Named in honour of the opening sea battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-74) on 28th May 1672, the frigate Solebay was a large sixth rate built in Snelgrove's yard at Deptford on the Thames. Measured by her builder at 256 tons, she was 92 feet in length with a 25 foot beam and carried a main armament of 20-6pdrs. on her gundeck with a further 4-4pdrs. on her quarterdeck. Launched in September 1694, she probably saw action in both the Wars of the English Succession (sometimes called the Nine Years' War, 1688-97) and also the Spanish Succession (1702-13) although precise details of her active service remain obscure. On Christmas Day 1709 however, Solebay was escorting a convoy of eight ships in the North Sea when she ran aground on the Boston Knock Sands, Lincolnshire, and was wrecked with the loss of nearly all hands, including her captain Commander George Stidson. In addition to Solebay, all eight vessels in the convoy were also wrecked on the treacherous shoals.
The model offered here has been copied, with meticulous attention to detail, from the original now housed in the Central Naval Museum in St. Petersburg. One of two (the other being Royal Sovereign) presented to Peter the Great (1682-1725) when he visited London during his novel European progress of 1697-98, these source models are justly famous, not least because of the unusual circumstances which took them to Russia. Soon after the innovative Tsar Peter ascended the Russian throne, he realised that if he was to modernise his backward country he must learn something of Western Europe's technological skills, especially shipbuilding. It was this latter interest which eventually brought him to the Thames-side shipyards in the spring of 1698 to study the shipwrights' craft and where he saw, with amazement, the huge bulk of Royal Sovereign taking shape on the stocks. In commemoration of this visit, King William III is said to have presented Peter with a beautiful model of the new flagship which the Tsar then took home with him along with the model of Solebay, presumably given to him when he called into Snelgrove's yard nearby.