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Thinking things through: Scuttles on the deck of British first rates (and perhaps other ships)

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In NMM I discovered 2 pair of scuttles on the deck of Victory SLR0512 as planned/build.


One pair is behind the foremast, near the waist and one on the quarterdeck a bit aft the mainmast. They are fitted each wich a pair of ringbolts.


What was their purpose?!?
As they have a certain regular distance to the mast and by the way they are paired, my best and well educated guess is that they are to pass the ropes to the capstans on the lower decks. Pass through for ammunition seems not as plausible in this setup
SLR0512 Scale: 1:60. A model of H.M.S Victory (1765) made entirely in wood that has been painted in realistic colours with metal fittings. [...]
Date made Mid-18th century
Even though the resolution is not too good on the pictures of the model of the Royal George (1756) it could be, that there also is something. Does anybody have better pictures?
If one looks at the section, the position makes sense. The capstan in the foremast works well with the bars kept free ...
... and also explains that the scuttles have to be closer to the mainmast.
Funnily McKay also indicate some special feature in this area of the deck framing.
Any more enlightenment or confirmation of this theory?!? Are there any other models or sources indicating this detail?
Edited by dafi
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I agree with Blue Ensign: these paired scuttles are for the top ropes. The ones on the quarterdeck of the Royal George for the mizen mast are a feature I've not noticed before. 

Be sure to sign up for an epic Nelson/Trafalgar project if you would like to see it made into a TV series  http://trafalgar.tv

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I only have this one picture and it still is a guess. can anybody confirm or correct?


In our german forum the opinion still goes towards handling main and fore yard.




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Daniel -


Here are a couple of relatively contemporary items for your consideration.  Note the model of the Britannia appears to show the same scuttles.  Looking through Longridge and Campbell, I was surprised to not see any indication of the scuttle either in the text nor on the plans by Campbell. 

NMM. 1719. Britannia (1719); Warship; First Rate; 100 Guns - National Maritime Museum. Model, Ship, Wood. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. On loan from the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/66184.html.




Note the small opening to the port side of the ladder to the lower deck.




Not so evident at the foremast, however.




This may offer a glimpse at the run of the lines. 


J. Mynde 1754?. A Ship of War, of the First Rate, With Rigging &c at Anchor. The Section of a First Rate Ship - National Maritime Museum. Engraving. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/152570.html.




Neither should a ship rely on one small anchor, nor should life rest on a single hope.

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Normally the top tackle scuttles were installed only aft of the main mast. These were used when rigging the ship and were associated with the Burton tackles. I suspect the ones for the fore and mizen were only seen on the largest ships. I haven't seen them on contemporary models of the lower rates,

Be sure to sign up for an epic Nelson/Trafalgar project if you would like to see it made into a TV series  http://trafalgar.tv

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lost in time ... and found :-)

In ...
Exactely on the same spot as seen on the model of the Vic, this time on a british 74, signed as "Scuttle to Top Tackle"
And even better, the expected "Top Tackle Eye Bolt" is also shown, at the right distance to the capstan :-)
Both finds are 50 years apart, does this mean, that this feature was common for quite a while?
Edited by dafi
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I seem to remember reading somewhere, can't remember where, that the scuttles near main mast also allowed the pump shafts to be installed/removed.  Would welcome confirmation or correction.


"Which it will be ready when it is ready!"
In the shipyard:

HMS Jason (c.1794: Artois Class 38 gun frigate)

Queen Anne Royal Barge (c.1700)


HMS Snake (c.1797: Cruizer Class, ship rigged sloop)

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Greetings Dafi;


The top ropes were used to raise and lower the topmasts. 


Prior to 1800 (according to Lees)  the top ropes were not unrove once the topmast was in position,  but were a permanent feature of the rigging.  This was probably because in stormy weather it was a not uncommon procedure to lower the topmasts to reduce top-hamper,  as shown in several paintings I have seen. 


I would imagine that your thought that this is to allow for a lead to the capstan to be quite correct.


I have only seen the scuttles before on third rates.  So as Druxey says above,  they probably only appeared aft of other masts on first rates,  although perhaps on second rates also.


Thanks for passing on your observations.


All the best,


Mark P


PS:  I always think it is such a shame that the beautiful carved work to the stern and the bows was ripped off just before Trafalgar.  If only they had done it afterwards.  She was a much more attractive ship prior to the alterations. :(

Edited by Mark P

Previously built models (long ago, aged 18-25ish) POB construction. 32 gun frigate, scratch-built sailing model, Underhill plans.

2 masted topsail schooner, Underhill plans.


Started at around that time, but unfinished: 74 gun ship 'Bellona' NMM plans. POB 


On the drawing board: POF model of Royal Caroline 1749, part-planked with interior details. My own plans, based on Admiralty draughts and archival research.


Always on the go: Research into Royal Navy sailing warship design, construction and use, from Tudor times to 1790. 


Member of NRG, SNR, NRS, SMS

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Jason: Scuttles for removal of pump tubes would only be necessary in cases where the quarter deck extended forward of the main mast.

Be sure to sign up for an epic Nelson/Trafalgar project if you would like to see it made into a TV series  http://trafalgar.tv

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