Friday, 27 March 2015


I haven’t updated my blog in some time, as I have been busy with several exciting side projects, which I hope to reveal here in due course. In the meantime, work continues on my model and plans when I can find time. The stern of Terror is almost completed and I’ll post my progress here shortly. I’ve also recently finished elevations/profiles of fittings located on the forward crew deck, including the sail bin, the mess tables, and crew trunks/benches.

One problem with drafting elevations in this area of the ship has been a lack of information on Terror’s galley stove.  We know that Terror was fitted with a “Fraser’s patent” stove for its 1836-37 Arctic expedition and that both Erebus and Terror were fitted with these stoves for the 1839-1843 Antarctic voyage. It is widely assumed that the same stoves were used for the Franklin Expedition.

Both the 1836/1837 (Terror) and 1839 (Terror and Erebus) plan sets show an iron stove of the same size and shape, with forward facing boilers, a rather large hotplate, and three access doors on one side (starboard). Both sets of plans show a water tank hanging from the upper deck beams directly over the stove, and in the 1836/1837 plans the stove is connected via a short pipe to the tank (for an excellent review of how this tank functioned please consult Peter Carney’s blog). However, the 1839 plan set shows an additional box-like projection with rounded corners abutting the front of the stove. The projection has a forward facing door, and seems to be designed to articulate with the stove’s fireplace, while being a separate accessory.

Fraser's patent stoves as they appear on the two HMS Terror plan sets. Note the
additional device attached to the 1839 stove.  

Prior to Terror’s first polar voyage in 1836, James Fraser held four patents associated with stoves. The first, numbered 4201, dated January 15th, 1818, described a very complex ships’ fire hearth and desalinator which incorporated iron boilers and stonework. His next patent, #4310, dated November 13th, 1818, detailed a brick and iron domestic (land-based) fire hearth and boiler. His third and most successful patent, # 4706, dated September 27th, 1822 (shared with  John Moxon), outlined a design for a contemporary galley similar to a “Brodie stove” used in Royal Navy ships since the late 18th century. His final pre-1845 patent, #5762 dated January 27th, 1829, described a radical redesign of his iron ship and domestic stoves (to my knowledge there is no evidence that the 1829 device was ever used on Royal Navy vessels).

Comparing the Royal Navy draughts to Fraser’s patents indicates that his1822 patent [1] design closely matches the general shape and dimensions of the stoves installed on HMS Terror in 1836 and 1839. Fraser’s stove was intended to be compact (the 1822 patent is for a narrow, half-width stove) and was therefore only suitable for smaller vessels such as brigs and merchant ships.  Beyond the narrow width, the major difference between Fraser’s 1822 patent and the 1836/1837 Terror plans is the position of the boilers. In 1822, there appear to have been two differently sized boilers (coppers) arranged from front to back.

An engraving of Fraser's 1822 patent. Note the front to back arrangement of the boilers.

An 1833 engraving of a “Frazer patent sort” [2] stove indicates that Fraser later increased the width of the stove and placed two identically sized coppers side by side, thereby increasing the size of the hotplate at the front of the stove while reducing the size of the oven which shared the warming flue with the boilers.  This 1833 sketch is in fact very similar to the stove depicted on the 1836/1837 Terror plans.

An 1833 engraving of Frazer's updated design. Note the side by side boilers,
larger hot plate, and smaller oven space. 

A significant attribute of the Fraser stove was the inclusion of folding or removable plates that could be closed down over the fireplace during bad weather. Previously, ship stoves had to be put out in stormy weather due to risk of fire from stray embers. This seems to have been a critical selling point, and in 1830 Henry Beeston and Company, who held the manufacturing rights, marketed the stoves as the “Fraser’s safety ships’ hearth” [3] (by 1831 the Beeston company was bankrupt and Fraser assumed control of sales and manufacturing thereafter).

My interpretation of the appearance and design of "Fraser's Patent Stove" on HMS Terror. The plans incorporates
scale details from the 1822 patent, the 1833 engraving, and the HMS Terror plan sets.

An assessment of the Fraser stove appears in a report from the voyage of HMS Chanticleer (1828-1830) and is worth noting in its entirety:

“This …Frazer's [stove]… has undergone a three years’ trial on board the Chanticleer
and its qualities have been the constant admiration of everyone on board.  The
provisions were cooked by it in bad weather and in a boisterous sea equally as
well as if the vessel had been in harbour; and although the hatches might be
battened down, no inconvenience whatever was experienced from it,
an advantage which can only be fully appreciated by those who are accustomed
to small vessels. The consumption of coals which served for the culinary purposes
of the whole crew for one day amounted only to one bushel… On the whole,
Frazer's stove may be considered as a most valuable acquisition to a ship.“[4]

The stove’s success on Chanticleer cemented its association with survey vessels and a similar model was ordered in 1831 for HMS Beagle’s famous second voyage. HMS Terror appears to have been the first polar exploration vessel to adopt a Fraser stove, which was installed for the 1836 Arctic voyage under the command of George Back. He praised the device,  “…which, besides throwing out more heat than those commonly in use, had the decided advantage of consuming less fuel, and [was] therefore particularly desirable in a ship with a limited quantity of coals”. [5] Back admired the design so much that he dismantled the malfunctioning hot water furnace on the orlop deck and used its materials “for fitting up a Fraser’s stove a little before the main-hatchway on the lower deck” [6]. Given what he had to work with, it probably looked much like Fraser’s early 1818 brick and iron patent.

