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Good Evening everyone;

 

There has previously been some discussion of when belaying pins were introduced. The general consensus is that they appeared relatively late in the sailing era, although isolated examples were known before this. I posted a copy of an entry in a 17th century contract which referred to 'turn-pins' in the context of items to belay rigging. 

 

However, I have been reading Sir Henry Mainwaring's 'Seaman's Dictionary' as re-printed by the Navy Records Society in 1921, and this contains the following entry: 

 

Ranges. There are two; the one aloft upon the forecastle a little abaft the foremast, the other in the beakhead before the wooldings [gammoning] of the boltsprit; that in the forecastle is a small piece of timber which goes over from one side to the other, and there is fastened to two timbers, and in the middle, on either side the foremast, two knees, which are fastened to the deck and this timber, in which run the topsail sheets in a shiver, and hath divers [various] wooden pins through it to belay ropes unto (as the foretacks, fore-topsail sheets and fore bowlines, the fore loof-hook) and that in the beakhead is in the same form, whereunto is belayed the spritsail lifts, the garnet of the spritsail, and other ropes belonging to the spritsail and spritsail-topsail.

 

Although the exact appearance of what is being described is difficult to understand, this makes it clear that a good number of belaying pins were used in a rail across the topsail sheet bitts on the forecastle, and another on the beakhead (a range later came to mean a horizontal timber fastened to the inside of a ship's bulwarks, to which major ropes were belayed)

 

Mainwaring's dictionary was hand-written by him in approximately one copy per year, starting between 1620 and 1623, and continuing for some years after this. He gave each edition to an influential patron, and many different copies survive. It was eventually printed in the 1640s. He was an expert seaman, with many years service, and former pirate, who was a confidant of kings and high officials. We can be certain that he is telling us about things as they were.

 

Belaying pins have therefore been around since at least the early years of the 17th century.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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Great find Mark.  Based on Mainwaring's dictionary, pins are stated to have been in existence as you point out, but was this common practice?  Based on contemporary models of English ships of the early 18th century or earlier I do not recall ever seeing them present.  The models and photos of models that I have seen invariably show such running rigging belayed to timber heads and cleats.   From the standpoint of rigging a model, I would prefer belaying pins but I am not so sure this would have been the norm in the 17th or first half of the 18th century.  

Allan

 

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Good afternoon Allan;

 

Mainwaring will have been describing the most common arrangement which he knew. He does not list alternatives, only the pins, so we can take it as normal. He was active during the reign of James I (who gave him a Royal pardon for piracy in exchange for a large slice of the ill-gotten loot, and knighted him to boot) and during the reign of Charles I and the Civil War.

 

His Seaman's Dictionary is pretty contemporary with Vasa, as Druxey mentions (thanks for that also)

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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Thanks Mark and for the added information Druxey.  My concern is that there are no English contemporary models that I can find for the 17th century or very early 18th century using belaying pins and as accurate as they usually are, I am surprised this is the case if belaying pins usage was the norm.   

Thanks again, this is definitely enlightening information.

Allan

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Thanks Druxey.  Actually I am looking at rigged models.   Several examples follow.   The specific time period I am interested in is mid/late 17th to early 18th century.  The following are a fourth rate of 1705, Grafton 1679, Royal William 1719, and a 3rd rate 1650.  All models are at Preble Hall.   Thanks again.

1748298075_Fourthrate1705.thumb.jpg.9e488aec70e3f7373c03de9af990375f.jpg1517058559_Grafton1679.thumb.jpg.f2f72294b22e8d8f0a7784d6861b5a7e.jpg1764104199_RoyalWilliam1719.thumb.jpg.16fc5b6cab59883cde2750f907f735e2.jpg1273746422_ThirdRate1650.thumb.jpg.a25a56f083011a17dd1667b4eeed1bda.jpg

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  • 4 months later...

allanyed,

 

Your last picture (3rd rate 1650) certainly appears to have a line of belaying pins along the transverse rail (between the catheads) at the top of the forward bulkhead.

 

They seem to have replaced the timberheads on the rails on the other models to belay lines.

 

So it would seem that some ships had belaying pins in 1650 and others did not as late as 1719. I wonder where belaying pins originated? Perhaps the use of pins spread over time so were used earlier in some nations and later in others.

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Good Evening Everyone;

 

Druxey's comment seems fair enough, looking at the rather pristine state of the ropes, and the lack of dust anywhere. Henry Culver did a lot of restoration/reconstruction work to the Colonel's models, but surely even he would not have gone so far as to insert a line of belaying pins along the fife rail. So presumably the pins are genuine, even if the ropes belayed to them are not.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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Good Evening Allan;

 

I fear you are doing Phil an injustice. Those are quite definitely belaying pins in the fife rail of the last photograph. Compare the two shots below, from your third photo (to the left), and the last picture (right) They are noticeably different. Thank you for posting them, as I have not seen a picture of a beakhead with all pins in it before, and this is definitely worth seeing.

