‘Bellona’ – a Third Rate 74

The 74, a Third Rate, was the most important new ship-type of the later 18th century. Bellona was one of the most successful Royal Navy designs and became a prototype for its 74s.

The French had developed the 74 in the 1730s as better armed and a better sailer than the British 70. But it was not until the 1760s that the Royal Navy began to build 74s in large numbers.

It became the Navy's standard large warship, dominating the line of battle for 60 years. Over 200 were launched. 74s formed nearly all Nelson's fleet at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 and half his fleet at Trafalgar in 1805.

Bellona was one of the most successful designs. Over 40 ships were near sisters of hers.


Sir Thomas Slade (Surveyor of the Navy, 1755–71)


Chatham. Building began in May 1758 and she was launched in February 1760. The wood used in construction was equivalent to about 3400 mature trees. She had roughly 23.5 miles (37.5 km) of rigging.


£43,391 11s 4d (equivalent to over £1.6 million today)


Length of gundeck – 168 feet (51 metres), width – 46.75 feet (14 metres), depth in hold – 19.75 feet (6 metres)


Lower deck - 28 x 32-pounder cannon, upper deck – 28 x 18-pounders, quarterdeck – 14 x 9-pounders, Fo’c’s’le – 4 x 9-pounders (the 9-pounders were eventually replaced by carronades)


The model of the Bellona was probably commissioned to demonstrate coppering to King George III. The ship was first coppered in 1780. Nearly 3000 plates were used. She was re-coppered seven times.


In action in 1761 Bellona had a company of 567 – 36 officers, 434 men and 97 marines. The official complement of a 74 at that time was 650

Battle honours

Took the French 74 Courageux, 1761 (single-ship action); Battle of Copenhagen, 1801 (with Nelson's fleet); attack on Basque Roads, 1809.


Broken up in Chatham, 1814