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Danish Venus-class, 18-pounder frigates, 1805

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Nymphen, 1832


Now for something special...the danish Venus of 1805. Certainly not the most beautiful frigate ever built, featuring a stern only a mother could love, but interesting nonetheless :)



Venus. Inboard Profile, 1803


Venus. Sailplan, 1803


Venus. Stern and Head, 1803


Najaden. Stern and Head, 1810




'The Danish ship Christian the Seventh, when commanded by Sir Joseph Yorke, had the first character in the English Navy as a man of war; and the Danemark and Norge, ships of war - and Venus, Danish frigate, alike shew that a very small maritime power excelled the proud ruler of the main in ship-building.'

British Chronicle, 1827


Quotes like these show what the British thought about the ships designed by Hohlenberg they captured at Copenhagen in 1807.

In Denmark, opinions were a quite bit different, at least during his lifetime.

His Fleet Plan of 1801 had been a complete failure and after the mysterious loss of the Hvide Ørn in the Med, his qualification for the highest post in the danish shipbuilding hierarchy was in serious doubt.

The Venus was one the last ships Hohlenberg drew up plans for before he left the office of fabrikmester in late 1803 and just like most vessels he designed, he would never see her afloat.

Yet, in 1809, the danish Admiralty would choose the design of the Venus for five new frigates and as the largest vessels they´d build during the Gunboat War with Great Britain (with the exception of the 60-gun Phoenix).




Comparison with a couple of contemporary frigates:


All dimensions and weights in imperial feet and pounds avoirdupois


The Ships


Venus (I)

Danish service 1805 - 1807

British service 1808 - 1815

Venus enjoyed a rather short but busy career in the Royal Navy, stationed in the North Sea, North America, the Leeward Islands and the East Indies within just six years.

Najaden 1811 - 1812

Destroyed by the 64-gun Dictator at the Battle of Lyngør

Venus (II)  1812 - 1835

Perlen  1812 - 1814

Minerva  1813 - 1836

Fylla 1815 - 1853

Sold mercantile, stranded Port Louis 1861

Nymphen 1816 - 1853

Sold mercantile, last mentioned 1869


Short Hohlenberg bio (shamelessly copied from my post in the History sub-forum)


Born in 1764, he enlisted in the danish navy in at the age of 12 and became second lieutenant in 1782. Higher mathematics and shipbuilding were a part of the curriculum at the danish naval academy and Hohlenberg´s talent in these fields were quickly recognised. He then began to study the finer points of naval architecture under the tutorship of fabrikmester*   Hendrik Gerner.

In 1788, Hohlenberg and another student, T. Jessen, were deemed experienced enough to go on the obligatory study trip through european shipyards. The Netherlands and England were first on the list, followed by France, Italy / Venice and finally Sweden. The stays in France (where he met J.-C.  de Borda) and Sweden particularly impressed Hohlenberg and were to have a lasting impact on his future work, especially the three months he spent studying under Hendrik af Chapman.

He returned to Denmark in 1794 and became a teacher at the naval academy, followed by the promotion to kaptajnløjtnant and interim fabrikmester in 1796.

In the same year, he submitted his first design - that of a 12-pounder frigate -  to the shipbuilding commission, featuring his own ideas and incorporating all the improvements he had seen during his study trip.

After this design has been approved, he became fabrikmester in 1797. But his tenure was to last just six years, cut short by the heavy criticism he received for his radical design concepts (and his fleet program) from the naval establishment which ultimately led to his resignation in 1803. He died on St. Croix in 1804.

All in all, Hohlenberg designed four ships of the line, thirteen frigates, three brigs and four schooners for the danish navy. Most of the bigger vessel were built after his death, though, from 1809 to 1817.

After the Second Battle of Copenhagen in 1807, all surviving Hohlenberg ships were incorporated into the Royal Navy. Especially the 80-gun Christian VII, generally considered as his masterpiece, was very highly regarded in british service (with the exception of the very narrow stern). It also has the distinction of being the only non-french design the Royal Navy copied, with an 80-gun ship, several 74s and 50s built to her lines.

Swift and very nimble for her size, she combined speed, sea keeping ability and a very robust construction and - unlike her captured french counterparts -  stood up easily to the rigors of british sea service.


*a post similar to the british surveyor


Edited by Malachi
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10 hours ago, Malachi said:

Certainly not the most beautiful frigate ever built, featuring a stern only a mother could love

To say the least ! Was it deliberate ? To frighten the enemy ? 😉

or make him leave : 'Why would you capture me ?'

Edited by LeBoiteux
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Perhaps it may be an early attempt at the elegant counter sterns that graced the later cruisers, were the beam narrower it probably would have looked better than it did. I think she has the look of a merchantman about her, not that it is a bad thing,  and, her hull form may also have been more practical for the Baltic sea or the North sea where she would logically of operated. 

If Hohlenberg also designed merchant ships it may well influence my view that the class has a mercantile look about them,  from the short biography it would seem that he was certainly a 'radical' designer.

That the Venus (I) was operated by Royal Navy on stations as far afield as the American, Leeward, and, East Indies stations  as well as the more logical North Sea station suggests that the class may have had some good sea keeping qualities as well, perhaps then, the good standing that Christian VII enjoyed in British service is due in part to these Frigates, a lack of beauty I think can be overlooked if the ships were both practical and capable of good service where ever they were expected to serve, these Frigates certainly appear to be that. 

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4 hours ago, LeBoiteux said:

To say the least ! Was it deliberate ? To frighten the enemy ? 😉

Hehe, it doesn´t look that bad, does it ^^


But the Venus was designed for a very specific environment in mind, the Baltic with the most likely opponent, Sweden. The swedish skerry fleet operated large squadrons of very efficient gunboats* and the usual modus operandi was to attack becalmed vessels 'from behind' or bow on, so a efficient defense against these stern rakes was important to Hohlenberg. The narrow stern with its sturdy construction offered a bit more protection than a conventional one and the last two broadside guns could also be aimed at the enemy (if not directly behind the ship).


3 hours ago, Sir Lancelot Holland said:

If Hohlenberg also designed merchant ships it may well influence my view that the class has a mercantile look about them,  from the short biography it would seem that he was certainly a 'radical' designer.

Hm, as far as I know, he, unlike his predecessors, didn´t build any merchant vessels. But I'll have a look again, interesting point :)

According to Hohlenberg himself, the hull with the straight sides and the V-shape - which he called kutter fa­çon - was mainly inspired by the ideas of af Chapman. He seemed to be have been pretty impressed by what he saw during his stay at Karlskrona, especially by the fact that swedish vessels needed needed just half of the amount of ballast compared to their danish counterparts (for a 40-gun frigate, that´d be around 100 tons less) and by the efficient use of timber.

Curiously enough, when the British took possession the 74 -gun Norge, one navy official initially thought her to be 'one of the master pieces of the celebrated Chapman' (Norge had a conventional, single-tier stern, just like e.g. Wasa).  That certainly didn´t happen with the Christian VII and her typical 'Hohlenberg stern'.



* designed by af Chapman. The Danes built 300+ boats to the same design during the war with GB

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