 

596502251_Pins2.PNG.013a4f0a7650d8462925dd7e30278059.PNG933628161_Pins1.PNG.57eee84072f287fe7481514ec3a43a5f.PNG

I have just looked at the second volume of Grant Walker's/Seawatch's series on the Rogers Collection, and on page 11 there is a larger, clearer picture of the last model. It is even clearer there that these are belaying pins. See the picture below. The only doubt about these must be the suspicion that they might just have been fitted by Henry Culver, although as he was presumably also familiar with the model in your second picture, which shows the headsail ropes just wrapped around the fife rail, he would presumably have done this in preference to drilling and inserting a row of belaying pins.

 

The same article in the book reveals that the model was rigged already in 1912, but the rigging was 18th century style, along with a lot of poor quality work to the hull, which Culver justifiably removed. So the rigging is presumably all by Henry Culver. 

 

298764325_Pins3.PNG.76165da6f4df1cce8f613301b1a679ef.PNG

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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Thanks Mark, this was definitely my mistake and my apologies to Phil.  Your additional photo is much clearer and I made the deadly mistake of "assuming" based on the other model photos.

I had never before seen pins in the beakhead rail, but that is no excuse for making an assumption.  As you point out, is this inclusion of the pins the way it was on ships of that era?   

Thanks again for pointing this out. 

Cheers

 

Allan

 

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Good Afternoon Allan;

 

Don't take it too hard, please. We are all guilty of making assumptions without making a proper scrutiny. I just wish it was possible to be certain about the origin of those belaying pins. There are apparently some photographs taken by R C Anderson, before the collection was sold, and one of these might show the beakhead as it was then.

 

I just need to track down the pictures. As some of them are shown in Grant Walker's book, the location may be given in there. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark 

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Allen,

 

No problem!

 

I am curious about the 1650 3rd rate. I know very little about ships of this period, but I did notice the anchor fish davit. Zu Mondfeld's Historic Ship Models (page 189) shows two styles, one spanning the entire fo'c'sle and extending outboard on each side, which he calls "English," and the other like the one on the model that was portable and extended over one side only, which he calls "Continental." Of course I would suspect that either type might have been used anywhere. I have read descriptions of anchor fishing in the US Navy in the 1800s that used the portable davit.

 

Do you know the nationality of the ship model? The name? When the ship was built (the original, not the model)? When the model was built?

 

This discussion has peaked my interest about when and where belaying pins were first used. I suspect at first they were just tapered spikes and later assumed their more elaborate turned/carved shapes. Similar "toggle" pins were in use for quick securing of two lines together. They would be simple things for sailors to carve during long idle periods at sea. As their usefulness became apparent I suspect their use became more common as the idea spread.

 

I have been trying to learn if belaying pins were commonly used on late 1700s and early 1800s Baltimore schooners. Some model kits and reproduction vessels use them but they aren't necessarily accurate. I read one source that said they weren't used on early 19th century schooners, but there are a lot of drawings and plans of the era that show them.

Edited by Dr PR
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Phil,

The following is the description given of the model at Preble Hall.  Sorry, that is all have on that model.  I took the photos during my last visit to Annapolis, 9 years ago.  Maybe time for a repeat visit!!!   Et Tosti, Wayne Kempson and I were very lucky and had Grant Walker spend an hour with us during our visit.  That was a thrill in itself!    DSC01272.thumb.JPG.5487d5066468b4dfa70c11b9d72abc19.JPG

Allan

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"The model was altered sometime in the 19th century". My suspicions are confirmed!

 

Belaying pins were certainly in use by the 1630's in Sweden. Primary evidence is seen in the headwork of Vasa. See:

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=vasa+head&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwilsfzSv8TnAhUa_qwKHT9qCzYQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=vasa+head&gs_l=img.12..0i24l2.154814.154814..156960...0.0..0.89.89.1......0....1..gws-wiz-img.eAZ-oODLVXU&ei=lf4_XuWSCJr8swW_1K2wAw&bih=1094&biw=1651#imgrc=aiE6P9-LMhO8hM&imgdii=EReBgpq4OggxJM

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Good Afternoon Phil;

 

Regarding the fish davit etc, it is possible that you are confusing the cat head and the fish davit (apologies if you are not!) In the Royal Navy, the cat heads were the outboard ends of a long beam (made in two pieces) which spanned the entire forecastle at the beakhead bulkhead, in each outboard end of which were sheaves used with a tackle (the cat-block and falls) to raise the anchor, once the men on the capstan had raised it as high as they could by hauling on the anchor cable.

