Robin: Not only you looked at this picture a thousand times - me too without seeing a lot of details ;-)

Turner gives the information, that the rail was shot away, so what we see in the painting is only the base - with the details in question - and the drawing shows the replacement after the battle.

 

Zeh: Thank you for the confirmation, that is the closest guess we have so far, but what purpose?

 

Pat, yes buckets were hanged this area, but usually from different looking hooks

 

Robin, I unfortunately do not have the references you mention, a hint where to get them would be appreciated or where to get the informations concerning the  Victory. 

 

The guess in my german forum for the 3 swivels so far is that they were for signaling as the rest of the ordonance was already removed as to be seen by the pictures.

 

Nick the "same level" is an optical illusion. I do not think about a single event like a fallen spar as it is shown in two drawings.

 

As for the initial question, the best guess so far are the fair leads or snatch blocks. But what for? Best guess so far on the german side for sauve tête nettings or other temporal fittings. Any other guesses or even hard facts?

Cheers and thank you all, Daniel

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Robin, I unfortunately do not have the references you mention, a hint where to get them would be appreciated or where to get the informations concerning the  Victory. 

 

 

Daniel -

 

I think this may be at least a couple of the documents to which Robin was referring.

 

James, W. 1826. The Naval History of Great Britain, from ... 1793, to ... 1820, with an Account of the Origin and Increase of the British Navy. Vol. 4. https://books.google.com/books?id=NpF7KhRs8RcC.

 

Desbrière, E. 1901. Projets et tentatives de débarquement aux Iles britanniques: 1793-1805. Vol. 1. Chapelot. https://books.google.com/books?id=NiMEn3UHHIgC.

Desbriere, E. 1933. The Naval Campaign of 1805: Trafalgar, Vol. 1: Text. Trans. Constance (translator) Eastwick. Clarendon Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=tMOoYgEACAAJ.

 

Additional volumes are listed on that same page.

Edited by trippwj
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I am still trying to locate the 1914 Admiralty investigation - have found a snippet or two, but not yet able to locate the full report.  Will try again in the morning - time for me to tuck it in.  Only have the one day off each week (Sunday) from work, so try to get up early to make the most of it!

 

Dafi - let me know if any of the documents listed are helpful.  Will keep searching for the Admiralty one from 1914.

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I'll add an observation or three:  

 

An 18th Century model of the Victory does not show these features, nor does it include the swivel guns.  From an on-line search of how the Victory is currently configured, it is as in the model: there are hammock-nettings above the rail.

 

http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/66473.html

 

http://www.hms-victory.com/things-to-see/quarter-deck

 

The "feature" appears to have an opening at the top, which implies that this is an opening for a rope.   

 

There are four of these, and the three swivel guns are between them.  Could they be cleats for securing the guns - there should be something to keep them from spinning.  However, I wouldn't think something that big would be needed.

 

I had look through McGowan's book on the Victory.  It shows the Turner drawing (pg 26) and a note that it is inaccurate in that Turner drew rope wooldings on the mizzen mast, but it is know that steel bands were put on in 1803.  Also, when I look at the fore and aft sails (pg 156) it looks like the mizzen stay sail is sheeted on the end of the poop deck.  The sheet tackle is shown in a bit more detail on page 188.  I assume that McGowan's drawings are for how the Victory is currently configured, so may have been different in 1805.  One final though, is there a possibility that the stay sail sheet tackle and the swivel guns would have interfered with each other, and the mystery feature is a method to avoid that?  

 

I've also looked in McKay's and Longridges's books, as well as a Google search, and I didn't see anything about swivel guns.  The swivel guns, however, also show up in West's 1806 painting of the Death of Nelson.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_Nelson_(West_painting). Some details in this painting are known to be inaccurate: some people shown were not actually there.   I couldn't determine if West visited the Victory, or whether he had access to Turner's drawings.  There are other paintings that show the railing, some with the buckets in front of the rail.

 

It appears that Turner's drawing and West's painting are the only places the swivel guns show up.  Also, the only place the mystery feature shows up is in Turner's drawing.  This implies that two are possibly linked.  An alternative is that Turner drew in the swivel guns based on the configuration of another ship.  Are there any records of swivels being added or removed?

