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HBMS Amphion 1798 by Matrim - 32 Gun 18pdr Frigate

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While I draw the square frames slowly I thought a slight digression is in order to the subject of the figurehead. Now the plans do not include one so I am left on best guess really. We do though have several paintings.


  • Lissa by Robert Dodd - Figurehad is a bust, might be wearing a wreath. The Amphion is notably smaller than the ship behind which is in turn larger than the one behind it. They are sailing extemely close together. All the ships are flying White ensigns at the read what looks like red ensigns at fore and mizzen peaks, the Amphion has a union jack at its bowsprit and a red commodores flag. The other ships show red commissioning pendants.




  • Lissa by Whitcombe after a sketch by Midshipman Few (of the Amphion) - Union jack at the fore mast, a red triangular commodores flag (with a tiny tongue at the end), pendants as Dodd. Full figureheads (and similar on all ships). The ships appear in perspective and seem the same size. Red ensign at the rear and red ensign of the stays.




  • Lissa by Whitcombe - another engraving off of a Whitcombe original except this time magically the pendant have gone white, the rear ensign is now white but the flag on the stays is blue except for the other ships wehich have white ensigns on the Mizzen






  • Lissa by Dodd again. Figurehead is still a bust and vaguely looks like it might have a Hoplite helmet on, squadron ships also still showing white ensigns at the rear and what appears to be red elsewhere. Union jack at the bowsprit has gone




  • Lissa by Pococok the younger - much less to see though you really get the differential sizes of the ship in the full painting. The bottom plate does show white ensigns at the rear but bugger all flags apart from the commissioning elsewhere.




  •                   There is also a painting by a Lt Waldegrave which shows red ensigns at the rear and apart from the pendant/commodores flag a union jack on Actives Mizzen. This looks like a copy of the Whitcombe but I currently                   know little about this officer apart from  he possibly being from a famous naval family. A Waldegrave was                          also injured or kille dwhen Hoste had the Bacchante. Might be a co-incidence. More info needed really. This painting, the Pocock and the Dodd all show the ships with drivers whereas the Whitcombe derived do not.





So looking at those paintings that include the bow of the ship we can rapidly see that they contradict one another enormously and come into two camps


Whitcombe - figurehead is a full figure though with little detail


Dodd - figurehead is a bust with slightly more detail.


Now both were known for accuracy of sails/rigging etc but of the two I have decided to go for Dodd for the following reason. In the mid 1790's (especially 1795) the British Navy went a bit decoration averse in their hurry to push out frigates as quickly as possible this means that a full figurehead is unlikely but a bust is possible as soon after restrictions eased again though the Navy never really went for the gaudy approach of the early years.



Now relating the above to what is known we do know that Hoste requested the ships move with flying jib-bom over the taff rail of  the ship in front (+1 Dodd) so to allow the French no chance to break the line. In terms of size the order went Amphion (Medium) Active (Large) Volage (Smallest) Cereberus (Medium) so (+2 Dodd).  Basically you can see the correct size differnential in both Pocock and Dodd but not Whitcombe.

According to his memoirs Hostes command pendant was a huge forked red one (+1 Dodd)


O'Brien states, "decorated with Union-jacks and ensigns at the different mast-heads and stays, independent of the regular red ensigns at the Mizen peaks, we hoisted a commodore's pendant at the Amphion's main". Something possibly used by James as he also says, "The British ships immediately formed in line ahead, with, besides the customary red ensign at their respective peaks, union-jacks and ensigns, blue and red, at their foremast heads and at their different stays"


But we know Hoste was under the direct orders of Vice Admiral of the White Sir Charles Cotton. So should show a white ensign to the rear as an indication of the squadron. This supports Pococok and Dodd and less Whitcombe though he appears hurt by having such an interesting variation in flags and as his (popular) plate was copied by other artists obviously had the flag colours changed.



