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Wednesday 27 January 2021

Janet Adamson, a Maritime Media Volunteer for the project wanted to find out more about an oil painting that has been sent to the conservation studio for treatment - the HMS Hector, a ship with no masts.

Here's what Janet discovered.

This painting attracted my attention due to the absence of masts. Now I am no authority on sailing ships, but my feeling was that it was likely to be more serviceable with masts and sails rather than flags! So, two questions arose for me – where are the masts, and other than clearly it is British, what else do we know?

Built in 1743 at the Hessle Shipyard owned by Hugh Blaydes

I discovered that this is the fifth (of eleven) ships named HMS HECTOR and this one was built in 1743 at the Hessle Shipyard owned by Hugh Blaydes. Ship building and repairing was one of the oldest and most important local industries.

For centuries ships had been built along the banks of the Hull and the Humber, taking full advantage of the cheap and plentiful supplies of hinterland oak and Baltic masts spars and sail cloth. As ships were generally launched without masts or cannons to assist with balance, this painting could have been a record of that time. The flags were generally to celebrate the occasion. However, the artist is unknown.

The HECTOR ships were named after the Trojan hero Hector in the Iliad. In Greek and Roman mythology, Hector was a Trojan prince and the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War.

He acted as leader of the Trojans and their allies in the defence of Troy. It was a fifth rate 44-gun battleship, and it was launched on October 24, 1743.

It was 126 feet long, 36 ft. 6 in. wide and weighed 720 tons (builders’ measurements). HMS Hector was sold in 1762, so saw service for only nineteen years.

However, she did see action during this time. The role of naval ships then is much the same as it is now in terms of stabilising the seas in relation to the maritime trade both in peacetime and conflict.

As I was to discover, the ethics of maritime dominance have changed over time. In 1744, this ship was part of a squadron of six ships convoying ships under licence to the East India Company. On 20 June, they intercepted a large fleet of French West Indiamen convoyed by four war ships which fled into Brest. Out of 170 ships 46 were taken and the rest scattered. The prizes were laden with cochineal, cotton, indigo and other valuable commodities worth a considerable amount of money.

Charles Brooking c. 1750 Squadron Going To Windward

HMS Hector was also involved in capturing two ‘privateers’. These were ships which engaged in maritime warfare under a commission of war. In 1747, HMS Hector took the Privateer Le Nécessaire and in 1748, the Privateer Nuestra Señora del Carmen. These were lucrative catches as the ships captured were generally condemned and sold and the proceeds shared between involved parties. Of course, it also kept the waterways safe from these ships and their warfare.

In 1750, the HMS Hector was paid off and as such her history as a warship ceased before she was eventually sold in 1762 replaced in 1763 by No. 6, a cutter purchased in 1763.

A short but colourful life nevertheless!

***We endeavour to make sure all the research and facts we present by staff and volunteers is accurate and checked with rigor. However, we are only human so please let us know if you spot any errors and always cross-reference your research.***