Busk’s Navies of the World – 1859 – Britain I


Hans Busk wrote a book entitled “Navies of the World” in 1859. This book was reprinted twice, in the 1950’s and as a facsimile of the original in 1974. It provides possibly one of the best discussions and descriptions of early modern navies, covering as it does the navies in transition from the wooden wall, the ship of the line with a number of broadside cannons to the turreted vessels of the 20th Century. Angus McLellan has provided a summary of the contents of the book and this summary is presented across a number of parts. Note that the Downloads Section of Thomo’s Hole has ALL the parts combined into two PDF files.

This part then is the first part that deals with the Navy of Great Britain circa 1859. The Queen of the Seas. A second part deals with the rest of the vessels.
Hans Busk’s “Navies of the World” was based on the world naval situation in 1859, or on those parts of it that Busk thought would help his case for an even bigger Royal Navy, official support for the volunteer movement and an enlarged Militia. The first two did happen, but it’s unlikely that Busk deserves blame or credit for this turn of events.

If there are any obvious errors, or things that don’t make any sense, please don’t hesitate to ask or to let me know and I’ll pass your comments and questions on to Angus.

According to a statement made to Parliament, on the first day of 1863 the Royal Navy had some 1,014 ships in total of which 790 had fewer than 20 guns. As at 1st January, 1859, Busk gives the number of ships in commission, their crews and guns as follows.

Station Ships Guns Men
East Indies, China & Australia 49 389 5051
Cape of Good Hope 8 104 1239
West Coast of Africa 18 100 1885
Brazil 9 146 1672
Pacific 12 281 2845
North America & West Indies 21 320 3470
Mediterranean 22 532 5876
Subtotal 139 1872 21948
Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheerness, Woolwich, Cork & Pembroke Dock 45 979 7958
Coast Guard Service 26 623 3612
Channel Squadron 7 498 4697
Particular Service 12 86 1496
Surveying Service, Packet Service, Yachts, Fitting Out, Ordered Home 21 458 5265
Flag Officers & Retinue, Supernumaries & Kroomen 1244
Marines in China 1813
Marines on Shore in England 6282
Grand Total 267 4649 56048

The East Indies station was much larger than usual as a result of the war with China. Under normal circumstances the main fleet was deployed on the Mediterranean station. The Channel Squadron, although not large in numbers of ships, was relatively powerful as it was usually limited to battleships, frigates and corvettes.

All tonnages are tons burthen (builders old measurement) unless noted otherwise, all horse power nominal. The Admiralty did not adopt displacement tonnage until 1873 after considering the adoption of Moorsom Rule (Gross Register) tonnage instead. The original order of ships in Busk’s lists has been changed so an attempt to group ships of the same class together and to include ships under construction or converting at the appropriate place. The list is quite long enough without having to look in multiple places.

The Royal Navy as at April 1859

Name When
Built
Horse
Power
Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Steam Vessels
Screw Ships of the Line Three-deckers (* building or converting)
*Victoria 1859 1000 121 4116 11.797
*Howe 1860 1000 121 4236
Duke of Wellington 1852 700 131 3771 10.130 Portsmouth
Royal Sovereign 1857 800 131 3760 Portsmouth
Marlborough 1855 800 131 3853 11.060 Mediterranean
*Prince of Wales 1860 800 131 3994
Royal Albert 1854 500 121 3726 10.000 Channel Sqdn
Windsor Castle 1858 500 102 3099 Devonport

All except Victoria and Howe were laid down as sailing ships.

All ships are in Lambert’s “Battleships in Transition” while his “Last Sailing Battlefleet” gives a great deal of information on the development of the battlefleet before steam, most of which is relevant through the early 1860s. These ships required large crews, 1000 men and more, and were expensive, Victoria cost over 150,000 pounds (about 750,000 dollars). The advantages of battery height and concentrated firepower in battle were felt to be worth the cost by all three Surveyors after the Napoleonic Wars and by the great majority of sea officers.