On more general matters Amphion is usually show portrayed as a greek (so classical robes) holding a lyre. The previous full bust of the immediate preceding Amphion (exploded in harbour whilst under Israel Pellews command) does exist in plan form and shows this.





So I will keep on looking. Naturally given all the evidence if anyone else has any thoughts then please shout.




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I would like to address the question of gunports directly above each other.


I have never seen a draught which placed the gunports on a dedicated "gundeck" directly in line with the ports of an adjacent dech. But beginning about 1660 or so the ports on a quarter or poop deck could be arranged without regards to the ports on the gundecks below.

There is frequent reference to the portson the quarterdeck being crowded together to reach the "rated" total. Look at the famous model of the HMS Sussex in the US Naval Academy Museum or the HMS Prince (1670) in the Scince Museum collection


Later in the 19th century as frigate quarter decks began to be rearmed with carronades the ports would be distributed without taking the ports on the gundeck into consideration. As an example the famous sail plan of the USS Constitution (C&R 27-15-18) as opposed to any of her seceral design draughts.


I would also caution you to measure carefully. The "minor ports" are not always evenly spaced.

Edited by michaelpsutton2
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Thanks for the comments all. The bust is probably the best way to go unless some other compelling evidence can prove any other way. Good point on the sister frigates but they were built by different yards (Deptford and Northfleet) and four years later than the Amphion.


The Aeolus was one of the frigates that unsuccessfully chased the Constitution though the relevant paintings fairly obviously concentrate on the Constitution with the British ships a threatening crowd in the distance. Something to keep an eye on though as that provide at least some more evidence.

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I applaud your work sir and will continue to watch this thread with great interest!

From all the historical research to creating your own plans, it’s a tedious but rewarding process.

I too find tracing over and recreating ship plans rewarding and relaxing.


As for distortions in the entire process, I know a little bit about that subject.

Just as a rule of thumb, there will always be distortion due to all the steps in creating a printed image.

From artists drawing to:

Camera-film-plate-blanket-pressure-paper stretch-cutter-folding, back to a flatbed/drum scanner, it can’t be helped. You will almost never have a right angle to work from.


Do you use autocad in your day to day job?

Edited by Madcat
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The fir built double banked frigate HMS Newcastle of 50-guns, c.1813, had all of her spar deck gun ports almost directly above her gun deck ports. Ditto, to a lesser extent, HMS Leander, 1813. The USS Constellation may have been rebuilt the same way in 1829, if one accurate Maltese painting is to be believed. I can't think of any others off hand either.


One of Aeolus's junior lieutenants in 1811 was the later author, Frederick Marryat, although he transferred out before the great chase.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Are there any paintings of her sister frigates, Medusa or Aeolus? Did not Medusa also fight the Spanish Treasure Frigates in 1804 with Lively, etc? Are there realistic depictions of that action?

Medusa and Donegal did fight the Spanish Treasure Frigates of 1804. The Spanish frigates taken in action of 1804 were:  Fama 34, Medea 40, the Mercedes  was destroyed; a little later Santa Matilde  34 and Anfitriti 40. Spanish frigates of this period were very similar although some hull design differences  existed. Fama 1795, Medea  1797 and Anfitriti 1797 were of improved designs compared to Matilde which had been launched in 1778.


The following three paintings of the battle are in the National Maritime Museum collection: BHC0535 by Francis Sartoris, PU5684 by John Gore and PU5685 by Nicholas Pocock. All three depict Mercedes at the time of its magazine explosion. Here is an image of Sartoris's painting.


Edited by Roman
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Cheers, I have a bunch of paintings (including that one) of the Spanish action mainly because it is the Amphion directly next to the Mercedes. Since  they all show the stern I have left them for my 'stern' discussion at some later point. The nice thing is I will have a couple of sterns to look at for the Amphion class design.


I am actually intending to represent the Amphion as she was in this action under Sam Sutton.

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Joss I am looking forward to your work. These vessels were so dynamic in the evolution of ship design that the Amphion is definitely worth the attention you are giving it. I think this holds for all the nations involved in the maritime trade that designed and built their own frigates; of course as usual much of the fun is in the research.

