Building the Peregrine Galley: Historical Research

I wanted to build a more or less reasonably accurate model, so I did a significant amount of research before and during the build. Unfortunately, information about ships dating this far back is sketchy at best, so some amount of the details in the model are guesswork and speculation. The tricky bit is that I wanted to build the Peregrine Galley as a 6th Rate (ie, before her conversion to a yacht), while the scant pieces of documentation out there largely depict her during her transformation to royal yacht. There are a few sources of information about the Peregrine Galley, but they all date to different times during her transformation and are not consistent with each other. Moreover, none of them authoratatively depict her in the "as-built" configuration of 1700, so to build her in that state entails significant guesswork.

Chapelle's Reconstruction

My primary source is Howard Chapelle's redrawing of plans from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. There is a considerable amount of reconstruction work here by Chapelle, including all the deck arrangements. According to Anatomy of the Ship: Royal Yacht Caroline 1749 the original plans for the Peregrine Galley as built have not survived, but we do have plans from when she was converted to the Carolina in 1716. The conversion entailed significant changes to the upperworks (including the installation of a massive cabin) but would have left the hull lines largely intact. Thus, these reconstructed plans would depict the ship's hull accurately, while the upperworks are guesswork. Chapelle's plans look representative of a typical Sixth-Rate of the period, so I will rely primarily on this plan despite the considerable speculative reconstruction on the details and differences with sources that depict her later in time.

Griffier Painting

The National Maritime Museum in the UK has a painting by Jan Griffier the Elder, circa 1710-15, entitled The Peregrine and Other Royal Yachts off Greenwich. This is a valuable depiction of the ship in her yacht configuration and we learn several things. First, the painting establishes that she did not carry a jibboom and that she has a lateen sail on the mizzen mast. We count eight gunports per side, all of which are in use.

Equally importantly, we have a color scheme. Dark natural wood for the hull, a prominent black stripe above the waterline, red trim on the side at and above the level of the quarterdeck, and fancy gilded work all along the line of the gunports.

Van de Velde Painting

There is another painting in the National Maritime Museum which may depict the Peregrine Galley at a somewhat earlier point. The painting is An English Sixth-Rate Ship Firing a Salute As a Barge Leaves by Willem van de Velde the Younger and dated to 1706. Note that she carries the same lateen sail on the mizzen and also appears to carry a spritsail (as expected) and quite possibly a spritsail topmast (since the crosstrees and knee of the spritsail topmast are clearly visible). It is difficult to make out the details on the stern, but there is clearly fancy woodwork and four windows (the center window, being a false window anyway, is covered with woodwork). You can also see that at least the four rear gunports have fancy round woodwork around them and it is not entirely clear how many gunports there are and which ones are functional. Finally, although it is difficult to tell from the painting, the tops appear to have straight rear edges rather than being entirely round. This time was a transition period from round tops to flat-rear tops, but even so this would make the Peregrine Galley "ahead of its time" here.

We also have a somewhat different color scheme, which is due at least in part to the different color tones of the paintings. The Griffier painting is much more red all around, which results in wood looking darker than in the Van de Velde painting. The solid black stripe in the Griffier painting is two thinner black stripes here and red trim appears absent. We also see that the masts are natural wood with black caps and black yards, which is not surprising as that was a common color scheme at the time.

Mercury Collection Model

There is an incomplete model of the Peregrine Galley in the collection of the training ship Mercury, depicting the Peregrine Galley as she was in 1708. This source too differs from the other sources on important details. On this model, we count 11 gunports per side, in roughly the same places as Chapelle's plans. However, only the first five on each side are functional; the remainder were converted to windows as the entire area under the quarterdeck had been converted to luxury cabins and accomodations. It also shows 4 partial or whole circular cutouts on each side for lightweight guns (probably 4pdrs) on the quarterdeck; this does not appear on other sources.

The most notable feature is the two falls in the quarterdeck; internally it appears that the main deck aft of the mainmast was gutted and a cabin installed in its place. The cabin itself is set lower than the main deck; you go down a half flight of stairs from the main deck to enter the cabin, and you go up a half flight of stairs to go from the cabin to the cabin at the stern. The result of this configuration is that the front half of the quarterdeck is lower than the rear half, resulting in two falls. This feature is not visible in the Griffier or Van de Velde paintings and is very unusual.

The model also shows very little in the way of decorations. There is some work around the stern side cabin windows and a lion figurehead at the bow but nothing at all on the sides of the ship and around the gunports. Because the model is incomplete (the modeler never got around to adding the mizzen channels) it is possible that he never got around to adding the decorative carvings on the sides.

As for other details, it shows at least three light guns on the quarterdeck, as in the Mercury model, as well as red trim on the sides, although not as much as the Griffier painting.

I believe there are sufficient similarities with Chapelle that we can see pretty clearly that Chapelle copied the gunports, wales, and other features from this model and changed the upperworks to eliminate the new cabin.

Royal Caroline 1749

We don't know much about the Peregrine Galley herself, but we do know that the new Royal Caroline was built in 1749 as a near-copy to replace the Peregrine Galley (which had been renamed to Royal Caroline by this time). The hull lines are said to be nearly identical and the exterior sufficiently similar that the carvings could be lifted off the old ship and moved to the new. As a result, we can conclude that by 1749 she was nearly identical to her well-documented replacement, though how much that can tell us about how she looked 49 years prior is a different matter.

