Ships of the Line were 'wind powered' warships of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The most famous of all is HMS Victory. All Ships of the Line featured wooden hull forms, and were equipped with several gun decks, with each gun deck featuring cannons (on both sides of the warship). The term Ship of the Line, means Ship of the Line of Battle - whereby all such warships would be in a line (with one warship 'following behind the other'). The enemy would be in an opposing line, and the two lines of warships would then 'fire their cannons' at each other. Whilst the primary aim to any sea battle was to 'destroy the enemy fleet', there was also a secondary aim of 'capturing the enemy fleet'. It could takes years to build a wooden Ship of the Line, so much better to capture the enemies! The most famous battle 'that was fought' between Ships of the Line, is the Battle of Trafalgar (in 1805). Spearheaded by HMS Victory, the British fleet sailed 'right through the middle' of the French and Spanish fleets - devastating their enemy.
HMS Victory - Upper Gun Deck
Here we can see the upper gun deck of HMS Victory (underneath her 'little boats') as it appeared in circa 1794:
Along both sides, a single row of 12-pounder cannons was present, together with the gun crews that operated them. The gun crews themselves, would both 'live and sleep' in the spaces between the cannons (especially of lower gun decks). The other gun decks were similar (in terms of layout) - although the middle gun deck was equipped with 24-pounder cannons, and the lower gun deck was equipped with 32-pounder cannons. The heavier calibre cannons were located closer to the waterline - to improve the stability of HMS Victory. This was a lesson 'learned the hard way' as ships of the line that were 'too top heavy' were notoriously unstable (such as the Mary Rose). In any case, the armament of HMS Victory 'tended to vary' both depending upon the century and 'which admiral/captain' was in command. For example, some admirals preferred the 42-pounder cannon to the 32-pounder cannon. Whilst the 42-pounder cannon featured more 'hitting power', it also featured a slower 'loading time' - because the cannonball weighed more, and was 'harder to lift' for the gun crews. The material used to construct the cannons also varied 'depending upon the century' - with early cannons being made of brass, and later cannons being made of iron (which were also equipped with 'more modern' firing mechanisms).
Here we can see some of the quarterdeck of HMS Victory, specifically the 'steering wheel area' in circa 1794:
This was an important area of HMS Victory, as it was the primary position from which HMS Victory was steered. The steering wheel, would be operated by several men - with more men 'being required' in stormy seas. The steering wheel's central-shaft had a rope 'wrapped around it' with both ends passing through into the decks beneath. 'Rope and Pulley plus Tiller' technology then converted the turning of the steering wheel, into the 'turning of the rudder' (in later generation warships, gears are used for this conversion). The 'windowed rooms' located on the left and right of the steering wheel are the 'coach houses' - which were used by senior officers (as working spaces). The area located behind the steering wheel is the captain's dining cabin (which was located just forward of his day cabin). Above the steering wheel's roof, is a 'hanging line' of small firefighting buckets - as fire was a 'constant worry' for any sailor aboard 'a wooden' ship of the line (especially at night, when oil lanterns were used as a light source). Three of HMS Victory's 12-pounder cannons are also visible (two lower-left and one middle-right) which being located on the quarterdeck - would have been exposed to the elements.
Here we can see the wooden 'stern galleys' of HMS Victory, as they appeared 'mostly' in circa 1794:
This area of HMS Victory represented the 'height of sculpture' for the days (and probably today as well!). It was standard practice for ships of the line, to be decorated astern - although only 'first rates' (such as HMS Victory) would have taken it 'to these levels'. The lowermost windows are located at the stern of the wardroom (where officers would eat). The middlemost windows are located at the stern of the admiral's day cabin (where 'his strategy' was usually planned). The uppermost windows are located at the stern of the captain's day cabin (directly above the admirals). As the admiral was a 'higher rank' than the captain, this meant that his cabins would be 'more stable' whilst at sea (owing to a lower 'centre of gravity'). Whilst this was true for ships of the line, this arrangement appears to have been reversed in later warships (with the admiral's cabins 'higher up'). To the left of the galleys (in this view) can be found the cannons of HMS Victory: the lowermost are 32-pounders, the middlemost are 24-pounders and the uppermost (including those on the quarterdeck) are 12-pounders.