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I have the NMM draughts of Medea, as fitted out as Cochrane's HMS Imperieuse. She is very beautiful. Her carvings (presumably her new British carvings) are drawn separately in half inch scale. They are IMHO too intricate, with all their fine, swirling 'vine-ery' and 'rope-ery', to have been drawn in 1/4 inch scale. I suspect this is why the carvings had vanished from the plans at around this time.

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I have the NMM draughts of Medea, as fitted out as Cochrane's HMS Imperieuse. She is very beautiful. Her carvings (presumably her new British carvings) are drawn separately in half inch scale. They are IMHO too intricate, with all their fine, swirling 'vine-ery' and 'rope-ery', to have been drawn in 1/4 inch scale. I suspect this is why the carvings had vanished from the plans at around this time.

Here is a bit of detail by Thomas Bryant who was stationed in Cartagena during those years. This one is  dated June 13, 1802; title reads: Plan that manifests the external decorations of a Frigate of 34 Guns in the four figures............. etc.

Should be nice to contrast this sort of detail with that of Amphion and Medea's transformation to HMS Imperieuse. 





Edited by Roman
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Joss, I do not know if you are aware of the twist and turns of the October 5th, 1804 battle to this day. When this attack took place the British people criticized it because it took place in time of peace. There is a company here in Tampa that some may not be aware of, but well known in Spain and particularly in Gibraltar; some of its people were arrested leaving the latter. The company, Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. a salvage company was in the news until late 2012 because of its discovery and recovery of the treasure from the silver fleet of 1804. Said wreck is claimed by the Spanish government to be that of the frigate "Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes", the Mercedes of your story. Odyssey Marine has lost its court battle in the US Supreme Court and the treasure recovered that includes thousands of coins and other relics had to be returned to Spain. Due to the many souls lost the ship is considered by many to be hallowed ground. For those that think it is there for the taking, there is an International Treaty that protects warships sunk in battle from treasure seekers. The treasure recovered is said to be worth some $500 million US.


This is one more reason to model the Amphion. The history behind these events of 1804 reaches us today.

Edited by Roman
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  • 4 weeks later...

Just found the following





on a Spanish site. Apparently the painting is from the Navy Museum in Madrid. Shows the Spanish action from the other side (you can just see the Mercedes exploding in the distance).


The page itself is interesting (translated as I dont speak Spanish) - especially the 'Analysis' and it looks like the British haven't been forgiven this yet - either that or the reasons for things such as this, General Bellgrano, the french fleet in 1940 are not truly understood. 


For those that are interested the page link it





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  • 3 months later...

Just a minor update. All the square frames, cant frames and hawse pieces are done. When my shed is up I will use some thin wood and maybe cut the frames out at a small scale to do a visual check on alignment. There are a couple I am not happy with (especially some of the most distant cant frames to the bow and stern) so I may have to go back to the lines for those. That wont be until I can get a way to validate them all though in hopefully a few months now.


I will switch to looking at researching how to draw the stern timbers. I have heard Rees is good for this as I have finally moved beyond Wayne's excellent article (cheers Wayne...). 


While I am waiting I might also do some work on the figurehead/colour scheme/stern decoration structure all of which will be interpretation and guess work.


I might (finally) start looking at the musters properly again as well.







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Ok lets look briefly at the Stern. As with the bow we have few pictures of good enough quality to provide a definitive answer so will have to make our guess as best as possible. Using our stern discussion as a basis I am relying on the 'live' distant sketch as the best base point for the overall shape. Paintings which match this are likely to be more accurate than otherwise.


So the base point from two angles.




This first shows a quite distinct shape for the stern






here you can see (when shadowed ) the long line of windows. No particular detail but an idea of shape.


