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Greetings everyone;

 

I am transcribing the contract for HMS Ganges,  a 74 gun ship,  dated from 1780 (it might be for HMS Culloden,  1782) and I have come across a puzzling entry:

 

Under the heading 'Ladders & Gratings',  it says:  'To make all Ladders,  Gratings,  Hatches,  Gangways,  Iron Stair Cases,  & to fix all necessary Rowls,  Stantions,  Blocks,  Ranges & Kevels as shall be necessary.'

 

Does anyone have any idea where an iron stair case would be fitted in a 74?  I have never seen mention of any such thing in any book or document.  An iron stair case would be much more expensive to make than would a wooden one,  so if this entry is correct,  it must have been an important function which it filled,  and would not be used where a wooden one could be fitted.

 

Any thoughts on this would be welcome,  as I'm completely stumped.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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Hi Druxey;

 

Handwritten it is;  but completely clear,  see below.  I have also just noticed that the contract for 'Bombay Castle',  dated 1779 (the contract for 'Ganges/Culloden' above is dated 1778) contains exactly the same wording.  Interestingly,  the one for 'Ganges/Culloden' is in 3 different hands,  whereas the one for 'Bombay Castle' is all in one hand.

 

It also occurs in the contracts for 'Culloden' of 1770,  and 'Bellerophon' of 1782.

 

Ganges

5a093c188476e_Gangesstaircase.thumb.jpg.22b2fc6d46eefa90cf89337b5ffbc2af.jpg

Bombay Castle

 

5a093c172c3e6_BombayCastlestaircase.thumb.jpg.9fe86dd0e750a9436fbe2296722b675e.jpg

 

Culloden, contract 1770

 

5a09408372165_Culloden1770staircase.thumb.jpg.013948697bacc175b970d65bac817477.jpg

Bellerophon,  contract 1782

 

5a09408139bca_Bellerophon1782staircase.thumb.jpg.766f281d4de7d7ee8373cd09a7305abe.jpg

It might be a standard insertion,  but it must have an origin somewhere. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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One further thought: 

 

Could this refer to large iron staples set horizontally into the bulkheads of the storage rooms in the hold,  adjacent to the scuttles,  to allow men to climb down into the store.  I'm thinking of the Bread Room,  Fish Room,  Steward's Room,  & Spiritous Liquors Room (and please,  don't anyone suggest it might be the magazine :D)

 

Similar to the steps set into manholes to allow men to climb down inside them.

 

I will look at some deck plans to see if this might work.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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Hi everyone;

 

I have looked at the plan of the orlop for 'Tremendous',  a 74 launched in 1784,  and the scuttles are close to the bulkheads,  which would allow access to a ladder fixed to the bulkhead.  Bearing in mind that the depth in hold is 20 feet,  they would certainly have needed a means of climbing down.  The inboard works does not show any ladders here,  so maybe the 'Iron Stair Case' does refer to a means of getting down into the storage rooms in the hold.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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This is new to me as well.  According to the Online Etymology Dictionary the term "staircase" appears in the 1620's in reference to the enclosure of the stairs.  I know we are looking at a contracts 150 years later, but it seems to me the nautical "staircase" or "stair case" or "stair-case" might refer to iron railings, hand rails, etc. that might surround (encase) the ladders.   So my vote goes to staircase=handrails.  In support I note that this section of the contract comes far distant from where the storage rooms would be described, lying between the office cabins and the pantries.  Thus, the use of iron for casing the ladders would be of a more ornamental nature.  This is pure speculation.

 

Wayne

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Good evening Druxey,  Wayne;

 

Thank you for your thoughts on this. I think that this paragraph served as a general 'catch-all' specification,  which would cover anything that might have been missed in the main part of the contract.  Some of the things listed here have already been described in their due place. 

 

It could indeed refer to the railing around the companionway,  as these were certainly features of the deck furniture,  and they could be said to 'encase' the stair;  although I don't think I've ever seen the ladders called anything except ladders. 

 

I that it could well also relate to the means of accessing the store rooms.  Does anyone have any knowledge of what is fitted in the 'Victory' for this?  I've been to see her,  but the storage rooms are not part of the general tour.

 

On the red drawings for inboard works,  the ladders into the magazine and aft powder room are normally shown.  However,  nothing is shown to give access into the store-rooms,  which,  even if they were not as deep as the hold,  would still have been pretty far below the orlop,  especially when empty.  And a set of staples in the bulkhead would not take up a lot of room.

 

I think that I will send an email to the people at the Victory,  and see if they can shed any light on this.  Isn't it Peter Goodwin who is in charge nowadays?

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

 

Edited by Mark P
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I've just looked at a handwritten contract for a sixth rate (1775) and the phrase 'iron stair cases' is included in the rubric. As this was not a regular fighting ship (see dafi's suggestion above), it strengthens my thought that this refers to the railing around the companion openings.

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Hi Dafi & Druxey;

 

Thank you for your thoughts.  I was not aware that the ladders were changed when clearing for action.  Was this a widespread thing,  or limited to certain ladders on certain vessels?

 

Druxey:  I had to look up 'rubric';  that's a new one on me.  I always thought it was something connected with religion!

 

I've sent an email to the staff at 'Victory',  asking about the means of access to the storerooms.  I will pass on any reply I get.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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