 

Hauling on the falls of the cat-block raised the anchor as close to the cat-head as possible/necessary, although it was still hanging vertically. The fish davit was then used, with another tackle, to haul up the crown (the point where the curved arms joined the vertical shank) of the anchor, from vertical, to horizontal, so that it could be lashed in the fore chains. 

 

The fish davit in Allan's picture had one end fitted into a square shackle, well fixed through the forecastle and upper-deck beams. In around the mid 1780s, the long fish davit was replaced by shorter ones which were set in a cast iron shoe in the fore channels. 

 

Regarding the date of the model, I believe that all of the models of sailing warships in the collection are contemporary, and so built at approximately the same time as the ships they portray. They were brought over from England in the early 20th century. Whilst this is a tragedy from the point of view of the English Museums' Collections, and the secretive way in which the models were sold and purchased aroused considerable controversy and condemnation at the time, I believe that it has had a good outcome. This is that the models are still on display (as so few now are in England, although that has improved slightly in recent years) that they are well-cared-for; and that being able to see them has undoubtedly made a considerable contribution towards the number of ship modellers in the US (and Canada)

 

If the model has not been given a name, it is because it cannot be reliably identified with a particular vessel, only by period and type. 

 

Grant Walker and Seawatch books have produced 2 excellent books on the first and second rate, and the third rate, models in the collection, which are well worth looking at if you can purchase or find a copy.

 

Regarding the introduction of belaying pins, see my first post in this thread, and several subsequent ones, which discuss the earliest known dates.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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Mark P,

 

Here is the Mondfeld drawing. The text reads "Anchor fishing. In the 17th and 18th centuries a portable beam or fish davit was sometimes used instead of a secondary cathead or anchor davit for hoisting the anchor into position for fishing."

 

1184919170_Fishdavits.jpg.3410adcb525fcb920fb379e8e6b7c7ef.jpg

It clearly is not the catheads he is talking about (pages 126-127 talk about catheads). The picture of the model of the Grafton 1679 that Allan posted appears to have the "English" style fishing davit (although I am not certain about this), and the others seem to have the "Continental" style.

 

I think the idea Mondfeld is trying to show with the "Continental" style is that the fish davit is portable (not permanently fixed in place and moveable) and can be used either port or starboard. From several other sources I have read this was very common. Of course the inboard end would have to be fastened in some way. In the mid 19th century the fish davit was more like an ordinary boom, with lifts and vangs (guys), and tackle for fishing the anchor.

 

But I suspect no two ships did things exactly the same way - there was a lot of discretion left to the master/captain of each ship, and they all had their own ideas of the best ways to do things. The entire history of sailing ships is a chronicle of change - slow, perhaps, but as people discovered better (easier or cheaper) ways to do things the ideas spread and were adopted elsewhere. It is the history of this spread of ideas that interests me.

 

I have spent 15 years studying the Cleveland class light cruisers of the 1930s and 40s (and later conversions). I have the blueprints (about 12,000) and over 1000 photos. They were built in 4 shipyards, and even though they had the official blueprints showing how to build them, each shipyard built them differently, using what they thought were the best methods. Some of the differences were quite significant! And after the ships hit the water they underwent continuous modifications. No two ships were the same, and this was in the 20th century. In earlier centuries ships were built without detailed plans, according to the shipwright's ideas of how to do things. I suspect there was even greater variation back then. So not one picture, book or authority describes all the variations.

 

I realize Mondfeld's book is just a sampling of some features in historic ships. I do not take it, or any other book (or anyone's opinions) as absolute truth. Like Mark T I use it for ideas or to confirm/challenge other things I have read or seen.

 

Edited by Dr PR
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Good Evening All;

 

Regarding the post with zu Mondfeldt's drawings of fish davits, his English style is not correct. The English fish davit was similar to the continental one he shows, and was, as mentioned in the extract from Lees quoted above, less than the overall breadth of the ship. It was used by having one end set in the span-shackle near the centre line, with the other end protruding over the bulwark.

 

Regarding belaying pins, I would err on the side of caution when using Lees as an authority on this subject. His book is largely based on his own experience, admittedly a long one, of models in the NMM's collection. Whether he ever read Manwayring's book with his early 17th century reference to belaying pins (which is seemingly applicable to all sizes of vessel) or knew that they are mentioned in mid-seventeenth century contracts for two decked warships, must be doubted. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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