Details from Lambert for the pre-ironclad steam battlefleet are on Bob Cordery’s website under Victorian & Edwardian Military Miscellany at http://www.colonialwargames.org.uk/. This includes all three- and two-decker battleships, all blockships and the frigates Mersey & Orlando. It seems pointless to repeat them here.

Royal Sovereign was ordered converted to a turret ship based on Captain Coles’ ideas, modified by Isaac Watts to make them practicable, in April 1862. A number of senior officers favoured carrying out many more such conversions. But converting Royal Sovereign had been expensive at £180,000 (900,000 gold US dollars) and the experiment was not repeated.

Name When
Built
Horse
Power
Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Two-deckers (* building or converting)
Conqueror 1855 800 101 3224 10.806 Mediterranean
Donegal 1859 800 101 3200 11.912 Devonport
St Jean d’Acre 1853 600 101 3200 11.190 Channel Sqdn
*Gibraltar 1859 800 101 3715 13.338
*Duncan 1860 800 101 3715
James Watt 1853 600 91 3083 9.361 Devonport
Victor Emmanuel 1855 600 91 3208 11.922 Mediterranean
Edgar 1858 600 91 3094 11.371 Sheerness
Hero 1858 600 91 3148 11.707 Sheerness
Agamemnon 1852 600 91 3074 11.243 Portsmouth
Renown 1857 800 91 3317 10.870 Channel Sqdn
*Revenge 1859 800 91 3318 11.530
*Atlas 1860 800 91 3318
*Anson 1860 800 91 3318
*Defiance 1861 800 91 3475
*Bulwark never 800 91 3715
Orion 1854 600 91 3281 12.500 Mediterranean
*Hood 1859 600 91 3232
Caesar 1853 400 90 2767 10.274 North America
Algiers 1854 600 91 3168 Channel Sqdn
Princess Royal 1853 400 91 3129 11.031 Mediterranean
Hannibal 1854 450 91 3136 Portsmouth
Nile 1839 500 91 2622 8.200 Queenstown
*London 1840 500 91 2626 Devonport
*Rodney 1833 500 91 2770 Chatham
*Nelson 1814 500 91 2736
Royal George 1827 500 89 2616 9.375 Sheerness
*Prince Regent 1823 500 89 2672
*St George 1840 500 89 2830 10.933 Devonport
*Royal William 1833 500 89 2849
*Neptune 1832 500 89 2830 Portsmouth
*Waterloo 1833 500 89 2830 9.934
*Trafalgar 1841 500 89 2830 10.908
Exmouth 1854 400 91 3083 9.100 Devonport
Aboukir 1848 400 91 3109 Devonport
*Albion 1842 400 91 3109 Devonport
*Queen 1839 500 86 unk Sheerness
*Frederick William 1860 500 86 unk
Cressy 1853 400 80 2540 7.200 Sheerness
*Lion 1847 400 80 2580
*Collingwood 1841 400 80 2589 Portsmouth
Majestic 1853 400 80 2566 Sheerness
Mars 1853 400 80 2576 Sheerness
Meeanee 1849 400 80 2600 Sheerness
Centurion 1844 400 80 2590 8.500 Mediterranean
Brunswick 1855 400 80 2484 7.742 Channel Sqdn
Goliath 1842 400 80 2599 Chatham
*Irresistible 1859 400 80 2500 10.010
Colossus 1848 400 80 2590 9.152 Sheerness
Sans Pareil 1851 400 70 2339 9.300 Devonport
*Powerful see below
*Bombay 1828 400 81 2783 10.157

Ships from Orion downwards on the list were converted from sailing ships after launch or while under construction. Tonnages of 3249 for Queen and 3241 for Frederick William, ex Royal William, are as 110 gun sailing 1st rates, post conversion tonnages would likely be 2700 to 2900 tons burthen.

