Olla-Podrida: Julian Stockwin Newsletter, June 2011

COVER Conquest UK packshot


June, 2011

[Olla-Podrida: an affectionate 18th C. term for a colourful medley of items]

Starting this month our newsletter has a new name – and we’ve many interesting features planned for the coming months. As well as “Jottings from Julian” (where the man himself has carte blanche to write about anything he’d like to share his thoughts on) “Editor’s Choice” brings recommendations for books, DVDs and documentaries across the broader historical scene – and there’s lots more besides. Do get in touch with any thoughts/suggestions.




Firetrench Directory

+ Out and About
Julian will be giving talks and signing copies of CONQUEST around the Southwest of England this month. Do come along if you can and say hello! There’s a wide range of venues and events, including a talk in a Grade II listed Georgian building, a signing at a sea shanty festival and a lecture in Pentille castle!

+ Praise for CONQUEST
Here’s a selection of what the winners of an advance proof copy of CONQUEST had to say:

Roger Newman: “A thoroughly absorbing tale, full of action and endeavour. It certainly lives up to the quality and standard of the previous ones.”

George Isaacs: “I hate to say that any one book in the series is better than another so suffice to say this has to rank with the best of the Kydd series. A super book which is certain to get read again and again.”

Keiran Robson: “I found it very exhilarating. A must to read!”

+ The KYDD Cap
One of Julian’s readers in the States told us he’d love to have a special cap to wear that had a connection to the series. We thought this was a splendid idea – and The KYDD Cap is now available to buy! It’s navy blue with a gold and cream embroidery, one size fits all.

+ End of an era
HMS “Caroline” is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland (1916) still afloat. Until April this year, when she was decommissioned, she was the second oldest ship in Royal Navy service, after HMS “Victory”. She hails from a much different time, the high noon of Edwardian empire, and it would be a great loss if such a historic treasure cannot be preserved for the nation.

+ The Spoken Word
VICTORY is now available as an audiobook (read by Christian Rodska) in CD or cassette, or audio download.

+ One for the diary
An exhibition of paintings, watercolours and drawings by the acclaimed Georgian marine painter John Thomas Serres is being held at John Mitchell Fine Paintings, 23rd June – 7th July, 44 Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4GB. John was the eldest son of the marine painter Dominic Serres, and together they published the splendid “Liber Nauticus”. Sadly, the erratic and fraudulent behaviour of John’s wife eventually bankrupted him but he left a distinguished body of work for posterity.

+ CONQUEST Collectors Set shipping shortly!
If you’ve signed up this year, these will soon be on their way. And if you want to register for next year just email admin@julianstockwin.com with “Collectors Set 2012” in the subject line.

+ Ebook availability
CONQUEST in ebook format will be released on June 9, simultaneously with the hardback of the book.

+ Birthday Bash in Portsmouth!
This year is the centenary year of a significant naval museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. On June 28, 1911, the “Dockyard Museum” (the forerunner of the National Museum of the Royal Navy) was opened. It was located at the end of the great rope house, in a space now occupied by the Victory Restoration Workshop.

On Sunday 26th June, from 11am – 4.30pm, there’s a fun party at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for all the family! Various entertainments will include the chance to take part in “Pin the Medal on the Admiral” and the cutting of the Centenary cake!


To go into the hat for a copy of CONQUEST, name one of Kydd’s messmates in the old “Duke William”.

+ VICTORY audiobook
For a chance to win an unabridged audiobook of VICTORY, here’s the question: What is Kydd’s middle name?

Emails to<admin@julianstockwin.com>
Deadline: June 25. Please include your full postal address.

Congratulations to the winners of the ten prizes in last month’s anniversary issue!

Visitors to this splendid ship in Portsmouth cannot help but be amazed and enthralled at what they see. Modern museum ships by necessity have to make compromises in their displays but the curatorial and management team at “Victory” continually strive for authenticity in the visitor experience they provide.

Just a few recent examples:
+ A replica heating stove has been installed in the admiral’s quarters based on the latest archaeological research.
+ All non-period Victorian furniture previously displayed in the captain’s quarters has been replaced with original George III pieces.
+ A new replica cot to reflect the true size of Captain Hardy (6 feet 4 inches tall) has been installed.
+ Thirty-two wooden sea chests have replaced the stool benches at the mess tables – seamen actually sat on their clothing chests, not benches.
+ A working replica of the armourer’s portable forge has been installed at the fore end of the middle deck.

As well as procurement and interpretation, research carried out by the curator Peter Goodwin has enabled an accurate simulation of the damage caused by a 32-pound solid iron round shot fired through the ship’s side just below the waterline. This was done by firing two single rounds from an original cast iron 32-pdr gun through oak planks 9 inches thick at 25 yards, “pistol-shot range”, typical for sea battles in Kydd’s day. The result is a display within “Victory” on the starboard side of the orlop. It shows entry and exit holes and the deadly splinters that inflicted such terrible wounds. Peter’s investigation also showed that wood splinters driven by the kinetic energy generated by the impact of the shot penetrated into nearby timber.

– each month Julian shares his thoughts on a subject of his own choice

+ Why I’m biting my fingernails…
“Well, it’s all down to three books – VICTORY, CONQUEST and the as-yet-untitled Kydd 13.

In the post last Friday came two separate packages: the unabridged audiobook of VICTORY and an early hardback copy of CONQUEST.

Kathy and I love listening to Christian Rodska’s readings of the Kydd books. He really is extremely talented and delivers a performance that keeps us spellbound (even though we almost know the story word-perfect). But as I listened to that book I started to feel my annual bout of pre-publication nerves. Will readers find CONQUEST as good as the last one? Will the book-stores like the exciting new-look cover? What about the reviewers? The list goes on…

CONQUEST +is+ a very different book from VICTORY. Britain has won a magnificent victory at Trafalgar and Nelson is dead. The world Kydd has known for all his adult life has changed, immeasurably. And for me as a writer chronicling Kydd’s life there are no more big set-piece fleet battles.

But life cannot stand still. New challenges and new horizons are what spur us on to greater achievements. When I first started researching the Kydd series one question stood out for me. How could a man from a humble background in the eighteenth century overcome the huge obstacles of moving from the fo’c’s’le as a common seaman to the quarterdeck as an officer? I found tantalising snippets about the lives of the tiny handful of men who did just that – but there was so much missing. What were they really like? What qualities impelled them to achieve so much? This was what I wanted to explore through my writing.

Actually the more I think about this the more I become excited about the rest of the series following VICTORY. There will still be plenty of bloody engagements and maritime challenges – but also there’s space for Kydd and Renzi to develop more as individuals, facing and overcoming personal as well as professional obstacles.

The historical record of the early nineteenth century is full of potential plots for the Kydd series, as rich in its own way as the eighteenth century. And of course it’s not until 1815 that the wars with the French really end. And even after that there’ll be no resting on his laurels for my enterprising naval hero…

I’ve already had some feedback from early readers of advance proof copies of CONQUEST. They have been very enthusiastic and I value their comments a great deal. This has gone some way to assuage my pre-publication nervousness about book 12. But then, an inner voice asks – what about book 13 that I am currently writing? Will it match up? Will my readers like it?

No doubt this time next year I will be again torn between three books – the one I am working on, the latest one in print and the just-to-be published one.

Such is a writer’s life…”

Devon-based professional model shipwright Malcolm Darch has completed a superb 1:64 scale model of HMS “Minerva”, Britain’s first 38-gun 18-pounder frigate. His 54th (and by far the most difficult to date) commission, she was built for a private collector in the States and just before she was shipped abroad Julian (who qualified as a shipwright at the same time as Malcolm) was invited to a private viewing. Says Julian: “I have had the privilege of seeing many fine models over the years but I have to say this one of ‘Minerva’ is quite exquisite in appearance and the attention to the tiniest detail truly incredible.”

Malcolm undertook his shipwright training on the world-famous Hamble river in the 1960s. After ten years in the trade he started building showcase models in Salcombe, Devon, where he still works in a sun-lit studio on the waterfront. He specialises in 19th and early 20th century ship models.

HMS “Minerva” was launched on June 4, 1780 at Woolwich Royal Dockyard on the south bank of the Thames, the first of the Minerva class frigates, a series of four ships built to a 1778 design by Sir Edward Hunt.

“Minerva” was one of the first frigates to be copper sheathed at launch, also an early ship to use some carronades. She saw service around the world – in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, the Mediterranean, the English Channel and the North Sea – and was very successful in capturing a number of prizes and sharing subsequent prize money.

“Minerva” returned to Britain and was paid off in April 1794. The following year she was recommissioned, attached to the main British fleet.
In 1798 she became a troop ship and was renamed “Pallas”. Sadly, she went rotten through fresh water ingress and was broken up at Chatham Dockyard in 1803.

