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The Framing of Seventeenth-Century Men-of-War in England and Other Northern European Countries

Kroum N. Batchvarov
Thesis: May 2002
Chair: Crisman
Nautical Archaeology Program


Nautical archaeology has enormously enriched our knowledge of ship construction, but so far most attention seems to have been lavished on ancient shipwrecks. The seventeenth century has attracted the least attention. No detailed studies of the construction of ships of this era have been published. When the subject is mentioned at all, it is a cursory overview, quite often inaccurate, always lacking depth. Extensive documentation, however, still survives in the form of shipbuilding treatises, contracts, correspondance, models, paintings and engravings, draughts, and last - but not least - archaeological remains. A number of modern attempts to describe the framing of the seventeenth-century ship exist, but none are dedicated studies of the subject.

The most influential book is probably the work of Peter Goodwin - Construction of the English Man of War 1650-1850. Brian Lavery writes of construction in his books Ship of the Line, volume II, and Susan Constant, and he describes his reconstruction of Resolution, launched in 1667, in Deane's Doctine of Naval Architecture. Lavery favors a multi-futtock arrangement, supporting the view that frames had no open spaces. Goodwin proposes a very similar model, but with double frames and his timbers are scarphed instead of butting. Yet the models and some illustrative material show a different framing pattern of overlapping floors and futtocks. For most of the period all contemporary sources agree that no more than two futtocks were employed.

The following pages attempt to systematize the available evidence and, without, claiming to be the last word on the subject or to have exhausted all sources, to show the development of framing in the sailing men-of-war throughout the seventeenth century. The emphasis will be on English warships, as evidence for them is more easily accessible and because English vessels of the seventeenth century, unlike those of the eighteenth, were well designed.

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