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Beaulieu River naval vessels

(1) A selection of vessels constructed on the Beaulieu River

From the mid-18th century until the early 19th century, the Beaulieu River, and in particular Buckler's Hard, played an absolutely crucial role in Britain's seafaring history and in turn, the history of the nation.

Indeed, no other private Hampshire shipbuilder or firm constructed as many navel vessels as did Henry Adams and his sons.

Buckler's Hard: a model of the village (on display in the Maritime Museum) showing two part-completed vessels on the stocks
Buckler's Hard: a model of the village (on display in the Maritime Museum) showing two part-completed vessels on the stocks

A.J. Holland, author of 'Buckler's Hard - a rural shipbuilding centre' and past curator of the Buckler's Hard Maritime Museum, provided details of naval vessels constructed on the river including the first, in 1698, the 48-gun Salisbury built by Richard Herring, probably at Bailey's Hard, around 1.5 kilometres (1 mile) upstream from Buckler's Hard.

Next, after a 47 year hiatus, came the Surprise in 1745, the first Man of War to be built at Buckler's Hard and the direct cause of Henry Adams arrival.

Another 52 naval vessels followed at Buckler's Hard, including re-builds of the 28-gun Lyme in around 1756, the Pacific (1777) and the 38-gun Santa Margareta (1793). The Lyme had originally been built at Deptford in 1748 and was in need of a rebuild, the Pacific had been captured from the French, whilst in 1779 the Santa Margareta had been captured from the Spanish.

A further three men-of-war were built at Lepe - the 50-gun Greenwich and the 24-gun Fowey by Moody Janverin in 1748 and 1749, respectively, and the 64-gun Europe by Henry Adams in 1765.

Buckler's Hard-built ships during this period were mainly fully fledged men-of-war, although two were 4-gun transport ships, another was a 24-gun storeship, and there were also two unnamed fireships, ships that would be filled with combustible materials, set on fire and floated into the enemy fleet.

(2) Agamemnon and the Battle of Trafalgar

Three Bucklers Hard vessels - Agamemnon (1781, 64 guns), Euryalus (1803, 36 guns) and Swiftsure (1804, 74 guns) - took part in the famous victory gained at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805.

The Battle of Trafalgar, depicted by William Clarkson Stanfield
The Battle of Trafalgar, depicted by William Clarkson Stanfield

Then twenty-seven British ships, partly under the command of Horatio Nelson, defeated a combined fleet of thirty-three French and Spanish ships.

Remarkably, the Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, whilst not a single British vessel was lost.

The Agamemnon is arguably the most famous of the Buckler's Hard ships. Named after the mythical ancient Greek king of the same name, she was particularly dear to Nelson's heart - he served on her as captain from January 1793 for 3 years and 3 months and often referred to her as his 'favourite ship'.

After many years of active service and many battles fought, she met what seems to have been an undeserving fate in 1809 when she grounded in Maldonado Bay, at the entrance to the River Plate, between Argentina and Uruguay, and her hull was pierced by her own anchor.

All hands and most of her stores were saved, but the condition of her timbers prevented her from being freed. She subsequently broke up in a gale.

Relatively recently - some reports say in 1993, other 2004 - the wreck of Agamemnon has been located, and several artefacts have been recovered, including one of her cannons.

Find out more about Buckler's Hard's fascinating history

References:
Buckler's Hard - a rural shipbuilding centre: A.J. Holland
An Album of Old Beaulieu: Susan Tomkins
Hampshire Place Names: Richard Coates
Historic England - Buckler's Hard
Beaulieu History Society Newsletter - Henry Adams: shipbuilder
Various Wikipedia pages


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Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley