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.

Erskine Childers wrote The Riddle of The Sands, a bestselling Edwardian spy novel. The logbooks that inspired him are in the National Maritime Museum.

Great Eastern was a huge steamship launched in 1858, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The ship was so big it wasn’t fit for purpose.

Models of many of the Royal Navy’s ships were constructed by order of the Royal Navy Board, many of which still survive today. 

Henry VIII (1491–1547) is credited for establishing the Royal Navy – establishing Royal Dockyards and building new, innovative warships.

Beagle was a Royal Navy ship, famed for taking English naturalist Charles Darwin on his first expedition around the world in 1831–36.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries the general design of Royal Navy warships changed very little. The designs were standardized by the system of Establishments.

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.

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

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