The following notes were initially prepared in May 1991, and have been revised from time to time as a wealth of excellent books and articles have been published since then (see Further Reading below). The lists below are under constant revision, and the latest version of the complete lists can be downloaded here.
Lt Cdr W. Roderick Stewart
The Unicorn Preservation Society
Amended: 30 May 1991, January 2002, January 2008, October 2009
The original drawings for the LEDA class frigates are all held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London SE10, and show the hull construction in considerable detail. Not all the drawings are specific to UNICORN, but most of those listed below are for ships of the same batch within the LEDA class of Frigates. High resolution scans, prints and black & white copies are available from the Museum in various sizes and formats. The National Maritime Museum website has current ordering information, and uses the ZAZ number for b/w prints and the J number for colour prints and scans.
1596 / J9394 / ZAZ1964 Draught
"Draught of the Frigates of 46 guns building at His Majesty's Dock-yard at Chatham, the Diana and Latona" (shows the lines and exterior fittings)
1597 / J3933 / ZAZ1965 Profile
"Profile for the 46 gun Frigates, Diana, Thames, Mermaid & Unicorn, building in His Majesty's Dock Yard at Chatham..."" (a longitudinal section through the ship)
1604 / J3905 / ZAZ2018 Profile of Hamadryad
“Profile of the Hamadryad and Thisbe of 46 Guns…” (shows diagonal riders very clearly, cleaner copy than 1597)
1598 / J3931 / ZAZ1966 Orlop Deck
"Plan of the Orlop and Platforms for Frigates of 46 guns building in H. M. Dock Yard at Chatham vizt. Diana, Thames, Mermaid & Unicorn. Navy Office July 30th 1821." (a plan view of the deck)
1599 / J3930 / ZAZ1967 Lower Deck
"Plan of the Lower Deck for Frigates of 46 guns (Hebe Class) building in H. M. Dock Yard at Chatham vizt. Diana, Thames, Mermaid & Unicorn. Navy Office July 30th 1821."(a plan view of the deck)
1600 / J3929 / ZAZ1968 Upper Deck
"Plan of the Upper Deck for Frigates of 46 guns building in H. M. Dock Yard at Chatham vizt. Diana, Thames, Mermaid & Unicorn. When built with a diagonal deck the green lines to be conformed to. Navy Office July 30th 1821." (a plan view of the deck)
1601 / J3928 / ZAZ1969 Quarter Deck and Forecastle
"Plan of the Quarter Deck and Forecastle for the 46 gun Frigates Diana, Thames, Mermaid & Unicorn building in His Majesty's Dock Yard at Chatham. Navy Office July 30th 1821." (a plan view of the deck)
1662 / J3932 / ZAZ1970 Disposition of the Frame
"A Disposition of the Frame proposed for Frigates of 46 Guns. Navy Office Septemr. 1817." (showing the arrangement of the hull frames)
“Disposition of the Planking for a 46 Gun Frigate of the Hebe Class”
6628 / J4279 / ZAZ1971 Head of Minerva (detailing an almost identical head to Unicorn's.)
1609 / J3899 / ZAZ2023 Drawing of the Circular Stern of the 46 gun Frigates... (good detail of the stern galleries)
6027 / J3920 / ZAZ1990 Fittings to Quarterdeck and Forecastle of Frigates of 42 guns as Melampus... (good detail of fittings which would scale up for 46 gun frigates)
1603 / J3900 / ZAZ2017 “Part of the Midship section of the 46 Gun Frigates…” (labelled Hamadryad) (for the batch built at Pembroke)
6027 / J3920 / ZAZ1990 Melampus. “Fittings to Quarterdeck and Forecastle of Frigates of 42 guns (misprint for 46?) as Melampus”... (good detail of fittings inside the bulwarks)
1970 / J4077 / ZAZ2008 Leda Midsection. Later drawing of modified Leda class midsection, dated December 1815 and showing comparison between scarphed and coaked frame futtocks.
1413b / J3729 / ZAZ2130 "Midship Section for the Frigates of 46 Guns...." (Seringapatam class, with steep floors, but shows coaked frame construction very clearly)
The following series of draughts are also of interest as they illustrate the development of the Leda class from conventionally framed transom stern frigates to the final version, as seen in Unicorn, incorporating the full set of Sir Robert Seppings’ innovations:-
1931 / J4079 / ZAZ4909 Leda Draught This is the master draught for the original Leda Class dated 1796, heavily amended and annotated over the years with notes of copies sent out for building groups including the copies sent to Bombay for the Indian sub-group, and with an interesting pencil sketch showing the Seppings circular stern over the original transom stern.
