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18th Century Model Builders


j21896
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Recent postings of Rogers Ship Model Collection photos got me wondering if much is known about the builders who created those masterpiece model ships -- two hundred and more years ago – as well as those in the NMM and other museums throughout the world.  Their creations remarkably live on today, but what history of the builders themselves has been left behind?  Did they keep any type of “build logs” or records of their work processes?  What were their workshops like, etc.?

 

The craftsmanship is astounding; I can’t imagine how they did it!  No modern conveniences, power tools, etc.  How long could it have taken them to build their models?
 

Cheers,               

Robert

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More than likely, these Navy Board models were built as collaborations under the supervision of the Master Shipwright. The team consisted of master carvers, jewelers and apprentice shipwrights. Little is known of them but a few have left  notes behind hidden in the models and have recently been discovered via  endoscopes. One excellent reference on the builders and their models is Ship Models, Their Purpose and Development from 1650 to the Present, by Brian Lavery and Simon Stevens. 

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There's clues in some other books.  For example, mention is made in Dodd & Moore's Building the Wooden Fighting Ship discusses that there were firms that made models from draughts (no details as to who,though).  Pepys and Pett had models but no mention of who made them..  Possibly they did.or didn't. Greg's posted reference seems to have the most info that I've seen

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I read that Fredrik Henrik af Chapman had his model chamber set up with full time model builders some where 1770-1780. In Sweden he was the "founder" of the navy's model collection. A few models did however exist before that, but he organized it and made it a job to be an employed model builder.

 

On one of the models the plate states it was built by a 2nd lieutenant and a sail maker in 1793. I have not researched any further.

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The photo is of the paper written by George Stockwell who built the model of the HMS Bristol and found in the model as pointed out by Greg in an earlier post on this thread.   I am not sure, but it may still be on loan to the Art Gallery of Toronto.

 

 

The note says This model was made May the 7, 1774 By Geo Stockwell Shipwright at Sheerness Yard

 

This is actually a copy of the original and put on display with the model.

 

Allan

post-42-0-45272900-1362835693.jpg

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  • 5 years later...

I agree with all of your comments. The quality of those models defies virtually all but a very few of modern builds. How fortunate we are that so many have survived as testimony to the talent of the builders, many of whom must have lived otherwise humble, if not impoverished lives. Oh to be a time machine fly on the wall of their workshops!

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