Launch of a Fourth-Rate on the River Orwell

This is believed to be a picture of the first three naval vessels built by John Barnard the Younger for the Navy Board. It is a composite in both time and subject and is thought to show the 'Hampshire', 50 guns, on the stocks, the 'Biddeford', 20 guns, being towed downstream and, in the left foreground, the 'Grenado', a bomb-vessel. The location is the River Orwell and the artist was positioned in the immediate vicinity of the Frensham Tower several miles downstream of Ipswich, immediately identifiable in the middle distance. The land on which the ship sits ready for launch is John's Ness, where the 'Hampshire' was the only 50-gun ship was built and was launched there in 1741.

The 'Biddeford', a sixth-rate, was built upstream at St Clement's Yard and launched in 1740. She was towed downstream to Harwich to be rigged: no other 20-gun ship was built upstream of John's Ness. This painting shows the boats involved in towing. The 'Grenado' was also built at the St Clement's Yard, the only bomb ketch ever built there, and was launched in 1742. In the picture she is shown without masts but the positioning of her mizzenmast indicates her rig. The bomb ketch was a relatively uncommon vessel with distinctive lines. It is not known why Cleveley selected these three Barnard-built ships launched in different years to appear in the same picture. The work may have been commissioned from him by the Barnard family but no evidence exists to support this.

Object Details

ID: BHC1044
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Cleveley, John
Date made: circa 1748
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Painting: 1219 x 2440 mm; Frame: 1329 mm x 2546 mm x 90 mm

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