1610 / J3943 / ZAZ1980 Arethusa Draught "A Draught of the Frigates of 46 Guns (151ft 5ins crossed out changed to 151ft 9ins, 1073 49/94 changed to 1077 6/94. Copies to Deptford, Portsmouth, Sheerness etc (illegilble and torn). Forecastle ports modified for Daedalus "The Hebe, Clyde, (Jason) and Medusa to be built at Woolwich, The Nereus, Druid, Hamadryad, (Nemesis) and Thisbe to be built at Pembroke. The Diana and Latona to be built at Chatham" Note: Arethusa only mentioned in later pencil scrawl. Note: Circular stern, deck plan shows transom.
1611 / J3937 / ZAZ1981 Arethusa Profile. Shows Seppings’ earlier wooden trussed frame system of diagonal riders. This may be the precursor draught.
1612 / J3939 / ZAZ1982 Arethusa Platforms and Orlop
1615 / J3941 / ZAZ1985 Arethusa Quarterdeck and Forecastle
FRIGATE DEVELOPMENT & THE LEDA CLASS
Lyon, David The Sailing Navy List (1993, Conway Maritime Press) All the Ships of the Royal Navy - Built, Purchased and Captured - 16889-1860. The result of a lifetime's work on the Admiralty Collection of Draughts in the National Maritime Museum, and the most comprehensive list of the ships and classes in the Royal Navy in the age of sail.
Gardiner, Robert Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars (2000, Chatham Publishing) Thorough history of the development and construction of the sailing navy's most charismatic ship type at the height of its development. The period covered officially stops just short of Unicorn but the huge majority of the text is completely relevant.
Lambert, Andrew “Trincomalee” The Last of Nelson’s Frigates (2003, Chatham Publishing). The story of HMS Trincomalee, the only other Leda class frigate to have survived. Trincomalee was built in Bombay to an earlier version of the design and is now preserved in Hartlepool. Publisher’s Synopsis: Trincomalee belonged to a large class of 38-gun Fifth Rates that have a strong claim to being the Royal Navy's standard frigate type for the whole of the Napoleonic Wars. Following the success of the Shannon against the Chesapeake in 1813, the class was chosen as the post-war mass-production design. Intended to replace large numbers of worn-out war-built frigates, this programme emphasised quality of construction for longevity, and included a number built of teak at Bombay in India. One of these was Trincomalee, launched in 1817. This book reflects the multiple significance of the ship - its place in the development of the frigate, the importance of the teak building programme in India, its role in the changing world of the nineteenth-century Royal Navy, and even its last contribution as a training vessel for young seamen. Because the teak hull was considered resistant to extremes of climate, most of the ship's active life was spent on American stations - the West Indies, Newfoundland, and later the north Pacific and Arctic - combining imperial policing duties with oceanography and exploration. The resilience of teak was further proved by a long period of harbour service, and even after a century of relative neglect the hull was found worthy of an immensely costly restoration. The work carried out on the ship must be one of the most thorough, historically accurate, and painstaking projects of its kind, and is an exemplary lesson to wooden ship preservation movements throughout the world. Individual chapters cover each aspect of this varied career, concluding with a look at the way the ship is now being used to bring alive the details of naval life in the age of sail.
SIR ROBERT SEPPINGS & HULL CONSTRUCTION
Sir Robert Seppings produced a series of pamphlets explaining and justifying his new system of shipbuilding. None of these are known to have been reprinted, but they can often be found in libraries.
Fincham, John A History of Naval Architecture (1851, Whittaker, London) A very comprehensive summary, with an extensive coverage of the system of shipbuilding introduced by Sir Robert Seppings.
Stewart, Roderick A Seppings Survivor: article in Warship No 22 (1982, Conway Maritime Press)
MASTS AND RIGGING
Unfortunately there are no detailed contemporary Rigging Plans, as ships were rigged to proportions derived from formulae when UNICORN was built. Rigging at the period (1824) was therefore well standardised, and any of the rigging tables of around 1820-30, and even up to around 1850, would provide suitable information.
