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Types of Anchors-Stocked Anchors
Types of Anchors: Stocked Anchors
Metal stocked anchors, Big Anchor Project. These notes are meant as a brief introduction to the Stocked Anchor. In time the project plans to develop notes and images on anchors from all over the world, including Dutch, Spanish and French anchors.

Text from Anchors by NE Upham 2001** (available to buy from the project shop) **Disclaimer: every effort was made to contact the author via the publisher. Copyright retained by author.


It is believed that stocked anchors have been in use since at least 500 BC when they appear on the coinage of the Persian Emperor Darius. By being set at right angles to the fluke of the anchor the purpose of the stock is to force the flukes to dig into the seabed. The stock also serves to increase the anchors weight and holding power.

Over the centuries anchor stocks have been designed in different sizes, shapes and even in different positions, although most commonly they are located at the upper end of the shank. Stocks are normally made of iron or wood. Wooden stocks were generally made of two pieces of timber (most commonly oak) and then joined together with both bolts (wooden or metal) and banding. Iron stocks were not really in use until the 19th century when the British Royal Navy began to use them on small anchors.

Early stocked anchors

The Anchor, or first named by the Greeks as “Ancora” – meaning curved or hooked, would have been the vital piece of sailors equipment. It is known that the Phoenicians, the Chinese, the Greeks and the Romans all used anchors as a means of saving a vessel caught on a lee shore. The importance has been demonstrated by a great many shipwrecks from antiquity and one wreck near Taranto dated to AD 100 even had five anchors each weighing 600 kg’s.

1st century AD Roman anchors recovered from Lake Nemi in Italy when the lake was drained between 1929 and 1931, revealed that the Romans manufactured both wooded anchors with lead stocks as well as iron anchors. The only Roman type anchor recovered from British Waters was found near Aberdarewllyn in Gwynedd in Wales. Discovered in 1974 this anchor is now on display at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.

Little is know of medieval anchors as no examples have survived however some illustrations can be seen on the Bayeux Tapestry, in illuminated religious works and on wax seals. The late 13th century seal of Portsmouth in England clearly shows an anchor and ring provided for the rope.

16th-17th century anchors

The earliest drawings of an anchor with details of its weight and dimensions appears in “Fragments of Ancient Shipwrightry” attributed to Matthew Baker, dated to the late 16th or early 17th Century. Most anchors during this period had curved arms, but as larger anchors were required the straight arm anchor was introduced to English vessels. The flukes were generally the shape of equilateral triangles and half the length of the arms. The anchor ring was slightly smaller diameter than the fluke. The anchor stock was roughly the same length as the shank, made from timbers bound with iron hoops. Wooden pegs or treenails were used to secure the timbers in the stock, which was straight on the top and tapered on the other three sides.

In 1627 Captain John Smith published “A Sea Grammer2 which provided a list of the different types of anchors carried by ships at that time. It listed:

  • The kedger anchor - the smallest of the anchors used in calm weather
  • The stream anchor – only a little larger used in an easy tide/stream
  • The bow anchor – larger - 4 in total
  • The sheet anchor – the largest and heaviest of all used in emergencies

Anchor weight was in proportion to the size of the ship. A ship of 500 tons would have a sheet anchor weight 2000 pounds of 907 kg’s.

18th century anchors

In the 18th century an account of anchor types, including their dimensions and shapes appears in William Sutherland’s “Britain”s Glory or Shipbuilding Unvailed” published in 1717 . Sutherland states that the Royal Navy stipulated that the length of the shank of the largest anchor on a naval vessel was two fifths of the vessels extreme breadth.

The Admiralty issued lists of the dimensions fixed for each rate of Royal Navy ship called the “Establishment”. Another crucial document from this time that tells us about the rules surrounding the use of the anchor was “A Treatise on Anchors”, which was published by Richard Pering in 1819.

The Admiralty pattern anchor – and other 19th century anchors

The Admiralty pattern anchor is the most recognisable as a typical anchor of a sailing ship. Developed in 1841 under the guidance of Admiral Sir William Parker it had a wooded shock, later to be wrought iron and with curved arms. The Admiralty pattern anchor with its superb construction it represents the final stage in the development of the fixed are anchor. However the 19th century great steps were also being taken in new anchor design. The long shank anchor of the 17th century and the admiralty pattern anchor of the 19th century both had issues when it came to recovering them from the seabed which required the use of a rope from a davit off the side of the ship. In 1832 Lieutenant William Rodger patented his small palm anchor which remained in use until the 20th century, and in the late 19th century anchor designers like Porter, Honiball and Trotman all developed anchors with differing fluke shapes and even with swivelling crowns

The end of the 19th century saw the patenting of the new type of anchor – the stockless anchor. The type that remains in use on board sailing ships to this day.

Wooden Stocked Anchor

Wooden Stocked Anchor

Metal Stocked Anchor

Metal Stocked Anchor

A Porter anchor in Portsmouth DOckyard - note the swivelling crown.

A Porter anchor in Portsmouth Dockyard
note the swiveling crown


A Trotman anchor in St Roc, Canada - again note the swivelling crown.

A Trotman anchor in St Roc, Canada
again note the swiveling crown


The Big Anchor project will be developing 
more text and images on anchors of 
different types from around the world 
so if you would like to add to these pages please contact the project at 


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