HMS Warrior 1860 - Iron Hull Form and Admirals Day Cabin
HMS Warrior is considered to be, an important milestone, in terms of the development of modern warships - as Warrior featured the iron of the then-to-be future, whilst retaining her Victorian roots:
Warrior's iron hull form, was designed to repel the cannon balls, of an enemy fleet. This was achieved, through the concept of an armoured citadel - as Warrior's thirty-eight 68-pounder guns/cannons, were protected behind an 'iron wall', that was 4.5 inches thick. This meant, that Warrior could engage, enemy ships of the line (who at this time, featured: wooden hull forms, and usually 32-pounder guns/cannons), without fear of her own armoured belt, being penetrated. This gave the Royal Navy, an undeniable advantage, when it came to naval conflict - as warships would sit in a line, firing at each other, and the warships made of wood, would sink first! In any case, Warrior retained the Admiral's Day/Night Cabin (at her stern), as was installed on HMS Victory (though Warrior's, was on a less grander scale). This featured: decorated windows, with golden patterns in the wood/iron, bordered with white - to reflect the rank of the most important officer on the warship, the Admiral (or Captain).
HMS Warrior was not-so-unique, in terms of her sails and rigging - as she was a fully rigged, ship of the line (like HMS Victory), that could harness the power of the wind:
Warrior's sails were used to push her through, the World's oceans and seas (but could also augment the power of her steam engine). Whilst only five sails are illustrated here, we shall use them to define the sails and masts, of a fully rigged ship. From bow to stern, bottom to top: i) Jib. This was rigged, between the Bowsprit and the Foremast. ii) Fore Topsail. This was at the level of the Fore Topmast (above the Fore Lowermast). iii) Fore Royal Sail. This was at the level of the Fore Royal Mast (above the Fore Topgallant Mast). iv) Main Topgallant Sail. This was at the level of the Main Topgallant Mast (above the Main Topmast). v) Spanker. This was attached with two spars, to the Mizzen Lowermast (the aftermost lowest mast). Warrior's rigging, was used primarily, to hold both her masts and sails in place (called standing rigging and running rigging, respectively) - but also had secondary functions, such as: making adjustments to the sails (to capture more/less wind), and for gaining access to, various higher-level mast platforms (as used by her lookouts). Her rigging, involved the use of ropes and blocks (containing one or more pulleys) - whose operation, was an art in itself!
HMS Warrior is considered to be 'one of the first' true ironclads (if not indeed the first) - as she was equipped with a hull form, that was made entirely of iron:
Warrior's hull form, made use of iron, both internally (such as in her bulkheads and frames) and externally (such as in her 4.5 inch thick belt armour). For 1860, this was a marvellous achievement - as all preceding warships, had only ever been constructed, with wooden hull forms (including their bulkheads, frames and armour). Despite this, Warrior still needed to be based upon the warships of the past (such as HMS Victory) - so Warrior's hull from, was essentially a wooden design, that was constructed in iron! As such, it was expected that her manoeuvrability, would be similar to that of previous ships of the line - so she retained their clipper bow (which improved her sea keeping).
HMS Warrior is considered to be 'rather unique' as a warship - as she was equipped with both sails, and a steam engine (that was fuelled by coal):
This meant that she could navigate the oceans of the World, using one of three modes: i) just her sails. ii) just her steam engine. iii) both her sails and her steam engine - when speed was of the essence! Her sails, though retained from the days of HMS Victory (1803), also meant that Warrior had a useful fallback, in the event that she run out of coal. Despite this, her steam engine was connected to a single propeller, which could be regarded as the grandfather of all modern ship propellers (because it was of a simpler design - with only two blades). In any case, Warrior's propeller was designed, to push her 9000 tons, through the sea lanes of the British Empire.