1719 Establishment - 1733 Proposals and Revisions

1733 Proposals and Revisions

Over time, as British shipbuilding remained stagnant, Britain's foreign maritime rivals, most notably France, continued developing their own ships so that eventually the Navy Board was forced to take note. British ships by comparison with their foreign counterparts were usually significantly smaller — a practice that had come about through a combination of various factors differentiating the role of the Royal Navy from that of the continental navies, but a major factor was the need for a sizeable fleet, and the associated requirement to keep costs as low as practicable. However, by 1729 concerns were being expressed that the ships being built to the 1719 Establishment may be too small, and so a new ship, HMS Centurion, and HMS Rippon which was due for rebuilding, were built with slightly altered dimensions.

In 1732 the Admiralty decided to ask the Master Shipwrights in each of the Royal dockyards to report to them on how best they thought the ships could be improved. The responses, when they finally arrived, were conservative, offering only minor adjustments to certain dimensions. There was little agreement between the changes proposed, and no further progress was made until May 1733 when Sir Jacob Ackworth of the Navy Board — the Surveyor of the Navy at the time — proposed to the Admiralty some changes to the dimensions of the 50-gun and 60-gun ships, most notably an increase in breadth. The Admiralty accepted these proposals, and the ones that followed in later months for the other types, and these new dimensions became the effective new Establishment, though they never technically superseded the 1719 dimensions; there was no 1733 Establishment. Indications are that the Admiralty desired more far-reaching reforms that what was actually implemented, but due in part to the absence of anyone with practical shipbuilding knowledge on the Board, the Board of Admiralty lacked the ability to realise them.

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