Russian Shipbuilding Regulations
The development of a set of standardized shipbuilding regulations began in March 1723. Shipmasters F. Sklyaev (Ф. Скляев), G. Nye (Г. Най), R. Cosentz (Р.Козенц), R. Brown (Р. Броун), G. Ramz (Г.Рамз) and "General shipmaster Peter A. Mikhailov" (Emperor Peter I the Great himself) sent a set of ship specifications to the office of the ober-surveyor of shipbuilding. The emperor suggested to standardize classes for 96-, 80-, 70-, 64-, 54-, 42-, 32-, 26- and 16-gun vessels. After revising these classes, Peter designed the composite regulation for classes of 100-, 80-, 66-, 54- and 32-gun vessels.
On December 19 1723, Peter had a "consultation" with the shipmasters in the office of the ober-surveyor about the proportions of all ship classes. Two days later, the ober-surveyor, I.M. Golovin, signed the "Table of ship proportions" and, the same day, the document was transferred to the Admiralty Board.
On January 23 1724, copies of the "Table of ship proportions" were sent from the Admiralty Board to main shipyards.
Table of ship proportions
Note: Russian shipbuilders used British (imperial) foot = 0,3048 m
|Ships of the line||Frigates||Snows|
|Construction characteristics and dimensions||100-gun||80-gun||66-gun||54-gun||32-gun||14 (16)-gun|
|Length at keel||148' 6”||138'||124' 6”||114'||94' 6”||unspecified|
|Length at gun deck||178' 7”||169'||155' 6”||143'||118'||unspecified|
|Beam||49' 6”||46' 4”||41' 6”||38'||31' 6”||unspecified|
|Depth of hold||21' 9”||20' 7”||18'||16' 7”||14'||unspecified|
|Length of wing-transom relatively to width of ship||2/3||2/3||2/3 - 3/5||2/3 - 3/5||2/3 - 3/5||unspecified|
|Deflexion of wing-transom along the ship of every feet of its length||1/5||1/5||1/5||1/5||1/5||unspecified|
|Width of flak (probably a dutch term) relatively to width of ship||2/5 - 3/8||2/5 - 3/8||3/8 – 1/3||1/3||1/4||unspecified|
|Skew of toptimbers (dutch opstoppen) relatively to width of ship (in proportion or feet)||1/8||1/8||4' 3”||1/5||3'||unspecified|
|Frame spacing||11' 4”||11' 4”||11' 4”||11' 4”||11' 4”||unspecified|
|Distance between the tank and the stem||4'||4'||3' 10”||3' 7”||3'||unspecified|
|Distance between the lower edges of the gun ports and water||5'||5'||5' 4”||5' 4”||-||unspecified|
|Number of gun ports on each side on the lower gun deck||14||13||12||11||10||not applicable|
|Distance between the first gun port and the stern-post on the lower gun deck||9'||9'||8' 6”||8' 6”||8'||not applicable|
|Distance between gun ports of the lower gun deck||8' 6”||8' 6”||8'||8'||8'||not applicable|
|Calibre of guns of the lower gun deck||30-pdr||24-pdr||24-pdr||18-pdr||12-pdr||not applicable|
|Distance between the lower edge of gun ports and the lower gun deck||2' 5”||2' 4”||2. 4”||2' 4”||2' 2”||not applicable|
|Width of gun ports of the lower gun deck||3' 5”||3' 6”||3' 6”||3' 4”||3'||not applicable|
|Height of gun ports of the lower gun deck||2' 10”||2' 9”||2' 9”||2' 8”||2' 6”||not applicable|
|Distance between the lower edge of the gun ports and the middle gun deck||2' 4”||2' 3”||not applicable||not applicable||not applicable||not applicable|
|Width of gun ports of the middle gun deck||3' 4”||3' 2”||not applicable||not applicable||not applicable||not applicable|
|Height of gun ports of the middle gun deck||2' 8”||2' 7”||not applicable||not applicable||not applicable||not applicable|
|Calibre of guns of the upper gun deck||Brass 12-pdr
or Iron 8-pdr
or Iron 8-pdr
or Iron 8-pdr
or Iron 8-pdr
or Iron 8-pdr
|Distance between the lower edge of the gun ports and the upper gun deck||2' 2”||1' 9”||1' 9”||1' 9”||not applicable||1' 6”|
|Width of gun ports of the upper gun deck||3'||3'||3'||2' 7”||not applicable||2' 2”|
|Height of gun ports of the upper gun deck||2' 6”||2' 3”||2' 3”||2' 3”||not applicable||2'|
|Calibre of guns of the quarterdeck and forcastle||6-pdr||6-pdr||6-pdr||6-pdr||6-pdr||not applicable|
|Distance between the lower edge of the gun ports and the quarterdeck||1' 7” / 2'||1' 5”||1' 4”||1' 2”||1' 2”||1' 6”|
|Width of gun ports of the quarterdeck||2' 4”||2' 2”||2' 1”||2'||2' 2”||not applicable|
|Height of gun ports of the quarterdeck||2'||2'||2'||1' 1”||2'||not applicable|
Even though this regulations was published in 1724, main dimensions are close to those of the British Royal Navy in its Establishment of 1745. So, despite the fact that shipbuilding mostly stagnated in Russia after the death of Peter I, ships built according to the “Table of ship proportions” could still be considered as quite modern by the time of the Seven Years' War.
These regulations were used in shipbuilding until the 1770s. Overall 87 ships of the line and frigates were designed and built according to the “Table of ship proportions”. More precisely:
- 10 80-gun ships built between 1741 and 1766
- 58 66-gun ships built between 1731and 1771, among them 50 were built according to the Table, others had small deviations
- 20 54-gun ships built between 1724 1764, among them 16 were built according to the Table
- 15 frigates built between 1724 and 1764, among them only 4 had small deviations from the Table
Ships built according to the "Table of ship proportions" were in service until the 1790s.
Evolution and Development
The proportions of 1st rate ships were first implemented during the building of the 100-gun ship “Peter I and II” (started as “Peter I” but completed during the reign of Peter II and renamed accordingly).
The next 1st rate ship was personally ordered by Empress Anna to be built 186 feet long with other characteristics unaltered. She was named “Imperatritsa Anna” (Empress Anna) after launch on June 13, 1737, and had an armament of 110/114 guns. She differed from her predecessor by better sailing characteristics.
On June 6, 1745 (May 26 O.S.), the Zakhariy I Elizavet was solemnly laid down by Empress Elizabeth Petrovna as a 2nd rate 80-gun ship. However, on June 15 (June 4 O.S.), the empress ordered to build this ship as a 1st rate 99-gunner. In May 1746, it was decided to build it exactly according to the proportions of the "Peter I and II" (as a tribute to Peter I) which was to be wrecked shortly due to fatal disrepair.
In October 1755, since the "Imperatritsa Anna" had better performance, the Admiralty decided to build a new 100-gun ship, the Svyatoy Dmitriy Rostovskiy using her proportions.
Since in the last years of the Great Northern War (1700-21), seven 2nd rate ships had been built for Russian Navy. All those ships served till 1736. “Petrine proportions” for 2nd rate 80-gun ships were first implemented only in 1741. Until 1770 10 ships were built according to this project.
These ships had dimensions close to that of British 90-gunners of the period of the Seven Years’ War but their overall broadside weight was inferior to that of British 80-gun ships.
In February 1756, the shipmaster of the ober-surveyor office, I. Ramburg, who had been ordered to develop a new specification for 80-gun ships, offered a "French style" drawing (most likely close to a French 1st rate 80-gun ships). However, the Admiralty considered the proposed ship as too long, too narrow and, especially, too deep (almost as deep as 1st rate 100-gun ship) for operation in the Baltic Sea.
The 3rd rate 66-gun ships were designed with dimensions close to that of the 64-gun “Ingermanland” built in 1715, which was Peter the Great's favorite ship. This class of ships was also known as the “Slava Rossii” class according to the name of the first 66-gun ship built according to the "Table of ship proportions".
In 1754, since all ships built in Arkhangelsk had difficulties passing a nearby shallow bank, it was decided to reduce the depth of the 66-gun ships. In 1755, one ship (the Astrakhan) was laid in according to slightly modified specifications, her depth being 6 inches lesser and her hull 2 feet wider. Her fore-mast was designed to be 1 feet taller; and her main-mast, 2 feet taller.
Admiral Mishukov who had his flag on the Astrakhan in 1757 reported that she was drifting too much in comparison with the ships built according to the dimensions of the initial specifications. Many other officers who served on this ship considered her design as the best among he sister ships. Anyway, all 66-gunners laid after 1760 were built according to initial “Petrine” proportions.
A total of 25 ships launched between 1731 and 1756 and 25 ships launched between 1763 and 1773 were built according to the initial specifications; while 7 ships launched between 1756 and 1762 were built according to modified specifications.
By the time of the Seven Years’ War, these ships had become too weak compared with contemporary 3rd rate ships. Their dimensions and armament being similar to that of the British Dunkirk Class and Edgar classes 4th rate 60-gun ships.
In 1757, since all ships built in Arkhangelsk had difficulties while passing a nearby shallow bank, it was decided to build the hull of 54-gun ships 2 feet wider. Two ships were built according to these modified specifications but these changes were soon considered unsuccessful.
A total of 19 54-gun ships were built according to the Table of ship proportions between 1724 and 1768.
These ships had the dimensions and probably the sailing characteristics of the British 50-gun ships of the 1741 and 1745 Establishment. However, having only 18-pounder guns on the lower gun deck and 9-pounder guns on the upper gun deck, their broadside weight was comparable with the one of the 50-gun ships of the 1733 Establishment.
These frigates were advanced for the time when they were introduced, having 12-pounder guns on the top-closed gun deck, large dimensions and good sailing characteristics. But the so-called “true frigates” that appeared in France during the War for the Austrian Succession (1740-48) and had been adopted by the British shipmasters by the beginning of the Seven Years’ War, showed better performance.
In 1757, since all ships built in Arkhangelsk had difficulties passing a nearby shallow bank, it was decided to build a hull of a 32-gun frigates 1 feet 6 inch wider. The 2 ships built according to these modified specifications were considered as very slow and did not meet the necessary performance requirements.
A total of 17 frigates (including the 2 modified frigates) were built according to this design between 1724 and 1768.
In 1761, the shipmaster of the Solombalskaya dockyard in Arkhangelsk, I. V. James (an Englishman whose original name was James Lambe) reported that he had obtained from his British friends a drawing of the newest frigate with a length of 130 feet, a width of 46 feet, a depth of 14 feet and 26 guns on the gun deck. The Admiralty and the Ober-surveyor office did not find any advantages in such a frigate but allowed James to build one experimental frigate, the Svyatoy Feodor according to this drawing because he offered to use extra timber left after the construction of the previous frigate.
Information was taken from public sources and based on documents from the Central Archive of the Russian Navy (ЦГАВМФ)
Roman Shlygin for the initial version of this article