Navy Board models, with their distinctive unplanked lower hulls and exposed stylised frame timbers, were largely produced between 1650-1750. Often called Dockyard or Admiralty models, they are considered to be among the most beautiful and historically important ship models in existence. Aside from their decorative appeal, their salient aspect is the fact that they were built at much the same time and in the same place as the ships they depict under conditions that ensured an astounding degree of accuracy both inside and out. With few exceptions they were not built as part of the design process; rather, most were created as fine furnishings destined to adorn the homes of officials and wealthy individuals with important ties to the Royal Navy with some, perhaps most, taking longer to construct than the actual ships they depict. Their mostly anonymous builders were often shipwrights whose work was overseen by the Master Shipwright of the dockyard where they worked for a standard day's pay. Using his drawings and closely following full-scale shipbuilding practice, the modellers created near-perfect miniature replicas of many of the great English warships and small craft from the 17th and 18th centuries. In many instances, as much attention was lavished on interior fittings and construction details as on the models' outer fabric.
40-gun two-deckers were designed as cruisers rather than small ships-of-the-line. More heavily armed than the earlier 32-gun Fifth Rate 'demi-batterie' ships, they nonetheless proved a disappointment, as they were too small to comfortably handle the weight of their 6- and 9-pounder guns and ultimately they developed into the ubiquitous frigate. One of the most versatile units in any fleet, these relatively small and fast men-o'war were used as despatch carriers, convoy escorts and scouts, especially in time of war when the whereabouts of enemy fleets was vital information.
Of the eighteen vessels of this class added to the Navy between 1707 and 1724 no set of original plans exists to afford historians an easy identification of this model. However, through a process of prudent elimination, it has been possible to reduce the field to a possible few. The 'GR' monogram on the stern indicates that the model must have been completed, if not begun, during the reign of George I (1714-1727). It is almost certain that any Queen Anne period model would have been up-dated to incorporate the reigning monarch's cypher, but the unanswerable question is how long before a monarch's death is it reasonable to suppose that a model in progress would need alteration? Generally it is assumed that a variance of three of four years is acceptable which would potentially place this example in the late Queen Anne period of ship-building from 1710. On this basis, there are four leading candidates for attribution: the Launceston (1711); the Faversham (1712); the Lynn (1715) and the Southsea Castle (1724).
In this model we see a move away from the high, narrow and classically decorated vessels of the seventeenth century to the wider open-galleried vessels to come. Whilst this has the appearance of open galleries, in fact the stern is closed and employs architectural tricks to deceive from afar:- note the dummy 'doors' on the upper quarter gallery with just a suggestion of ballustrading, but nowhere left to stand. The figurehead remained the Lion Rampant and this type of carving was commonly employed on nearly all Fourth, Fifth and Sixth-Rate vessels, with the larger First, Second and Third-Rated vessels enjoying their own, often name-related, carvings6. In this instance however the lion is placed with a Fleur-de-Lys (or possibly a stylised Prince-of-Wales feathers) which is not commonly seen. It has not yet been possible to determine whether this is a clue for attribution, or merely the whim of the carver. At this time Great Britain still laid claim to France and this may possibly allude to that. The helm, introduced around 1703 to replace the whipstaff, is also of an early pattern, it has been suggested that the solid fore-and-aft supports may have been added to strengthen the fragile twist supports. So too is the main double capstan, which as noted in Brian Lavery's book [see references], is an early eighteenth century type with no drum-head on the lower capstan, but which admittedly still leaves a considerable margin.
Also of note is the luxurious and finely detailed japanned so-called 'India'7 work chinoiserie decoration throughout. Fashionable for the period spanning the late 17th century to the mid 19th, this is understood to be one of only half-a-dozen such models to survive with this form of decoration, and few if any, are better, with many falling victim to clumsy and ill-advised restoration. Happily, this model has survived intact from such folly for nearly 300 years, and with the exception of sympathetic touching to some of her gilt work areas, is in surprisingly good and original condition. This is no doubt due to the fact that it has been preserved under glass, probably from new. Whilst the present case is a replacement from the early 19th Century, it is certainly in the style of that which one would expect of the period and may possibly be a copy of the original, which, having served for a century or so, fell into disrepair. The so-called 'temple' vaulting suggests a further intriguing possibility: that the model was originally presented with launching flags, which if painted on silk would have probably disintegrated within the century.
Included with the model are three lower masts and the first stage of a bowsprit, which have been the subject of some speculation. The most reasonable considered opinion is that this was a (slightly) later attempt to put a full-ship rig to the model. The attempt was hampered by the lack of proper internal footings for the mast steps and, defeated by the prospect of dismantling the model in order to make the required adjustments, the attempt was abandoned. Over time, these have developed pronounced warps and are only really of use as a reference to 18th century mast modelling techniques.