The Unicorn Preservation Society has a spreadsheet with an extracted table of dimensions of masts and spars based upon several manuscript lists used in the preparation of Sir Wm. Symonds “Instructions for the Guidance of the Mastmakers Department” (see below). This extracted table is complex and contains some contradictions, but provides a good starting point. (see TEXT directory of the ‘Welcome Aboard’ Unicorn CDRom, also website)
Particularly recommended secondary sources are:
Fincham, John Treatise on Masting Ships and Mastmaking (1829, but a reprint of the 1854 edition is published by Conway Maritime Press, 1982. Most of the basic information is unchanged).
Harland, Dr. John Seamanship in the Age of Sail. (Conway Maritime Press, 1984). A highly detailed account of the mechanics of the sailing ship, based on contemporary sailing manuals.
Steele, David Steele’s Art of Rigging. (Many editions but 1818 edition reprinted by Fisher Nautical Press in 1974). A classic, but the information is based largely on current practice in the late 1700’s. A particular point to note is that the rating system changed in 1817, when 38 gun frigates were re-rated at 46 guns. This can be a source of considerable confusion, as Steele’s lists refer to 44 gun vessels, which were entirely different from the re-rated 46 gun frigate.
Symonds, Sir Wm Instructions for the Guidance of the Mastmakers Department of His Majesty’s Dockyards, 1836. (Very rare, but the Maritime Museum has at least one set). Symonds was the Surveyor of the Navy when he issued these tables, which cover mast and spar dimensions in great detail.
Again, very few contemporary drawings exist, and information is sketchy. In general it can be assumed that fittings, as for the rigging, were fairly standardised, and that domestic fittings followed contemporary land practice. Some good references are:
Boudriot, Jean The Seventy-Four Gun Ship (4 Volumes, 1986-88). Covers French practice in minute and exceedingly comprehensive detail. Beautifully illustrated. Expensive (Now translated to English).
Boudriot, Jean La VENUS, 1982. As above, but one volume dealing with the French Frigates from which the LEDA class, including UNICORN, were derived. Unfortunately only available in French, but worthwhile for the drawings alone.
Arthur Bugler HMS VICTORY, Repair and Restoration. (HMSO. 1966). Excellent and comprehensive detail for VICTORY, but rather early for UNICORN.
Peter Goodwin The Construction and Fitting of the Sailing Man of War 1650-1850. (Conway 1987). Largely based on Victory, Unicorn and Foudroyant (Trincomalee), this book provides good comparisons of the three ships as they were in 1987, with good constructional drawings.
Dr. Frank Howard Sailing Ships of War. (Conway 1979). A good comprehensive overview of the development of ships hulls, rigging and fittings.
Brian Lavery The Arming and Fittings of English Ships of War 1600-1815 (Conway 1988). A first-rate, well researched and illustrated explanation of the various fittings and how they changed over time. Unfortunately stops a few years short of Unicorn, but nonetheless extremely relevant and useful.
David White Anatomy of the Ship. The Frigate Diana. (Conway, 1987). Beautifully detailed, well researched drawings of almost every aspect of the 1793 Diana. Although some 30 years earlier than Unicorn this ship was a direct precursor and the drawings are highly relevant.
Mariners’s Mirror The Journal of the Society for Nautical Research. The back numbers are well worth a search, as four issues a year have been. published since 1910, and almost every aspect of Maritime history has been touched upon.
Model Shipwright Quarterly Journal from Conway Maritime Press, with an excellent blend of modelmaking and serious historical investigation.
Useful contemporary sources include:
“The Sheerness Books” 3 Volumes held in the National Maritime Museum, (Draught Room), with the original drawings which would have accompanied Navy Board Orders. Dates circa. 1820-1850. A goldmine, but the drawings often refer to experimental fittings which may not have become standard practice.
“The Admiralty Collection of Draughts” A vast collection of plans of Royal Naval ships, foreign captures, etc., held by the National Maritime Museum. Many of the later “as fitted” (ca 1840) drawings show considerable detail of fittings, some of which are relevant to Unicorn’s period.
Contemporary Models Maritime Museums all over the World.
GUNS AND CARRIAGES
18 Pounder Long Guns The Unicorn Preservation Society publishes drawings of the replica 18 pdr 9ft Blomefield pattern long guns and carriages as currently fitted in the ship. Excellent quality fibreglass replica gun barrels can be supplied at full size (9 feet long) from moulds taken from an original gun in Edinburgh Castle. The Unicorn Preservation Society made these moulds available to HMS Trincomalee, a sister ship to Unicorn which has been rebuilt in Hartlepool.
