Monday, March 13, 2017

A Man of War's Boat, date unknown

A Man of War's Boat, Paul Sandby, date unknown, British Museum.

This sketch by Paul Sandby is a simple piece. Officers are gathered in the stern of a barge, and the oarsmen (uniform in appearance) pull away.

The officers appear to be dressed in the 1748-1767 pattern uniforms of the Royal Navy, but I wouldn't swear to it. Going by those regulations, the coxswain may be a Lieutenant in an undress uniform. Officers are not my forte, so I will leave this to more capable eyes.

The bargemen are uniformly dressed in shirtsleeves and barge caps.

At least a couple of them, as you can see in this detail, wear bob wigs. The barge caps have pointed brims at the front which are mostly worn upright, but are not fixed to the crown of the cap. They look remarkably like the caps worn by the men of the Pallas as painted by Gabriel Bray.

Seamen relaxing on the Pallas, Gabriel Bray, 1774, National Maritime Museum


  1. great pics, what materials might they have been constructed of? Wool? Linen?

    1. An excellent question. The short answer is: I don't know.

      There are very few surviving examples of barge caps, and they may not be representative. There exists in the collection of the National Maritime Museum a late eighteenth century barge cap made of wood and overlaid with velvet:

      Period references are often frustratingly vague as to their material. Nagle mentions that his barge cap was stolen, but only says "The cap was silver mounted, with a large silver plate in the front with the Portegee coat of arms stamp'd on it, with Portegees letters or charictors on it."

      I suspect (but I emphasize that I do not know) barge caps were made of a variety of materials. They do, after all, appear in a wide variety of forms throughout the eighteenth century. Check out the "barge cap" tag to find more examples: