Dockyard Models

At an early date provisions for the collections of the valuable models were made. On the 25th of June 1670 Christian V, the King of Denmark, ordered the Admiralty to make a model whenever noget capital Orlogs Skib skal bygges [a large ship of war is to be built]. For this growing collection of models a Model Chamber was established in 1690. It was located at the Navy Yard on Bremerholmen in Copenhagen. Unfortunately many of these valuable models were destroyed or damaged at the fire of 1795. At least 123 models, of which 51 ship models, were lost and many of those which were saved were too damaged by fire and had to be scrapped.

When the Royal Navy occupied the shipyard at Nyholm in 1807 another 50 models were lost. Another 28 models which had been transferred to the Christiansborgs Castle were lost when that castle burned in 1884.

In spite of these unfortunate accidents the collection still include 136 ship models, 38 models of figure-heads and sterns, and 73 models of constructional details and other equipment.

Sweden did not follow the Danish practice of collecting the growing number of ship models until 1752 when a Royal letter ordered Model Chambers to be established at the Admiralty in Carlskrona and the naval bases at Stockholm and Gothenburg.

A special style of model building was developed in England during first part of the 17th century. This style is alternatively called Admiralty models, Dockyard models, or Navy Board models. In this catalogue the term Navy Board style model has been used. As a rule it can be stated that the earliest Navy Board style models are entirely unplanked and that with time the upperworks and the decks of these model were planked. The framing is not in accordance with the actual way of framing a ship but a stylished way.

A model made by the Master Shipwright Peter Pett in 1634 as a preliminary design for the Sovereign of the Seas was described by a contemporary writer as soe contrieved that every timber in her might be seen and left open and unplanked for that purposes, very neate and delightsome. [1]

In the late seventeenth century a model of the Royal Charles is known to have been displayed in a public house at Ratcliffe called the Three Pigeons. Unfortunately the model has not been noted since.

The term construction model has been used for models built in accordance to the actual practice of building ships and with more or less of the planking left out to show the framing and interior timbering. This style of ship modelling was prevalent in Denmark during the early 18th century.

In 1928 three thousands guineas was paid for a model reputing to be the Royal William of 1719. A dockyard model of HMS Burford, Admiral Vernon's flagship at the capture of Porto Bello in 1739, was sold for two thousand guineas. [2] But the record deal must surely be the thirty thousand pounds paid by Sir James Caird for the famed Mercury Collection, comprising 176 models.

Even to this date previously unknown Navy Board style models are discovered and put on the market for sale. Recently a model of an eighteenth century English Sixth Rate of 20 guns in a glass case was discovered behind a bath-tub in England. The model was subsequently sold at an auction for the record sum of GBP 121,000. [3]

  1. Travels of Peter Munday , Hakluyt Society, Second Series, Vol. XLV. Back
  2. Now at the Mystic Seaport Museum. Back
  3. Model Shipwright, No. 72, June 1990, p 1. Back

Updated 1998-08-27 by Lars Bruzelius

Sjöhistoriska Samfundet | The Maritime History Virtual Archives | Shipmodels.

Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.