32 Pounder Carronades Drawings of the 32 pdr Carronades are not currently available, but it is intended to produce a set in due course, based upon the drawings held in the National Maritime Museum of Sir Robert Seppings’ design for mounting 32 pdr Carronades “on the inside and outside principle” (NMM, “Sheerness Books” Vol. 1, No. 212.)
General The Guns of the Frigate Unicorn (W. Roderick Stewart) provides basic information concerning miscellaneous gunnery equipment.
SHIPBOARD ORGANISATION, LIFE AT SEA
Outline of Naval Routine Alexander D. Fordyce (1837, Smith, Elder & Son, London) A highly detailed summary of the organisation, training, routines, maintenance etc onboard a naval ship in early 19th Century.
Calculations Relating to the Equipment, Displacement, etc. of Ships and Vessels of War John Edye (1832, Hodgson, London) Tables of weights, dimensions etc for all classes of ships in the Royal Navy by John Edye who was one of the assistant Surveyors of the Navy at the period. Includes a full analysis of the 46 gun frigate, including a schematic sail plan.
Professional Recollections on Seamanship, Discipline etc Captain F Liardet (1849). Delightfully idiosyncratic collection of short essays on a variety of topics relevant to the organisation of a sailing warship.
Mariners' Meals and Other Daily Details Una Robertson (1982, Unicorn Preservation Society) A well-researched and entertaining summary of food and other domestic aspects of life at sea in Unicorn’s day.
Captain’s Order Book for HMS Owen Glendower (c1830, manuscript) A tiny volume containing the full set of Captain’s Orders for a frigate of the early 18th C with diagrams of signal flags etc. A jewel of a book. (WRS collection)
Both the above series provide exciting adventures set against an authentic background of life at sea, and are highly recommended, both as a good read and for their technical accuracy.
UNICORN & LOCAL PUBLICATIONS
Welcome Aboard the Frigate Unicorn
Deck-by-deck guide to the Unicorn, with sections detailing the ship’s history and technical significance, plus tables of dates, dimensions etc
Roderick Stewart 1982
Mariners' Meals and Other Daily Details
Una Robertson 1982
The Guns of the Frigate Unicorn
Roderick Stewart 1980
Tay Division Royal Naval Reserve 1861-1994
Roderick Stewart & Anna Kettles 1994
Fully detailed technical drawings of the 18-pounder guns as fitted in UNICORN are also available.
INTRODUCTORY & YOUNGER READERS
The Wooden Fighting Ship
A colourful and accessible overview of sailing warship development, lively illustrations.
An Illustrated History of the Royal Navy
John Winton, in association with the Royal Naval Museum
2000 Salamander Books, London
Attractively illustrated and well written summary.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Pure fiction, not even this Unicorn, but fun.
THE SAILING NAVY: RECENT PUBLICATIONS
The years since c1970 have seen an extraordinary flourish of very high quality publishing on naval history. In particular, the output from Conway Maritime Press, and now from Chatham Publishing, have provided us with a range of beautifully produced volumes which cover every aspect of war at sea under sail. These are all attractive and authoritative volumes, well written and profusely illustrated. Some of the finest recent works are listed below, but the list is by no means comprehensive.
Nelson’s Navy: The Ships, Men and Organisation 1793-1815
1989 Conway Maritime Press
Excellent! Probably the best overall summary of the sailing navy.
Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars
2000 Chatham Publishing
The most comprehensive history of the design, development and employment of the sailing frigate yet published Highly recommended.
The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War 1600-1815
1987 Conway Maritime Press
Excellent technical resource for modelmakers and others.
Seamanship in the Age of Sail
1984 Conway Maritime Press
Illustrated by Mark Myers, a fascinating summary of the practicalities of shiphandling.
Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail: The Evolution of Fighting Tactics 1650-1815
Brian Tunstall, Dr Nicholas Tracey (Ed)
1990 Conway Maritime Press
A comprehensive analysis of all the major fleet actions and the development of naval tactics.
A History of the French Frigate 1650-1850
1993 Jean Boudriot Publications, Rotherfield, East Sussex
Comprehensive and thoroughly illustrated.
Fregatte de 18 LA VENUS 1782
Jean Boudriot, H Berti
C1990 Editions ANCRE, 18 Avenue du Bel Air, Paris
Excellent review of a representative French frigate, with a full set of technical drawings and specifications.