On the Mode of Improving the Navy.

Appendix, No. VI.

Letter from Mr. Snodgrass to the Society for Improvement of Naval Architecture


Having observed in a Book published by Steel in the year 1785, that a great number of British ships of War had, within a few years, been lost or foundered, and that with many of them the whole Crew perished.

From motives of humanity to my fellow-creatures, and with a view of doing good to the public, I am induced to submit to the inspection of your Society the accompanying Model[*] of the Midship part of a seventy-four gun Ship. It was made from a drawing which I sent to the Commissioners of His Majesty's Land Revenue, with my answers to some questions they put to me in the year 1791, and which is published in their eleventh Report. The said questions, with my answers thereto, and a List of British Ships of War lost or foundered, from the year 1775 to 1784, extracted from Steel's Book, I beg leave to submit also to your perusal.

Since I gave my answer to the Commissioners of the land Revenue as above mentioned, I am still more confirmed in my opinion, that if Government were to build Ships of War agreeable to the plans I then recommended, there would be no danger of such Ships foundering at Sea; and were they also to follow the advice I have given in my said answers, I am persuaded it would be the means of reducing both the consumption of timber, and also the expenses of building and repairing the Ships of the Navy, more than one third, compared to what it has been during the Reign of His present Majesty.

According to the statement of the Commissioners of His Majesty's Navy, as published in the aforesaid Report, page 25, it appears that the tonnage of Ships built by contract, or purchased during the present Reign, amounted to 256,656 tons, and of those built in His Majesty's Dock-yards to only 131,852 tons; so that 124,804 tons have been built by contract, or purchased from the Merchants, in the above period, more than were built in His Majesty's Yards: it appears that the medium duration of the Ships which compose the present Navy, taken one with another, is only about eleven years and three-quarters.

From my long experience, I have no doubt that Ships of War may be built to last eighteen years or longer, without requiring any material repairs, which would reduce the consumption of timber for the Navy full one-third. The annual saving from this, according to the statement of the Commissioners of the Land Revenue, would be 16,667 loads, the present annual supply required for the use of the Navy alone being 50,000 loads.

I with pleasure submit the whole of my proceedings in the this business to your consideration, from a conviction that a Society, calculated for the express purpose of the advancement of Naval Architecture, is the only medium through which discoveries are likely to be investigated with candour, and submitted to the public with the remarks of Men of the first ability, in the profession of navigating, as well as building Ships: and under this idea, I flatter myself something may be done for the improvement of Ships of the Royal Navy, and for the safety of those who navigate them; an object which, I trust, appears to me of the utmost importance in a Country like England, whose principal and best defence is the strength of her Navy.

I have the honour to be, Gentlemen,
Your most obedient humble Servant,
March, 1794

*) See Appendix, No. III, which faces page 227. Back
Naval Chronical Vol. V (1801), pp 322-323.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

Sjöhistoriska Samfundet | The Maritime History Virtual Archives.

Copyright © 1995 Lars Bruzelius.