HMS Waterloo was renamed Conqueror after the original Conqueror was wrecked at the end of 1861. Many of these ships were never commissioned. HMS Nile, later Conway, almost survived into the age of colour TV. She was wrecked when her tow parted in the Menai Strait in April 1953. Bombay was about the last ship converted, rather later than expected. The ship originally selected was HMS Powerful. On being opened up for converion Powerful was found to be in poor condition and

Bombay was substituted. Several other ships might have been converted had the ironclad battlefleet not replaced the wooden one, most obviously the other 84 gun sailing 2-deckers. Bombay was lengthened from 194′ oa, 160′ kl to 234′ oa, 198′ kl gaining around 500 tons burthen in the process.

Bulwark was intended to be the lead ship of a class of twelve based on previous 101 gun ships. Three ships, Pitt, Kent and Blake, were cancelled in 1863 without having been laid down, Bulwark and Robust remained on the stocks until 1872 but were never completed. The remaining ships – Triumph (renamed Prince Consort), Ocean, Caledonia, Royal Oak, Zealous, Royal Alfred & Repulse – were armoured while under construction.

Senior sea officers felt that Walker’s regulation armaments were excessive. The damage to the upperworks of HMS Agamemnon and the French steam battleship Ville de Paris at Sevastopol in particular had convinced many that guns on the upper deck were very vulnerable to shell fire and should be reduced. Upper deck armaments were cut during the 1860s so that Bombay carried about 65 guns rather than 81 in 1864 and Victoria carried 102 rather than 121 in 1866.

Armaments before 1862 would be as given by Lambert although many ships mounted two 68-pr pivot guns rather than the one listed. In many ships 2 68-pr and 6 32-pr guns on the upper deck were landed and 2 110-pr and 2 40-pr Armstrongs put in their place. Nile in May 1862 had 78 guns of which 16 were Armstrongs, 2 110-pr, 4 70-pr and 10 40-pr. The other 62 guns were a mix of 32-pr 56cwt and 8-inch 65cwt pieces.

Name When
Built
Horse
Power
Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Screw Coast-Guard Block Ships (all converted to steam after launch)
Blenheim 1813 450 60 1832 5.816 Portland Roads
Edinburgh 1811 450 60 1772 8.873 Leith
Hogue 1811 450 60 1846 7.809 Greenock
Ajax 1809 450 60 1761 6.458 Kingstown
Cornwallis 1813 200 60 1809 7.188 The Humber
Russell 1822 200 60 1751 6.680 Falmouth
Hastings 1818 200 60 1763 6.702 Liverpool
Hawke 1820 200 60 1754 6.525 Ireland
Pembroke 1812 200 60 1758 7.602 Harwich

These ships are detailed in Lambert’s “Battleships in Transition”.. The first four ships were extremely cramped. The last five were basic conversions produced during the Crimean War. To leave more room without an expensive conversion, they were fitted with larger versions of the high pressure, compact and light but high maintenance engines used in gun boats. Their masts, spars and ground tackle were provided from whatever second hand material happened to be in store.

These ships were part of the Coast Guard Service dispersed around major ports. Ajax had 28 32-pr 56cwt on the gun deck, 26 8-inch 52cwt on the main deck and 2 68-pr 95cwt and 4 10-inch 67cwt on the upper deck. The later conversions carried 24 32-pr 56cwt and 4 8-inch 65cwt on the gun deck, 26 32-pr 50cwt on the main deck and 2 68-pr 95cwt and 4 10-inch 85cwt on the upper deck. The screw frigates Arrogant and Termagant were probably serving with the Coast Guard at this time. Each of these block ships or frigates had one or more gunboats and a number of cruising and watch vessels as tenders. The gun boats were the screw gun boats described later.

Coast Guard cruisers and watch vessels are rather mysterious. They included old Cherokee class brig sloops, Icarus being a cruiser and Cadmus a watch vessel, of around 235bm, 90′ x 25′, originally armed with 8 18-pr and 2 6-pr. Other Cherokee class sloops were serving with the Excise in 1859, some being passed on to the Coast Guard later. Larger Cruizer class brig sloops such as Pelican were around 385bm, 101′ x 31′, 16 32-pr carronades and 2 6-pr guns. The old frigate Amphritite of the Leda class, see under Sailing Frigates for details, was probably a cruiser. Other ships included the more recent Star class packet brigs Star and Philomel, see sailing brigs for details, the packet brig Pandora and brig Britomart. Britomart was 330bm, 93′ x 29′ x 13′ depth of hold and rated at 8 guns.