 

Lastly, in Turner's painting, the railing has been "removed".  Is this from battle damage, which wouldn't be consistent with Turner's sketch, or did Turner just remove the railing so there would be an unobstructed view of Nelson?  I think he may have also "removed" the mizzen mast.

 

Have I helped, or just added confusion?

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On the swivels... I like to add one bit of conjuncture.  The Brits did arm the tops with swivels which were manned by Marines.  At Trafalgar, Nelson ordered the Marines down from the tops as they were closing due to the heavy French fire.   I would think that the Marines would bring those down with them and set them up on the deck/bulwarks.  I'm quite possibly wrong in this.

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Thank you Wayne and Robin, all sources are welcome! Always!!!

 

:-) :-) :-)

 

Good thought Mark, but I still do believe that all the equipment, i.e. the weapons already were off board at the moment of the drawing.

 

The most logical reason so far for the guns to be there is for signaling and saluting, still an important issue in those days. I do not believe, that the mysterious "cleats" have something to do with the swivels. 

 

Bruce, thank you for the observations. The mysterious wooling could be an after battle fix, other drawings suggest that the fishing of the main mast still was in place at that time, perhaps apart from the swivels being placed in the "free" sections.

 

Turner indicates that the rail was shot away in battle, so the rail´s top part in the drawing should be an after battle replacement. This also in my opinion reduces the chance for the swivels to be a battle fix.

 

XXXDAn

Edited by dafi
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The three central items in the Turner sketch could be for the wheel tell-tale. The two outer ones each side were most likely eyebolts.

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Hello Druxey,

 

thank you for the feedback, I do not know if we are talking about the same things. On the front of the deck beam of the poop deck there is the helm indicator, taking about a third of the width of the beam. In the resulting thirds left and right, the 2 black spots could be rings or mere decoration. 

 

I was inquiring about the 4 "fair-lead-rollers"-like structures atop of the deck beam incorporated into the base of the rail.

 

@rybakov / Zeh

is it possible to post a better resolution of the detail in question?

 

Cheers, Daniel

Edited by dafi
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Hi Daniel

 

Here goes a detail, I think you can magnify it quite a lot before losing resolution.

 

I'm not sure if what I supposed to be a roller really is or just a shadow, but there seems to be 

horizontal sheaves on either side of the roller (or opening).

 

By the way, there are signs of some panneling on the low stern board..........

 

Cheers

Zeh

 

post-756-0-74069500-1462271546.jpeg

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I misunderstood the question; thanks for the clarification, Daniel. Those look like cleats with a shadow below to my eye. That 1805 breastwork is rather utilitarian looking!

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To my eyes the four objects do appear to be fairleads with horizontal rollers at the bottom and a sheave on each side. They are open on the top so the line can be dropped in. I have seen the horizontal rollers Port and Starboard on the edge of the focastle deck on modern ships and they are for heavy lines, like docklines. In this case there are some mysterious aspects. First: Why do you need four of them? Wouldn't one on each side do the trick? Also I imagine a dockline from the 1800's would be similar in diameter to an anchor cable, and these look too small, particularly the side sheaves. And how often are you running a dockline from the stern? And where are you running it to? There is no capstan on deck on Victory.

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...so if they are not for docklines what other line meets the criteria of being under a lot of strain and thus requiring rollers ( where else on the ship are there rollers for running rigging?) and also needs to have four possible locations to chose from for its lead? And is used so often that a temporary snatch block was dismissed in favor of four permanent fixtures? What comes to my mind, eventually, is the gear on a cable laying ship.You would need rollers if you were paying out miles of line coiled up in the hold. Still not sure you need FOUR rollers though. After even more thought I wonder if the lead is coming in from the side? What if they are related to the boat davits?  You could muster a LOT of men on the quarterdeck and lead lines down to them from the Poop with these fairleads, and thus lift any heavy object from the davits. I'm still not convincing myself though.

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The best guessing until now in my personal opinion was for sauve-tête netting or sunsails or other "convenience"-items as there is no documentation for rigging to be attached there.

