HMS Woolwich (1785)

HMS Woolwich was an Adventure-class frigate launched in 1784. She essentially spent her career as a storeship before being wrecked in 1813.

Great Britain
Name: Woolwich
Ordered: 5 March 1782
Builder: Thomas Calhoun & John Nowlan, Bursledon[Note 1]
Laid down: January 1783
Launched: 15 December 1785
Honours and
Fate: Wrecked 1813
General characteristics [4]
Tons burthen: 9068094 (bm)
  • 1,407 ft 0 in (428.9 m) (overall)
  • 115 ft 2 12 in (35.1 m) (keel)
Beam: 38 ft 6 in (11.7 m)
Depth of hold: 16 ft 9 14 in (5.1 m)
Complement: 300 (294 from 1794)
  • 1792:
  • Lower deck: 20 x 18-pounder guns
  • UD: 22 x 12-pounder guns
  • QD:4 x 12-pounder guns
  • Fc:2 x 6-pounder guns
  • 1793:
  • Lower deck: 20 x 18-pounder guns
  • UD:22 x 24-pounder carronades
  • QD:4 x 13-pounder guns
  • Fc:2 x 6-pounder guns
  • 1799:22 x 9-pounder guns (UD)


It is not clear when Woolwich was completed. She was not commissioned until 1790, under the command of Commander William Nowell, who paid her off in November.

Commander John Parker recommissioned her on 18 January 1793 as a storeship. He sailed her to the Mediterranean, before returning to Britain in October. She then sailed for the Leeward Islands on 26 November 1793, arriving in time to be present at the capture of Martinique in February 1794 under Admiral Sir John Jervis. She also participated in the capture of Guadeloupe.[5] Woolwich was among the vessels whose crews qualified for the Naval General Service Medal (NGSM), which the Admiralty issued in 1847 to all surviving claimants, with clasp "17 Mar. Boat Service 1794" for the capture of the French frigate Bienvenue and other vessels in Fort Royal Bay.

The London Gazette published details for four tranches of prize and head money payments for Jervis's campaign. In all some 36 ships qualified, including Woolwich [sic].

Year Martinique St Lucia Guadaloupe All three
Captain's share
1795[6] £150 0sd £24 10s 1½d £29 10s 3¼d £203 11s 4¾d
1797[7] £29 6s 8½d £12 9s 1¼d £9 7s 2¼d £51 3s 0d
1800[8] £695 16s 8¼d £10 7s 6¼d £71 0s 3¼d £777 4s 6¾d
1806[9] £51 4s 2½d £5 12s 0d £12 12 6¼ £69 8s 8¾
Total £926 7s 9d £52 14s 9d £122 10s 3d £1102 7s 8¼d
Seaman's share
1795[6] £0 15s 4¾d £0 2s 5¼d £0 3s 0d £1 0s 10d
1797[7] £0 3s 0d £0 1s 3d £0 0s 11¼d £0 5s 2¼d
1800[8] £3 5s 9¼d £0 0s 11½d £0 6s 8d £5 13s 4¾d
1806[9] £0 4s 10d £0 0s 6¼d £0 1s 2d £0 6s 6¼d
Total £4 9s 0d £5 2s 0d £0 12s 7¼d £10 11s 7¼d

In 1795 Woolwich was under the command of Commander William Charles Fahie. However, Lieutenant Henry Probyn assumed acting command on 8 December.[10][Note 2] In March 1796 Commander Daniel (or William) Dobree was appointed to command Woolwich.[4] Between 21 April and 25 May Woolwich took part in Admiral Sir Hugh Cloberry Christian and Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercromby's invasion of Santa Lucia. Dobree commanded a division of flat boats for the landings at Choc Bay and Anse La Raye.[11] He returned her to Britain in October 1797 and paid her off.[1]

Commander Michael Halliday (or Haliday) recommissioned Woolwich in August 1798 for the Channel Fleet.[4] She then sailed for the Cape of Good Hope.[1] In 1799 she lost most of her armament, becoming armed en flute. On 29 June 1799 Halliday was promoted to post captain in Leander.[12]

In October 1799 Commander George Jardine replaced Halliday. Jardine sailed for the Mediterranean on 9 January 1801. He carried as passengers the Earl of Cork and the Honourable Colonel Bligh, who were going to join their regiments.[13] Because Woolwich served in the navy's Egyptian campaign (8 March to 2 September 1801), her officers and crew qualified for the clasp "Egypt" to the NGSM. Woolwich returned to Britain in July 1801.