Name When
Built
Horse
Power
Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Screw Frigates (* building, **begun after April 1859)
Orlando 1858 1000 50 3700 13.000 Devonport
Mersey 1858 1000 50 3726 13.290 Portsmouth
*Ariadne 1859 800 26 3214 13.100
*Galatea 1859 800 26 3227 11.800
Doris 1857 800 32 2479 11.520 Devonport
Diadem 1856 800 32 2479 12.470 North America
*Immortalite 1859 600 51 3059 12.300
*Newcastle 1860 600 51 3035 10.500
*Undaunted 1861 600 51 3039 12.920
*Bristol 1861 600 51 3027 11.270
*Glasgow 1861 600 51 3037 11.540
*Liverpool 1860 600 51 2656
*Aurora 1861 400 51 2558 10.200
*Narcissus 1859 400 51 2665 10.600
**Endymion 1865 500 51 2486 11.250
Emerald 1856 600 51 2913 13.000 Sheerness
*Phoebe 1854 unk 51 2960
*Severn 1856 unk 51 2767
*Bacchante 1859 600 51 2679
Liffey 1856 600 51 2658 Channel Sqdn
Topaze 1858 600 51 2651 untried Devonport
Shannon 1855 600 51 2651 11.807 Portsmouth
*Phaeton 1848 unk 51 2396 Converting
Imperieuse 1852 360 51 2355 10.673 Portsmouth
Forte 1858 400 51 2355 untried Sheerness
Euryalus 1853 400 51 2371 Mediterranean
Chesapeake 1855 400 51 2384 10.450 East Indies
Arrogant 1848 360 47 1872 8.646 Southampton
Amphion 1846 300 36 1474 7.140 Chatham
Tribune 1853 300 31 1570 10.410 Pacific
Curacao 1854 350 31 1571 10.700 Partic. Serv.
Dauntless 1848 580 31 1575 10.160 Portsmouth
Termagant 1848 310 25 1547 8.780 Portland
*Sutlej 1855 unk 51 3066 11.800
*Octavia 1849 unk 51 3161 11.530
*Arethusa 1849 unk 51 3141 11.700
*Constance 1846 unk 51 3213 10.80
*Leander 1848 400 51 2760 Converted 1861

For other data, as follows:

Mersey & Orlando
displacement 5640 tons, 336′ oa x 52′, 28 10″ & 12 68-pr.
Ariadne & Galatea
displacement 4400-4600 tons, 280′ oa x 50′, 24 10″ & 2 68-pr.
Doris & Diadem
displacement 3700-3900 tons, 280′ oa x 48′, 20 10″ & 10 32-pr.
Immortalite, Newcastle, Undaunted, Bristol & Glasgow
displacement c4000 tons, 250-251′ oa x 50′, 30 8″, 20 32-pr & 1 68-pr.
Aurora & Narcissus
displacement 3500 tons, 227′ oa x 51′, 10 8″, 40 32-pr, 1 68-pr.
Endymion
displacement 3200 tons, 240′ oa x 48′, 10 8″, 40 32-pr & 1 68-pr.
Emerald
displacement 3500 tons, 237′ dk, 202′ kl x c50′ x 16’8″ depth of hold, 30 8″, 20 32-pr & 1 68-pr.
Severn, Bacchante, Liffey, Shannon
displacement 3600-3700 tons, c240′ oa x 48′, 28 8″, 22 32-pr & 1 68-pr.
Topaze, Liffey
displacement 3900 tons, c250′ oa x c50′, 30 8″, 20 32-pr & 1 68-pr.
Imperieuse, Forte, Euryalus & Chesapeake
displacement 3100-3400 tons, c212′ x 50′, 28 8″ & 22 32-pr.
Arrogant
displacement 2565 tons, 200′ x 45′, 32 32-pr, 12 8″ & 2 68-pr.
Amphion
displacement 2025 tons, 177′ x 43′, 6 8″, 14 32-pr, 4 10″ & 2 68-pr.
Tribune & Curacao
displacement c2250 tons, 192′ (dk or wl) x 43′, unknown armament.
Dauntless
displacement 2650 tons, 210′ x 40′, 18 32-pr, 4 10″& 2 68-pr.
Sutlej & Octavia
displacement c3800 tons, 252-254′ oa x 52-54′, 28 10″ & 22 32-pr.
Arethusa & Constance
displacment c3750 tons, 252-254′ oa x 53′, 10 8″ & 40 32-pr.
Leander
no post-conversion data except tonnage.
Termagant
no data except displacement 2400 tons, may have been begun as a paddle frigate.
Phaeton
no data except tonnage.

