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Can anyone name this 38-gun Artois-class fifth rate frigate of the Royal Navy?

Frank Cook

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I am in the beginning research stages for the restoration of a 38-gun Artois-class fifth rate frigate of the Royal Navy. It is similar to HMS Diana. It has great detail but it is a wreck. The figurehead (see picture) is of a man/god waving a mace-like weapon, wearing what appears to be a flowing robe.


Can anyone identify the ship from the figurehead or venture a guess as to the figurehead?







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Thank you Captain Poison for your quick response.


The only fact that I have been able to discover is that Aethalion was a sailor who was turned into a fish by Dionysus. This in itself would be a good enough reason for using an effigy of Aethalion as a figurehead for a ship. However, I have not been able to connect this fact to the model's figurehead.


Can you give me any more information on how you were able to determine that this model was of the HMS Ethalion?


Thanks again

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Frank, what is it that leads you to believe that it is an Artois class, there were a lot of similar contemporary designs (I'm certainly not disagreeing it isn't!).  Would love to see more pictures as I've just started to a build of what I hope will one day be HMS Jason and this could be invaluable.  I too though 'Jason' along with Druxey for the golden fleece.

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Thank all of you for your interest.


My understanding is that the Artois Class of frigates was a series of nine ships built to a 1793 design by Sir John Henslow, which served in the Royal Navy during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, namely:

  • HMS Artois, Completed: 3 March 1794
  • HMS Diana, Completed: 6 June 1794
  • HMS Apollo, Completed: 23 September 1794
  • HMS Diamond, Completed: 6 June 1794
  • HMS Jason, Completed: 25 July 1794
  • HMS Seahorse, Completed: 16 September 1794
  • HMS Tamar, Completed: 21 June 1796
  • HMS Clyde, Completed: 21 June 1796
  • HMS Ethalion, Completed: 11 July 1797

Most reference these ships as 38-gun frigates although they are specified to be armed with a main battery of 28 eighteen-pounder cannon on their upper deck, the main gun deck of a frigate, two 9-pounders together with twelve 32-pounder carronades on the quarter deck, and another two 9-pounders together with two 32-pounder carronades on the forecastle, a total of 46 guns.


I compared this model with the drawings and specifications of the HMS Diana found in "The Anatomy Of The Ship, HMS Diana" and found significant similarities. The model is pierced for 14 guns on the starboard and larboard gun deck and has 6 cannon per side on the quarter deck. The waist of the main deck has a large opening exposing the gun deck, and the wheel, binnacle and capstan are in approximately the same position. The stern gallery has five windows instead of Diana's six but whose counting. Of course the gross rigging plan is similar.


I have attached some additional pics.







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  • 2 months later...

Recognizably the USS Essex of 1799. 26x12pdrs, though could be 28 if someone filled the bridle ports. 12xQD guns, 2-4xF'csle guns, depending on the year. Figurehead is quite close to the Chapelle draught of the vessel. Artois class had less tumblehome, no forecastle rails (no rails or solid bulwarks there was British practice) and generally had a bit different shape. 








Edited by CaptArmstrong
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Dear Capt Armstrong,


Thank you for your information. Your idetification of the model to be the USS Essex of 1799 is very revealling. The only information that I have on the original build of the model is that it was done by a model maker from Ipswich, MA, so it would stand to reason that the ship for which the model was to represent would be one built and launched locally, specifically, Salem, MA.


I am particularly interested in your statement that the figurehead was close to the Chapelle draught of the vessel. Can you suggest how I could get a copy of this documentation?


Thanks, Frank

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have them in my copy of Howard Chapelle's history of the American sailing navy, but they should be available from the Smithsonian http://americanhistory.si.edu/about/departments/work-and-industry/ship-plans

The figurehead appears to be similarly clothed and posed, but with the club held slightly differently.

Edited by CaptArmstrong
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Yes indeed that is the Model shipways solid hull kit, Essex....I think we have one in the Gallery....Here are some comparison images...just the paint colors are different.   From the early 60's or 70's and possibly even the early 80's.


It was made in two scales...1/8" scale was the first version and that could be as old as the 50's but this is clearly the 5/32" version.  It may have been built later because I see some of the earmarks spelled out in Jim Roberts book on building the kit.  Which buy todays standards was just a min practicum on building the kit.  Many of the details on your old model are dead ringers for what he wrote about.  The figurehead is also a dead give away...you see,  the metal casting...lead at the time was very soft.  The hatchet or axe the Indian was supposed to hold in his hand was always bent or broken and had to be replaced.  It is why it may appear slightly different on models that were completed.  But the body is a perfect copy with its flowing cape.  I may even have one laying around the shop.  











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  • 2 months later...



Thanks so much for this information and sorry for my delay in responding. I have just returned to working on this project after finishing up a model of the Brigantine Newsboy. In regards to this restoration, there were a number of things that I questioned in trying to identify this model as the USS Essex.


The first was the figurehead, which looked more like a Greek figure than an Indian warrior. However, recently I met a gentleman who was building a new Model Shipways model of the Essex, which had a figurehead smaller but almost identical to the one on this model and with a little imagination I can see the figure as an Indian.


The other problem I had with identification resulted in referring to Takakjian's "Anatomy of a Ship, The 32-Gun Frigate Essex", which shows the position of the wheel aft of the mizzen mast, and I have seen other models of the Essex that shows the aft position of the wheel relative to the mizzen. However, the pics you included in your reply clearly shows the wheel forward of the mizzen. This makes me feel more comfortable but is there an explanation for the difference?


I definitely will have to get a copy of Jim Roberts book on building the kit that you referenced in your reply.

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