Now lets look at some of the contenders. Unfortunately Dodd gives us little in the shape of the stern and some of the more recent images are ghastly to put it mildly. For example we have a recent stamp showing the Amphion




Urrrrrrrr. No. Blind artist taking money of gullible people. oh that's me :(


Whitcombe does provide much more detail in all the many derivatives of his particular painting




Hmm not quite the shape and with an unusual star decoration on either side. Now slightly in Whitcombe's favour is that all the other British ships in that painting have different stern decorations/structures. I still have some difficulties with him due to the sizes and similar bows (see the bow discussion earlier)


We also have the following detail from a painting by R.Lambe




Not much to see except the windows and a boat appears slung on stern davits (which at least runs counter to Dodd)


We also get several 'shots' from the Spanish Treasure action. The nicest artistically is a Spanish painting




But I wonder is the over elaborate stern is more a tribute to Spanish ships of the time than to the British attackers. The source for this painting though would appear the following, much rougher, painting




Now both stern and decoration appear similar here.


We have this obviously stylized approach which apparently is Whitcombe though i am not sure I believe it..






Other potential visual references are the previous Amphion (which had all its decoration on plan) and was quite elegant really.






We also have the various sister ships. Mainly the Medusa








None giving much of a help for the stern except for this final which seems to reinforce our Spanish painting (especially as the Medusa is in the same painting right behind the Amphion with the same stern)




All in all I will probably follow a mixture of the Spanish (which appears a direct copy of an earlier English painting). All the British ships appear to have the same stern but two ships were Amphion class (the closest two in the painting). Since that matches the older Amphion I might just copy but simplify the earlier ships design. I am still uncertain about that 'star' so will avoid.


Finally when looking through my paintings I came across what appears to be a mislabeled Amphion. One painting by George Andrews purports to show the Active, Cereberus taking possession of the Corona a boat from the Amphion boarding the Bellona. Looking again the main British ship in the painting has a Commodores pendant so might (must?) be the Amphion. If so it clearly shows a bust with the other British ships with full figureheads (which matches the earlier bow discussion)




More food for thought ..










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  • 1 year later...

Psk It is alright but I would not pay that much for it. Having looked through a lot of the logs and background data it seems to me that the research for that book was primarily through the easy pickings of common biographies and not going much further than that.


It is a tiny little book as well possibly because of that. You could cover the majority of the book by reading 'Remember Nelson' (a good biography of William Hoste) and O'Briens memoires.


O'Briens memoires are an ebook  https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=I9cDAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA2&lpg=PA2&dq=o%27brien+amphion+navy+escape+donat&source=bl&ots=cAJmohqsWh&sig=zSW0T58ArF2dKYtD0rWzym2DFGU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB8Q6AEwADgKahUKEwjS3uH-66DIAhULPD4KHYhaCWo#v=onepage&q=o%27brien%20amphion%20navy%20escape%20donat&f=false