Leander and Liverpool are missing from Conways. Apart from the frigates Ister, Dartmouth, Blond and Astraea mentioned in Conways as cancelled, at least five more ships of the Immortalite type were ordered, of which Dryad was certainly begun and Belvedira may have been. Those cancelled before laying down included Briton, Bucephalus and Barham.

As with the battlefleet, and for the same reasons, frigate upper deck armaments were reduced in the 1860s. By 1862, Mersey and Orlando were reduced to 40 guns including 4 110-pr and 4 smaller Armstrong guns and Immortalite was reduced to 35 guns, 13 of them Armstrongs.

With the exception of Amphion, cramped and underpowered, and Mersey & Orlando, too expensive to run with a crew of 600 men and without a clear purpose apart from being larger that the USN’s equally flawed Merrimack class frigates, these were generally successful designs. All British screw frigates were essentially auxiliary steamers with lifting screws and sail as the main means of propulsion.

Name When
Built
Horse
Power
Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Screw Corvettes (* building)
*Orestes 1860 400 21 1717 11.150
*Barrosa 1860 400 21 1700 11.510
*Orpheus 1860 400 21 1706 11.150
*Jason 1859 400 21 1711 12.040
*Rattlesnake 1861 400 21 11.660
*Wolverine 1863 400 21 10.210
*Charybdis 1859 400 21 1506
Racoon 1857 400 22 1467 10.000 Channel Sqdn
Pearl 1855 400 21 1469 11.313 East Indies
Pelorus 1857 400 21 1464 East Indies
Challenger 1858 400 21 1465 Sheerness
Satellite 1855 400 21 1462 11.400 Pacific
Scout 1856 400 21 1462 untried Sheerness
Scylla 1856 400 21 1460 untried Sheerness
Clio 1854 400 21 1458 untried Sheerness
Cadmus 1854 400 21 1461 Chatham
Pylades 1854 350 21 1278 10.119 Pacific
Esk 1854 250 21 1169 9.250 East Indies
Highflyer 1851 250 21 1153 9.390 East Indies
Tartar 1854 250 20 1389 untried North America
Cossack 1854 250 20 1296 untried Sheerness

Tartar and Cossack had been ordered by the Imperial Russian Navy in Britain and were seized on the outbreak of the Crimean War.

The corvettes of the Jason class detailed by Conways were little different from the previous 400 NHP corvettes measuring 2300-2400 tons diplacement, 225′ x 41′ x 19′, armament 20 32-pr and 1 68-pr or 110-pr. As with frigates, there were cancellations of corvettes and Favorite became a small and unsuccessful armoured ship. After the Jasons, few more large wooden corvettes were built, and none before the 1870s. Challenger was 200′ long (presumably on the waterline) and 2290 tons displacement, speed 11 knots. Cadmus was 2216 tons displacement, Pearl 2187, Clio 2350 & Pelorus 2330 tons.

