Launch of a ship: The Royal George at Deptford showing the launch of the Cambridge

Essential information

Opening times: 
National Maritime Museum, Second floor, Nelson Navy Nation gallery

Gaze admiringly on the launch of the Cambridge on 21 October 1755 with a view of the Royal George (which was in reality launched a year later at Woolwich Dockyard).

Deptford was significant as a centre of maritime and naval activity, and at this time its Royal Dockyard, founded under Henry VIII, was primarily a building, repair and victualling yard.

The Cambridge was one of the improved 80-gun three-decker third rates and here shown being floated out from the double dry-dock where she was built. The Royal George, launched in 1756, lies at anchor to the right. Beyond her stern, two 74-gun two-decker third rates are shown under construction. Thus the artist has brought together details from a number of different events he had witnessed.

The painting shows considerable shipping detail and activities on the quayside, with a variety of small open craft, some clearly bearing official parties.

This is one of Cleveley's most impressive dockyard compositions, though also one which he repeated at least three times. It should also be noted that the Thames at Deptford was probably too shallow ever to have allowed the Royal George to have reached the position where Cleveley represents her in this picture.