 

But by the position of the rollers (if they are!) there is no pull pointing upwards of the line or it would have jumped out of the lead, so one could guess that these are for handling cables from the mizzen and others bits down to the quarterdeck to have more space for the men to work on the lines ?!?

 

Cheers, DAniel

Edited by dafi
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So coming back to the mysterious topic of the Turner drawing. Plenty to be found in there, what a joy. We also had a longer fruitful discussion on our german forum, let me resume the findings.

 

First of all we found some better resolutions for the Turner drawing and painting.

 

post-182-0-24688700-1482933870_thumb.png

 

post-182-0-31265000-1482933921_thumb.png

 

The same kind of rail can be seen on the painting from Benjamin West from 1806, also showing the swifels and I also believe the fairlead rollers. If he copied from Turner I do not know, but he is reported to have seen 50 survivers of the battle portraying them.

 

post-182-0-76566100-1482934157_thumb.png

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_Nelson_(West_painting)

 

These are some hints, but still there is a conclusion to be made, here is my personal one.

 

There are some remarkable details on the Turner drawing. But we have to remember one big thing: This is a ship after some emergency repairs after the battle, that could explain some of the "strange" details.

 

First of all the woolings on the mizzen mast, where one could expect iron loops. Her again it could be a jury mast or - as to be seen on other of Turner´s drawings - some fishing to help the injured masts.

 

The binnacle could be either an after battle replacement - as the wheel got shot away, the binnacle could have been too - or an "in ordinairy version" - as the ship is already largely stripped of equipment.

 

The helm indicator shown can also be found on the model from 1765.

 

The last opening underneath the poop is a gunport where there should be a door. But again, the ship clashed  against her opponent´s sides and some parts of the galleries were damaged. This too could be a simple emergency fix for security reasons.

 

The hammock cranes of the poop are nicely visible and seem to protrude further forward than today. Some structure appears underneath the ripped (?) canvas on starboard. I do not yet figure out, how solid the bulk-ward in this area was constructed, here it looks like the hammocks are hanging outwards, other drawings do look like a flush outside. But my guess is to see a wooden railing underneath. Can the two bars on the side be part of the sauve tete netting?

 

Also the small gangways are leveled with the quarter deck, and not 2 steps underneath, thus giving more headroom for the guncrews and also being a reason for the hammocks to protrude further forward.

 

And finally the rail.

 

Again, we have a repaired version shown. The upper part was reportedly shot away, also to be seen on the Turner´s painting "as seen from the mizzen mast". The 4 fair-lead rollers could have been used to handle the ropes from the mizzen mast, as the place there was restricted, the access difficult and also the structure reportedly quite weak. So the ropes could be passed onto the quarter deck where they could be handled from more men with more ease. This is also supported by the pair of eyebolts beside each fairlead roller as those could be used to attach some block and tackle to ease the job. Also it includes ropes coming from the center/mast but also from the shrouds area, hence the rollers on both sides.

 

The upper part of the railing is a reconstruction after the battle, but fits other versions of this timeframe. Now come the interesting bit - the swifels. My personal opinion is, that those were just added mere for signaling purposes as all the other guns were already taken out. Essential for those days signaling and no other use to be seen so far.

 

The upper part of the Rail are for stanchions with a wooden bar crossing. Here it could be a replica of the prior battle state (even I would have expected more stanchions for normal use) or it could be a jury fix, replacing the shoot off hammock cranes. I took the artistic license and opted for the hammock cranes, even though not as high as seen today on the Viv in P.  :-)

 
This led me to my interpretation of the turner drawing:
 
Victory-161227_2764.jpg
 
Victory-161227_2766.jpg
 
Victory-161227_2770.jpg
 
Still have not decided upon the fire buckets. It is mentioned in the contemporary sources (Steel?) but with the fairleads and the indicator appears to be too much. Anyway I have prepared the holes for the hangers, but those could be closed easily with bit of paint.
 
Other interpretations always welcome!
 
XXXDAn
Edited by dafi

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A very good interpretation/summation of the available facts and contemporary information Dafi, thanks for sharing.

 

cheers

 

Pat

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