For pre-Cadmus class sloops, the differences were not large. Pylades was armed with 1 10-inch pivot and 20 8-inch guns when new. She measured 1991 displacement tons, 193′ long on deck, 38’5″ beam and 19’7″ draft. Her reported best speed was 12.6 knots. Esk and Highflyer were a foot shorter, displaced 90 tons less and carried the same armament.

Name When
Built
Horse
Power
Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Screw Sloops
Malacca 1853 200 17 1034 9.190 Sheerness
Miranda 1851 250 15 1039 10.750 Sheerness
Brisk 1851 250 16 1087 7.350 Devonport
Niger 1848 400 13 1072 9.906 Australia
Desperate 1849 400 8 1037 9.430 Devonport
Conflict 1846 400 8 1038 9.510 West Africa
*Cameleon 1860 200 17 952 9.360
*Pelican 1860 200 17 952 10.000
*Rinaldo 1860 200 17 951 9.800
*Mutine 1859 200 17 882
*Greyhound 1859 200 17 880
Hornet 1854 100 17 753 7.750 East Indies
Harrier 1854 100 17 748 South America
Fawn 1856 100 17 747 8.320 Sheerness
Falcon 1854 100 17 748 untried Portsmouth
Cruiser 1852 60 17 753 6.540 South America
Alert 1856 100 17 753 untried Pacific
Encounter 1846 360 14 953 10.690 Devonport
Archer 1849 292 13 973 West Africa
Wasp 1850 100 13 970 6.020 Sheerness
Cordelia 1856 150 11 580 untried Australia
Gannet 1857 150 11 577 untried Mediterranean
Icarus 1858 150 11 578 Woolwich
*Pantaloon 1860 150 11 574
Racer 1858 150 11 579 6.824 North America
Ariel 1854 60 9 486 6.823 Mediterranean
Curlew 1854 60 9 485 untried Devonport
Lyra 1857 60 9 484 untried South Africa
Swallow 1854 60 9 486 6.530 Sheerness
Sharpshooter 1846 202 8 503 9.320 West Africa
Phoenix 1832 260 6 809 7.670 Sheerness
Renard 1847 200 4 516 8.230 Sheerness
Rifleman 1846 100 8 486 7.150 Woolwich
Arrow 1854 160 4 477 11.000 Devonport
Wrangler 1854 160 4 477 untried Sheerness
Viper 1854 160 4 477 11.860 West Africa
Snake 1854 160 4 477 untried Sheerness
Beagle 1854 160 4 477 untried Portsmouth
Lynx 1854 160 4 477 untried South Africa

Malacca, Miranda and Brisk were reclassed as corvettes by 1862 and Conways says Encounter, Archer and Wasp were also reclassed. Malacca was built at Moulmein in Burma and is detailed in Conways as the Japanese Tsukuba, 1947 tons normal displacement, 192’6″ wl, 198′ oa x 34’9″ x 18′.

The Cameleon class are detailed in Conways, 1300-1400 tons displacement, 185′ x 33’2″ x 14’8″ with 12 32-pdr and 5 40-pdr guns. Cameleon was to have been a sister to Greyhound & Mutine but was lengthened by 12 feet. Several ships of the Cameleon class were cancelled including Imogene and Harlequin. Trent and Circassian became small, cramped and unsuccessful ironclads as Research and Enterprise.

An early screw sloop was HMS Cruizer of 160′ long on deck, 1073 tons displacement and armed with 17 32-pr guns. It seems logical to assume that Greyhound, Mutine and, as designed, Cameleon, were also fitted for 17 32-pr guns.

The six 160 NHP sloops of the Arrow class are usually described as gun vessels. These were 160′ x 24’4″ x 11’8″ max and were originally armed with 2 68-pr 95cwt Lancaster guns and 4 12-pr howitzers. The elliptical bore “rifled” Lancaster gun was a failure and these would have been replaced by normal 68-pr 95cwt guns. The 100 NHP Rifleman was about 150′ x 27′ and also classed as a gun vessel.