Having functioned so well on a polar ship, it is not surprising that the stove was adopted for the 1839 and 1845 voyages of Erebus and Terror. Pencil annotations on the 1837 lower deck plans of Terror indicate that the old Fraser stove was crossed out, and a new stove precisely the same dimensions and shape as the 1839 plans was drawn in, somewhat aft of its original position. The stove is labeled in pencil as “Fire Hearth, Fraser”; the new box-like projection was labeled as well, but it is impossible to decipher the heavily worn inscription.  However, the label appears to have consisted of two words, with the last word starting in an “O” or “D”.

What was the additional device added to the Fraser stoves in 1839? Interestingly, a clue may come from documents relating to HMS Beagle [7]. Navy correspondence from 1831 indicates a new stove was purchased for Beagle directly from Mr. Fraser, at a cost of £ 46.10s, and was delivered around the 19th of July of that year.  However, it appears that Fraser included an additional device in the shipment, as noted by Captain FitzRoy:

“Hamoaze, 24 Aug. 1831.  I beg to inform you that the patent Galley Stove
made by Mr. Fraser of Shadwell for the use of the Beagle, is furnished with
an additional bread oven which I find increases the expense £ 17.  As this oven
will be of the greatest use in baking bread for the Ship's Company, I hope it will
be allowed by the Navy Board without my paying for it myself.” [8]

In his later account of the voyage, FitzRoy makes it clear that this additional device was not a standalone piece and articulated directly with the Fraser stove: ”…one of Frazer's [sic] stoves, with an oven attached, was taken instead of a common “galley” fire-place…” [9]

Could the accessory on the Terror’s Fraser stove have been a bread oven? Most 19th century iron galleys were designed to accept accessories at the front of the fireplace, including meat spits, racks, and various other attachments. In fact, Fraser’s 1822 patent shows brackets of a sort commonly used to attach such devices. Although the labelling on the 1837 plans is unclear, it is possible that the accessory was a bread oven, though it could be another type of a more common cooking accessory, such as a hastener or hot closet.

As far as I am aware, only one Fraser stove is known to have survived to modern times, and it is sitting on the lower deck of HMS Erebus, at the bottom of Queen Maud Gulf, in roughly 12 meters of water. Hopefully, this fascinating piece of Victorian technology – which played a central role for the crews on some of the greatest sea voyages ever conducted – will be revealed by Parks Canada in the coming weeks.

Terror's galley stove was quite small, as indicated by a scale Captain 
Crozier. The height between decks in this area was only six feet.
Note the position of the water tank.[10]

Acknowledgments: William Battersby and Peter Carney have been exploring the heating and cooking systems of HMS Terror and Erebus for many years, and they have been very generous in sharing data and insights with me. Peter, in particular, has studied the design of the Fraser stove in depth and his research on the role the technology played in Franklin Expedition is a must. Peter kindly reviewed my plans and research for this post, and provided access to crucial patent engravings.  I sincerely appreciate his critical insights.

1: Moxon, John, and Fraser, James.  1824. Patents for Improvements in Ship’s Cabouses, etc. The Repertory of Arts, Manufactures, and Agriculture. London: Repertory Office. Pages 268-275.

2. E.W.B. 1833. Apparatus for Freshening Salt Water. Mechanic’s Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal and Gazette. No. 501, Saturday, March 16, 1833. London: M. Salmon.  Pages 335-336.

3. 1830. The Law Advertiser, Volume 8. London: J.W. Pagent. Page 465.

4. Webster, William Henry B. 1834. Narrative of a Voyage to the Southern Atlantic Ocean, in the Years 1828, 29, 30, Performed in H.M. Sloop Chanticleer, Volume 1. London: Richard Betley. Page 6. 

5. Back, George R. 1838. Narrative of an Expedition in H.M.S. Terror, Undertaken with a View to Geographical Discovery on the Arctic Shores in the Year 1836-7. London: John Murray. Page 5.

6. Back, George R. 1838 Narrative of an Expedition in H.M.S. Terror, Undertaken with a View to Geographical Discovery on the Arctic Shores in the Year 1836-7. London: John Murray. Page 150.

7. ADM 106/1346

8. ADM 106/1346

9. FitzRoy, Robert. 1839. Proceedings of the Second Expedition, 1831- 1836, Under the Command of Captain Robert FitzRoy, R.N. Narrative of Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle, Between The Years 1826 And 1836, Describing their Examination of the Southern Shores of South America, and The Beagle's Circumnavigation of the Globe. Volume 11. London: Henry Colburn. Page 18.

10. The iron water tank hanging above the Fraser stove in both sets of Terror plans appears to have been suspended from a deck beam (or beams), with the tank lid positioned below the standard ship’s air-scuttle. Its precise position likely varied between Erebus and Terror - in relation to the framing and deck beams associated with the air scuttle. It is possible that the tank had a central opening or one near the side, depending on its position in relation to the beams and scuttle.


  1. Excellent post! It is impressive the level of accuracy you are reaching and as for the possibility of finding the stove in the Erebus, what chances do you think there are to recover this and other iron equipment in those salt waters? It is supposed that Arctic waters are less saline than others, the Fraser stove could be found well preserved. This could perfectly be one of the targets for the coming divings together with a visit to the locomotive engine.

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  3. Quite an education, and also important from the aspect that a navy (like an army) runs on its stomach. In that regard, it's interesting how FitzRoy seems to have been willing, if necessary, to pay for a bread making addition out of his pocket.

  4. Thank you for the comments, Glenn and Andrés. Andrés, Parks Canada has confirmed in media interviews that they have seen the stove below the deck beams - presumably it is intact. Hopefully we'll see pictures of the real thing in a few weeks!