Marmaduke Stalkartt

A facsimile reprint of the 1787 edition of Marmaduke Stalkartt's Naval Architecture has recently been published by Jean Boudriot Publications from an original in my posession.

It is a beautiful reprint which in certain aspects is better looking than the original. The plates have been printed on a lightly coated paper which gives a very clear rendition of the originals. The three largest plates, which are 6 feet long, are too large to print on a single sheet and are found either pasted together or bound separately. This explains why the plate volume sometimes is recorded to have 17 plates. The text is divided into seven books, the first book treats whole moulding and the five following describe the building of a longboat, a pleasure yacht, a sloop-of-war, a 44-gun frigate, a 74-gun ship-of-the-line and a cutter. Appended at the end is a description of a 150' 40-gun frigate designed by Thompson which he had submitted to the Navy Board.

Very little is known of the author to this work. Marmaduke Stalkartt was the born in 1750 as the fourth child of six and the second son of Hugh Stalkartt by his second marriage. In 1782 Stalkartt married a Mary Burchett by whom he had nine children. He died at the age of 55 years in Calcutta on September 24th, 1805. He was articled as a shipwright apprentice and worked at the Royal Navy Yard, Deptford.

In a note in the MM Vol. 21 (1945) C. Knight is quoted by Harold P. Wiggins stating that: "I am certain that Stalkartt was not an H.M. Master Shipwright or Assistant Master Shipwright. If he was a Dockyard Officer, it was not above the grade of Foreman." He goes on to suggest that could have been a Carpenter and thus a servant of H.M. the King.

I have no reference to Stalkartt from his apprentice-time until he publishes his book in 1781. He seems to have been able to finance his own yard some time thereafter and acquired a certain reputation. In 1788 the new postmaster-general Lord Walshingham proposed that the new Post Office packets for the Falmouth station should be built by "Stalkard", of Rotherhithe, to his design. Of these, three were ready in 1793 when the French Revolutionary war began. These small Post Office packets were unarmed and intended to sail unescorted and thus were designed to be fast sailers. Two of these, the Chesterfield and the Westmoreland, both of 178 tons, made the roundtrip from Falmouth to the West Indies in ten resp. seven weeks.[1]

The Navy Board signed a contract with Marmaduke Stalkartt in 1792 for the building of the experimental steam ship Kent to the design of Lord Stanhope.[2] Banbury suggests that it was through The Society for Improvement of Naval Architecture that he got the commission. Lord Stanhope was a founder member of the Society and probably new Stalkartt through his book on naval architecture.

Stalkartt also built two naval vessels at his yard. On 1 April 1793 the Navy Board sent the draughts to Stalkartt for the building of the Seahorse, a 38-gun frigate of the Artois/Diana-class at £. 14 per ton for the completed hull only.[3] According to A.M. Rundle, a descendant to Marmaduke Stalkartt, he was sent by the Government to Bombay in 1796 to build teak ships, presumably to help out in the general shortage of oak at home consequent upon the expansion of the navy resulting from the Napoleonic wars. Stalkartt is said to have built the Naval Yard at Bombay which was the called Stalkartt's Yard.[4] In giving evidence before a Parliamentary committee in 1805 and relating to conditions in 1801 Sir Home Popham stated that:

  • "There is no King's Yard at Calcutta for the supply of stores? - No.
  • "There is no King's Yard at Bombay? - No, there are Naval Officers at both places."[5]
  • There is no reference to either Stalkartt or Bombay in Coad's The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850 which was published last year. I have not been able to establish what the truth is. If there was no Naval Yard at Bombay it is not likely that you will find a conclusive statement to the fact.

    There are a couple of contemporary reviews available to us. One comment is found in a letter from Captain Kempenfelt to Sir Charles Middleton, the latter was at the time Comptroller of the navy.

  • There is a book coming out on the art of shipbuilding, composed by one Marmaduke Stalkartt. I have been told by a tolerable good judge, who has perused the manuscript, that it is a very ingenious piece - handles the subject full and clear. It certainly should have so much attention paid to it as to examine if it really has merit; and if it has, surely it is incumbent both with the admiralty and navy board to encourage it; and the more so as, to our disgrace, we have nothing published of our own production on that subject worth looking into.[6]
  • It appears from the above statement that Captain Kempenfelt had not seen the manuscript at the time of writing and that he was not familiar with its author.

    There is another contemporary review of the book in the European Magazine. The same review also appears in the preface to C.G.D. Müller's German edition of Du Hamel Du Monceau's Elémens de l'Architecture navale, ou Traité pratique de la construction des vaisseaux, 1791.

  • For the particular instructions to make the draughts, and the enlarging them for actual building on the moulding-loft, the amplest and most satisfactory in my knowledge. Though the author seems to avoid studiously every theoretical disquisition, there will be found in it very judicious remarks useful to them. The description of the plans is printed in the same elegant style as the copper-plates are engraved; and the whole work has, in respect to external elegance, and the most minute and nice finishing of the draughts, no rival among all mentioned in this sketch, and may be duly called the most elegant and splendid work of the kind. The author confines himself only to ships belonging to the navy. The very high price will be, outside of England, an obstacle to its becoming more universal known.[7]
  • The comment in Röding's Dictionary puts it second only to Chapman's Architectura navalis in importance. Neither the Architectura navalis nor the same author's Tractat om Skepps-Byggeriet, 1775, should be compared with Stalkartt's work. The first mentioned of the Chapman works, which was highly regarded in its time by naval architects and shipwrights, is only a plate volume without text. The other is a highly theoretical treatise on naval architecture bearing little resemblance with Stalkartt's work on laying off and the art of shipbuilding.
  • Dieses Werk ist mit vieler Pracht gedruckt, auch sind die Kopferplatten mit vieler Vollkommenheit gestocken. Es ist aber blos praktisch, und handelt nur von dem Bau der Kriegsschiffe. In dem Betracht ist es aber nebst Chapmans Architectura navalis das vollkommenste.[8]

  • Footnotes:

    1. 1) Philip Banbury: Shipbuilders on the Thames and Medway. Newton Abbot, 1971, pp 136-138. Back
    2. 2) Query 12 (1926). Balanced Rudder. The contract made between the Navy Board and Marmaduke Stalkartt on 3 October, 1792 for the construction of the "Ambi-Navigator Ship" invented by Lord Stanhope speaks of an "Equipollent Rother". The drawings show that this was a balanced rudder. Is any earlier instance of this device known? [MM Vol. 12 (1926), p 232]. Back
    3. 3) David White: The Frigate "Diana". London, 1987, p 6.
    4. Back
    5. 4) MM Vol. 33 (1947), p 123. Back
    6. 5) Reports from the Select Committee on Papers relating to the Repairs of His Majesty's Ships The Romney and Sensible, while under the Command of Sir Home Popham. Ordered to be printed 5th & 24th June 1805, p 52. Back
    7. 6) A letter of 9 April 1780 from Captain Kempenfelt to Sir Charles Middleton. In the Letters and Papers of Charles, Lord Barnham, Vol. 1, p 325. Back
    8. 7) An Essay towards a General view of the Literature of the Art of Ship-Building published in A Collection of Papers on Naval Architecture, Originally Communicated through the channel of the European Magazine, in which Publication the further Communications on this subject will be continued, 1791, p 31. Back
    9. 8) Röding, J.H.: Allgemeines Wörterbuch der Marine, 1794, col. 166. Back

    Updated 1998-02-08 by Lars Bruzelius

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    Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.