Ships & boats

From the story of the world's only surviving tea clipper, Cutty Sark, and the voyages of discovery made by Captain Cook's sloop HMS Resolution, to the evolution of shipbuilding and design through the ages, we delve into the fascinating history of ships and boats.

Copper sheathing on hulls and lighter cannons are two examples of improvements in Royal Navy ship design in the 18th century.

The Mary Rose was a warship built in Portsmouth for King Henry VIII. She sank in 1545 and was recovered in 1981, with many artefacts still on board.

Life at sea during the age of sail was filled with hardship. Sailors had to accept cramped conditions, disease, poor food, pay and bad weather.

While almost every ship model is different in its treatment of hull form and details, they fall into two principal types: the frame model and the block model. 

In the 19th century, MP Samuel Plimsoll campaigned for load lines to be painted on the side of ships to prevent them being overloaded and sinking.

From Viking longships and 14th century carracks to 18th century battleships, the way ships were built evolved greatly between 800 and 1800.

Models of Royal Navy ships were made by order of the Navy Board. Little is known about the men who built these models but, thanks to their surviving works, we know how their models were made.

Launching ceremonies of times past were often more barbarous than the champagne tradition of today.

From the 19th century onwards, ships began to be built from iron and steel. Sails were also replaced with steam engines and paddles with propellers.

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