Malcolm’s extensive research for this project included assistance from the National Maritime Museum, the National Archive in London and the Annapolis Navy Academy Museum, where the original Admiralty Board model of the as-fitted Minerva now resides.

The model took 6741 hours to build, 38 months of 6-day weeks. Fittings are made from brass and copper, with a scale-thickness acetate used for the glazing of the stern gallery as glass would have been too vulnerable to damage during shipment to the States.

One of the fascinating features of the model is the detail that can be viewed peeking through the windows of the ship. For example, you can see the gundeck, cleared for action, perfect in every detail.

Her rigging was spun from scratch on a miniature ropewalk to ensure accuracy of dimensions and lay. The model’s carving and structure is from dense and fine-grained English boxwood. The timber is one of the best for steaming, which is necessary to achieve the extreme curves of the hull in the model.

An ornate painted frieze depicting the mythology of the Roman goddess, Minerva, runs the length of the model.

Inside each model Malcolm includes the “Darch logo”, a composite of his initials within an ellipse which is impressed in a hidden location. As is the case with all his models, Malcolm compiled a dossier, many hundreds of pages in length, on the ship’s history, captain’s logs, crew muster lists, voyages etc.

This wonderful model now has pride of place in the home of an American collector (who lives in Minerva, New York), having taken a full year longer to build than it took Woolwich Dockyard to construct HMS “Minerva” back in 1780.

There is a longer version of this article, with photographs, on Julian’s website – where you can also read a number of other articles on ship models, including John Thompson’s build log for “Teazer,” Kydd’s first command.

We’ve a focus on warfare this month, with a broad sweep from the last battle fought entirely under oars to the second world war.

First up is an new book by David S.T. Blackmore, “Warfare on the Mediterranean in the Age of Sail” published by McFarland (ISBN 978 0 7864 4799 2). It covers the period 1571-1866 and deals not only with the major conflicts but some of the colourful characters of the time, both well-known and not so famous, including Don Juan, perhaps more remembered for his amorous conquests than the fact the he was the only European to defeat the Ottoman Turks in a major galley battle; De Ruyter, the Dutch admiral who was the finest sea soldier of the mid-17th century – and of course Horatio Nelson.

Blackmore brings solid credentials to his authorship, having served in both the Merchant and Royal Navy. The book’s text is enhanced with 22 useful illustrations such as the weather gage and fields of fire – as well as various maps detailing the conflicts discussed.

And for those with an interest in more contemporary warfare Pen and Sword Books have released three dvds in their Germany at War series: “Tank Wars”, “Battle Units under Fire” and “Front Lines and German Home Front”. Original and rare footage from German and allied archives bring a realism to the documentaries that will be appreciated by all students of twentieth century military history. More dvds in this series are planned in the future.

+ Ice cream
Ice cream was not invented by the Georgians, but they were very fond of it. Before the invention of refrigeration ice for ice cream was stored underground throughout the year. The ice was imported from places like Iceland and Norway.

Two types of ice confection were favoured: frozen fruit pulp, glace rare, and the firmer fromage glace, made with cream.

Although they had been known in England since the 1670’s, ices were popularised by French and Italian confectioners who set up shops in London and a few other cities in the 1760s. Some varieties that are fashionable in modern times, such as brown bread and pistachio, date from this period.

One of the confectioners who helped establish a taste for quality continental ice cream in England was an Italian called Domenico Negri, who traded from The Pot and Pineapple in Berkeley Square from about 1765.

The confectionery shops of the eighteenth century were rather like modern ice cream parlours. Patrons sat down and enjoyed an ice fresh from the freezing pot, or ordered a larger quantity for an important dinner or ball supper. Although these shops could only be found in towns and cities, ice creams were also made in large country houses where ice was available from an ice house in the grounds.

Dessert tables of the wealthy were often laid with trompe d’oeil ices, some made in individual moulds but all cleverly painted and embellished in the guise of fish, meat or vegetables.

Special small porcelain cups with handles were devised for eating ice cream, along with elaborate ice-cream pails and other items. Glass cups with a shaped upright handle to hold a spoon (piggins) became a popular way of serving ice cream.


Coming next month: Bang! Calling all re-enactors! Tiny Castle talks about his involvement in the 32nd Cornwall Regiment of Foot; we’ve the second of “Julian’s Jottings” and more great prizes…

Leave a Reply