A series of commander followed. In August Commander Robert Campbell replaced Jardine, who died on board the packet Arabella on 21 June as he was returning to England.[14] In February 1802 Commander Richard Bridges replace Campbell. Then in May, Commander Ulick Jennings replaced Bridges. He sailed Woolwich to the West Indies in September. On 14 September Woolwich was at Madeira when the Portuguese vessel Aurora caught fire after an explosion. Woolwich was nearby and her boats were able to rescue two men; the other 32 people on board Aurora perished, including her captain.[15] Jennings returned to Britain on 11 February 1803.[16][Note 3] Commander Thomas Burton replaced Jennings in March 1803. Woolwich then went into ordinary in May.[4]

In October 1804 Commander Thomas Garth recommissioned her. In June 1805 Commander Francis Beaufort joined her as she was fitting out. She went first to the East Indies and then escorted a convoy of East Indiamen back to Britain. Then the Admiralty tasked him with of conducting a hydrographic survey of the Rio de la Plata estuary in South America during Home Popham's unsuccessful campaign to capture Buenos Aires. On the way Woolwich, Porpoise, and the brig Rolla on 14 May 1806 detained and sent into the Cape of Good Hope the Danish packet ship Three Sisters (or Trende Sostre).[18][19] After the failure of the British invasion, Woolwich returned to the Cape and then to the Mediterranean. In 1808 Beaufort moved to Blossom.

On 28 November 1808 Woolwich, HMS Active, Delight, and the hired armed ship Lord Eldon escorted a convoy of 50 vessels out of Malta, bound for Gibraltar, Lisbon, and London. However, contrary winds forced about 40 merchantmen, and the escorts to return to Malta within two weeks.[20]

In 1809 Richard Turner was master of Woolwich,[4] which served in the Mediterranean. In 1812 she was in the West Indies under Richard Rumer, master.[1]

In February 1813 Woolwich came under the command of Commander Thomas Ball Sullivan. She then conveyed Sir James Lucas Yeo, 36 officers, and some 450 seamen, as well as the frames of several gun-vessels, from England to Quebec, arriving on 6 May.[21] The gun-vessels were intended for service on the Great Lakes.


Woolwich sailed from Bermuda on 26 August 1813 in company with a merchant vessel bound for Dominica. On 8 September the weather worsened and by 11 September Woolwich was caught in a gale. By six o'clock land suddenly appeared under her bow and within minutes she was aground. She lost her rudder, bilged immediately, and fell on her side. By morning the weather had cleared and her crew went ashore on what they discovered was the island of Barbuda. Sullivan and his officers were surprised as they had thought that they were 90 miles from the island. However, the gale and a strong current had driven Woolwich off-course.[22] The crew was saved.[23]

Vine, Thompson, master, the merchant vessel that Woolwich had been escorting, also wrecked on Barbuda. However, her cargo was saved.[24]

Notes, citations and references


  1. The National Maritime Museum database gives the builder as "J. Luckhue".[1]
  2. He returned to Britain in May 1796 and on 18 August was officially promoted to the rank of commander.[10]
  3. Ulick Jennings was dismissed the service in Jamaica on 1–2 December.[1] He was found guilty of "drunkenness and unofficer-like and irregular behavior".[17]


  1. "NMM, vessel ID 378993" (PDF). Warship Histories, vol iv. National Maritime Museum. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 August 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  2. "No. 20939". The London Gazette. 26 January 1849. p. 246.
  3. "No. 21077". The London Gazette. 15 March 1850. pp. 791–792.
  4. Winfield (2008), p. 129.
  5. "No. 13659". The London Gazette. 21 May 1794. p. 463.
  6. "No. 13824". The London Gazette. 20 October 1795. p. 1090.
  7. "No. 14043". The London Gazette. 5 September 1797. p. 862.
  8. "No. 15245". The London Gazette. 5 April 1800. p. 339.
  9. "No. 15976". The London Gazette. 18 November 1806. p. 1511.
  10. O'Byrne (1849), p. 935.
  11. "No. 13903". The London Gazette. 21 June 1796. p. 593.
  12. Marshall (1824), Vol. 2, Part 1, p.229.
  13. Naval Chronicle, Vol. 5, p.181.
  14. Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Vol. 71, Part 1, p.575.
  15. Naval Chronicle, Vol. 8, p.339.
  16. Naval Chronicle, vol. 9, p.164.
  17. Publications of the Navy Records Society, Volume 31, p.171.
  18. Lloyd's List (LL), №4078.
  19. "No. 16905". The London Gazette. 4 June 1814. p. 1159.
  20. LL, №4323.
  21. James (1837), Vol. 6, p. 104.
  22. Hepper (1794), p. 148.
  23. James (1837), Vol. 6, p.382.
  24. LL, №4822.


  • Hepper, David J. (1994). British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail, 1650-1859. Rotherfield: Jean Boudriot. ISBN 0-948864-30-3.
  • James, William (1837). The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV. R. Bentley.
  • Marshall, John (1823-1835) Royal naval biography, or, Memoirs of the services of all the flag-officers, superannuated rear-admirals, retired-captains, post-captains, and commanders, whose names appeared on the Admiralty list of sea officers at the commencement of the present year 1823, or who have since been promoted ... (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown).
  • O’Byrne, William R. (1849) A naval biographical dictionary: comprising the life and services of every living officer in Her Majesty's navy, from the rank of admiral of the fleet to that of lieutenant, inclusive. Vol. 3.(London: J. Murray).
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 17931817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1-86176-246-1.

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