and you can get feathers book on Kindle for 99p





which is much more reasonable. I have the physical copy but the book itself is of a binding I associate with cheap books sold when you visit tourist attractions so is also nothing special.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Time for some more historical gumph. Now I have been (very slowly) adding the musters to excel whilst writing out the logs into onenote so I can attempt to look for points of interest in either. There are a lot of caveats with this process. Beyond the frankly atrocious handwriting data is also frequently missed. As an example I am up to Christmas 1798 now and am still backfilling 'Country of Origin' on some of the crew who joined when the ship was first commissioned. The second problem is one of general depth. Some of the statistics I can see may be more or less  important than I recognise but without wider knowledge of what is common it is often difficult to work out if something worthy of note has actually occurred…Finally a lot of the location guesses are exactly that as there is no guarantee someone from 'Dublin' was Irish or regarded themselves as Irish. The final main point is that until the 'closing figures' at the end of the commission are found these numbers may change and switch.
So for this post I am going to number crunch and then bring up some possibly interesting factoids found.
May 1798-September 1798 Muster (number crunch)
Crew Numbers
Officers 10 (Captain, 3 lieutenants, 6 midshipman)
Warrant officers 9
Able Seamen = 67 (28% of the crew so a reasonable proportion?)
These came mainly from a turnover from the Egmont along with 9 pressed in (at?) Zealand. Of the pressed 2 deserted (7.462% of the able seaman deserted) prior to November. 6 more were volunteers and all of these were promoted fast (to Captains Clerk, 2 to Ships Corporal, 1 to quarter gunner, 1 to quarter master, 1 to master at arms (the impressively named Oncelephours Tyndall)
Of these expert crew at least 11 appear Irish (16% of the total) and 1 welsh
Ordinary Seamen = 51 (21% of the crew with 13% of these deserting before November)
46 were pressed from (at) Zealand with 1 further pressed who managed to pay for a substitute. 1 of these was incorrectly pressed and managed to get discharged by admiralty order and 7 deserted before November
2 more were volunteers (with 1 of these deserting) and the rest came from the Royal William
Landsman = 70 (30% of crew with 14% deserting)
17 were Pressed from (at) Zealand with three managing to get discharged by Admiralty Order
26 were volunteers from (at) Zealand - which basically means they were pressed but said they 'volunteered' as at least they gained the Kings Bounty
11 more came from Dortecht
Followed by a mix for the rest
7 were Irish (10% of total)
2 Scottish and 2 welsh
2 European (Ostend and Portugal)
2 further afield (1 American and probably an ex-slave named 'Cotton Brown' which was a common slave name the other has a location of Perth which 'might' be Australia or could actually be somewhere else.
There were 26 ships boys (11% of total with 15% of these deserting before November)
5 were 1st Class
10 were second class with 5 of these 'poor orphans' from the Marine Society with 2 of these deserting
4 were from other ships with 2 of these deserting
33 Marines including a  2nd Lt, Sgt, Cpl, drummer
And 8 Dutch prisoners received from the Proserpine (ex Ethalion) in August.
There were also a lot of supernumeraries but with the ship fitting it is expected that it would be heaving with other Naval staff.
People and points of interest
The officers have some 'history' I have tracked down. The 1st Lieutenant - Thomas Delafons ended up as a well regarded shipping officer for the Duke of Wellington at the end of the Peninsular War and the 2nd Lieutenant William Bennett had his nephew as a Midshipman on the ship (Thomas Bennett). I have not made any family connection to the Captain but it may exist.
The 3rd Lieutenant (Edward Elliot) is interesting as he was commissioned on the 25th May and was superseded on the 10th July onto half pay. I have not managed to find out why yet - he might have irritated the Captain or might not have liked the Captain or had a personal reason.
Of the Warrants the Master (Thomas Anstay) has a lot of information behind him and looks like a young 'thruster' as this was his first frigate appointment.
Here is an area where I would definitely like more comparison to other ships though I eventually will be able to compare to other Captains on this ship. In the period covered 50 lashes were given

19th July - 18 lashes for deserting
6th August 2 sets of 12 lashes for neglect of duty
​17th August 18 lashes for drunkeness
Apart from that we have an interesting situation on the 27th July when an Able Seaman was 'confined' for striking William Hodge (one of the Midshipman). It is interesting because it is one of the more experienced crewmen and you would expect lashes for such an offence so it would be interesting to know the circumstances.
On the 2nd August the ship suffered its first death when 'Johnson Dennis' and Ordinary Seaman died. At midnight on the 1st August he had fallen from the Foremast and his injuries had been severe enough to kill him.
On the 23rd August the Marine Corporal 'William Emery' was demoted to Private for no given reason.
These follow a definite pattern with most of the desertions occurring just before the ship was due to sail. 9 occurred in July and a more worrying 16 in October. Interestingly there appears a possible correlation between the 19th July 18 lashes for 'deserting' and the disappearance on the day before of the majority of the 9 July desertions. This person was a marine and it looks like he was used as an example or perhaps turned a blind eye to the desertions.
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  • 1 month later...