The best modern source is Anatomy of the Ship: Royal Yacht Caroline 1749; find it at a university library. We can see that another huge cabin was installed on top on what she had in the 1708 Mercury model, gunports were eliminated, and other massive changes. The belaying plans are also quite unusual due to the newer cabin in the middle, which forces many belaying points from their usual locations. She still carries a lateen sail on the mizzenmast, but the spritsail topmast was replaced by a jibboom.

Sergal/Mantua Model

If you search for pictures of models of the Peregrine Galley, you'll find that most of them look like they are based on the (now out of production) Sergal/Mantua wood kit, which attempts to depict her in a more warship-like configuration, exactly what we wanted. Unfortunately, continental European wood ship kit manufacturers have a bit of a reputation for being sloppy with their historical research, and this kit is no exception. As convenient as it would be to build a model by looking off an existing model, there are enough errors and discrepancies in the Sergal/Mantua model to make it essentially worthless as a source. Let's go over the differences here.

First, the color scheme is utterly unlike any other source and rather implausible for a period ship. The Sergal model is usually depicted in natural wood with some blue trim. As outlined before, available evidence suggests a very different color scheme. In particular, widespread use of blue on the ship is unlikely as this was before the invention of Prussian Blue. Blue pigment had to be made from lapis lazuli and was fabulously expensive, not to mention not terribly weather-proof. While such an extravagance might be possible for a royal yacht, it is unlikely that Peregrine Galley would be painted blue prior to her conversion to the Carolina, and what few sources we do have post-conversion also do not depict blue.

Another major difference is in the yards and rigging. Both paintings clearly show the ship with a lateen mizzen and spritsail topmasts. The Sergal kit has jibs and a jibboom and a gaff-rigged spanker on the mizzenmast. To my knowledge, gaff spankers with a boom did not become common until closer to the end of the eighteenth century, well after the Peregrine Galley was lost! Her replacement, the Royal Caroline of 1749, still used a lateen sail. Jibs started coming into use in the early 1700s, but both paintings show no jibboom, so the spritsail topmast is more correct for 1700. It looks like they adapted a generic 19th-century ship rig for a vessel a hundred years earlier.

The kit also depicts the Peregrine with cabins under the forecastle behind doors. I really doubt that a ship-sloop of this size would have cabins in the forecastle and the closely-related Royal Caroline certainly doesn't. I suspect the model was designed that way to avoid having to make deck details underneath the forecastle deck.

Putting it All Together

So, with these sources, how should a model of the Peregrine Galley as-built in 1700 look?

Guns and Gunports

Unfortunately our sources differ greatly on the number and disposition of guns and gunports; we have anything from 8-11 per side with varying numbers actually being functional. Worse, they do not seem to follow a natural progression; the Mercury model of 1708 has space for maybe 4-5 guns per side (the rest of the 11 ports being windows) while the Griffier painting of 1710-1715 shows 8 working gunports per side with guns run out. Did they remove cabin space to reinstall guns? Why the changing number of gunports?

In any case, since we wish to depict her in a more warship-like configuration, we'll go with sources that favor more guns and gunports, up to the maximum of Chapelle's reconstruction featuring 11 gunports carrying 10 guns per side. The royal lists have her down in 1700 as a 20-gun 6th rate, which agrees with Chapelle's reconstruction only with respect to the number of gunports, so we will go with Chapelle's reconstruction here.

As far as the guns themselves go, I seriously doubt a ship of that size would have carried anything larger than a 9pdr at the time, so making "generic" 18th-century 6pdrs or 9pdrs would be reasonable. The 6pdr was the most likely armament; I can't find definitive documentation but can't imagine her carrying anything bigger as a yacht.

Colors

Again, there is some disagreement between the sources, but we can at least conclude that most of the ship was in natural wood, there was some sort of black stripe near the waterline, and there may or may not have been red trim. The amount of decoration varies; there ought to be copious amounts of carvings near the stern and variable amounts elsewhere.

In the end we must admit that we simply don't know what she looked like as built in 1700, so I take artistic license here to come up with an appealing scheme. I decided on the darker wood from the Griffier painting with the wide black stripe near the waterline and the red trim at and above the level of the quarterdeck at the sides. This is a very attractive pattern. However, to avoid having to do ridiculous amounts of "carvings" on the side, I opt for the somewhat more minimal decorations in the Mercury model and the Chapelle reconstruction. As for the masts, natural wood with black caps and yards is correct for the period and confirmed in our sources.

Masts and Yards

We don't have any period sources for mast and spar dimensions, so these have to be reconstructed. I adapt the spar dimensions for the Royal Caroline of 1749 for the Peregrine Galley as the ships are the same size and have essentially the same sail plan except for the spritsail topmast vs jibboom. Another source, which largely agrees with these dimensions, are the proportional calculations set forth on Anderson's Masting and Rigging in the Days of the Spritsail Topmast.

One detail that cannot be seen clearly from the paintings are the fishes (reinforcing structures on the fronts and sides of masts). We'll include them.

Rigging

One noteworthy detail is the scarcity of belaying pins. While belaying pins were in use, they were few in number and largely limited to the forecastle and shroud pinrails. Long rows of pin racks running along the inner bulwarks would not be common until closer to the American Revolution, well after the ship was lost. Lines are belayed to knights, rails, and cleats (which are much more numerous than in later ships); we will add mast cleats and other things to give us more belaying points.

As the Royal Navy never really kept records of belaying plans, we have little firm evidence of where the running rigging actually went. The belaying plan is my own invention, based on proposed belaying plans for various frigates but adapted according to Anderson and by substituting railing and cleats for pin racks.