It has taken several years!... but I am finally ready to start on my first major scratch build project. For those who have forgotten this will be a 1:64 scale model of HBM Amphion a 36 gun English frigate from the Napoleonic Wars.


Plans and general research has existed up to this point in this topic here




Which I thought I would leave in place as opposed to copying over. Any historical gumpf can then go there allowing this to be more build orientated.



Before starting this project I have decided to set myself some ground rules (following the eminently copyable example of   Ed  from whose book  much of the the following list is 'adjusted')


  • Measure twice then cut once - often easier said than done for me this will usually mean thinking closely about what I am trying to do before doing it.
  • Use the correct tool for the job - Thankfully I have built up a wide range of tools that should make this easier.
  • Keep tools sharp including marking pencils - My habit of grabbing any old pencil must be resisted
  • Clean up immediately - Ed refers to glue and if a modeller of his standard needs to react to glue then I shall have extra work on my hands
  • Dry fit pieces first - seems logical.
  • Don't use test pieces as actual pieces. As an addition to this to actually make test pieces as oppose to using the test piece as the completed erm piece.
  • Mark and indent hole locations before drilling - use templates to reduce hole 'movement' as the eye can often lie
  • When fatigue sets in then stop work - Resist the temptation to 'get something done' - it can always wait especially if something else has just been successfully completed. I tend to rush and put myself under time pressure which then lowers quality.
  • Step away from the model if stressed - If I get to a difficult section then don't run myself into the ground but do something else for a few days and then return in a calmer frame of mind
  • Keep quality consistent - If a piece is not good enough then start again. I am no zealot as far as accuracy (or have not been in the past) this model is requiring a considerably larger portion of my life so I want to increase my standards of operation.
  • Reference other modellers when trouble beckons - this might seem a misnomer to most modellers but historically I have preferred to work stuff out myself rather than use MSW or other sites/books to research. AS with the previous point this model deserves better so if something fails to work at first try check the many excellent resources out there. In reality this will usually be ModelShipWorld forums and the recent spate of excellent books including Ed's HMS Naiad, David Antscherl's Swan Class Series and Allan Yedlinsky's HMS Euryalus



That will do for a start. I expect fairly heavy re-work to occur - especially on the plans but we shall cross those bridges when we come to them.


This initial post shall be a somewhat boring one as I have only just completed my building board. For this I decided to copy the Swan Class building board (adjusted to my larger ships size) which has the virtue of being the simplest. I used thick melanin board with beech (I think , it was marked beech but who knows..) runners. My initial attempt to draw the center line was horrifically not crowned with success as though straight it was not level to the sides so I redid it and now have an amusing double fanning line at one end so have to make certain I don't utilise the wrong one.




Next up I had to place my 'fish' plan on it. After some hassles working out how to get turbo cad to print to size and not adjust the size (I added several L shaped lines to the plans with each line measuring exactly 64 inches thus if scales properly in the printer they should be exactly 1 inch when printed. This was very useful) . For attaching the plans I initially followed the 'Swan' advice to use artists spray (it not being water based) but this was not an unalloyed success possibly because my paper was too thin and it looked rather blotchy plus having had reinforced the center line with red ink several blood like blotches also appeared. Now I fully expect the build to draw blood at some point but can do without bad omens before I have started.


After reflecting a bit I decided to take a different approach. I re-printed the plans and re-checked the scale before laminating them (and re-checking the scale post lamination). I then sliced the ends of with a hard edge and a scalpel and glued that to the board with standard glue. The lamination is sturdy enough to resist any depredations from the glue and it has the further advantage of being a cleanable surface. The only thing I will have to be aware of going forward is to ensure that any vertical measurements need to take into account the extra thickness whether on or off the lamination.





Next job is to decide which wood to use for the keel and innards. I have some samples which I plan on practicing the keel joints with and will decide on appearance and ease of use once I have practiced. Past experience tells me it may now be months before I am happy with the result so don't expect particularly quick updates...

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