Name When
Built
Horse
Power
Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Paddle-Wheel Steam Frigates, Corvettes, Sloops and Tugs
Frigates
Retribution 1844 400 28 1641 c10 East Indies
Sidon 1846 560 22 1328 10.47 Portsmouth
Terrible 1845 800 21 1847 11.00 Mediterranean
Leopard 1850 560 18 1435 11.25 North America
Odin 1846 650 16 1616 9.00 Portsmouth
Magicienne 1849 400 16 1255 10.00 East Indies
Furious 1850 400 16 1286 10.00 East Indies
Valorous 1852 400 16 1250 9.00 North America
Penelope 1829 650 12 1616 c11

First class paddle frigates and those second class ones with a main deck battery. In spite of the frigate designation most were barque rigged. Paddle steamers spent more time under steam, or steam and sail, than as sailing ships. In general, they were fairly poor as sailing ships.

As built, Terrible had four funnels and the four boilers produced much more steam than the engines could use. Two funnels and two boilers were removed with no loss of speed. In 1862, Terrible was armed with 5 110-pr 82cwt RBL pivots and 2 68-pr 95cwt guns on the upper deck and 4 110-pr 82cwt RBL and 10 8-inch 65cwt on the main deck. Retribution carried 18 32-pr 50cwt on the main deck and 1 68-pr 95cwt and 9 8-inch 65cwt on the upper deck. Around 1859, Valorous and Magicienne were armed with 10 32-pr 50cwt guns on the main deck and 4 more 32-pr 50cwt and 2 10-inch 84cwt pivots on the upper deck. Other ships were armed in similar fashions.

Penelope was an unusual (unique?) paddle frigate converted from sail. John Edye’s calculations were flawed and she was overweight with the main deck port sills only 5′ above the water but was other than this she was largely successful. She was originally a Leda class sailing frigate (see Sailing Frigates for details) with the midbody lengthened by 65′. Before conversion she displaced 1468 tons, planned to be 2549 tons after conversion but overweight at 2766 tons, 1044 tons of which was coal and machinery and 1293 tons the hull. Her first armament was 2 42-pr 84cwt guns and 10 42-pr 22cwt carronades on the main deck and 10 8″ 65cwt on the upper deck. In 1856 she carried 10 8″ 65cwt on the main deck and 4 8″ 52cwt and 2 10″ 84cwt pivot guns on the upper deck. In the early 1860s she was armed with 8 32-pr 50cwt on the main deck and 2 110-pr 82cwt RBL and 4 64-pr 71cwt RML on the upper deck. Edye proposed converting up to 30 more Leda class and similar frigates to paddle propulsion on the same lines but the development of screw propulsion made this unnecessary.

Name When
Built
HorsePower Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Corvettes
Vulture 1843 470 6 1190 Mediterranean
Gladiator 1844 430 6 1210 9.5 Devonport
Centaur 1845 540 6 1279 9.5 Devonport
Sampson 1844 467 6 1297 South America
Firebrand 1843 410 6 1190 9.0 Deptford
Dragon 1845 560 6 1295 10.0 Chatham
Cyclops 1839 320 6 1195 10.0 East Indies

Second class paddle frigates without main deck batteries. Armament was usually 2 68-pr 95cwt pivot guns and 4 10-inch 65cwt or 84cwt with 110-pr 82cwt RBL guns replacing 68-pr guns by 1861-1862.

Name When
Built
HorsePower Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Sloops
Inflexible 1847 378 6 1122 9.5 East Indies
Barracouta 1851 300 6 1048 10.5 Woolwich
Basilisk 1848 400 6 980 North America
Buzzard 1849 300 6 997 10.0 South America
Virago 1842 300 6 1060 9.5 Devonport
Vesuvius 1840 280 6 1060 9.5 West Africa
Trident 1846 350 6 848 9.0 West Africa
Hydra 1838 220 6 817 8.5 West Africa
Hecate 1839 240 6 816 9.0 Woolwich
Hecla 1839 240 6 817 9.0 Devonport
Geyser 1841 280 6 1060 Devonport
Gorgon 1837 320 6 1108 8.5 Woolwich
Hermes 1835 220 6 830 8.5 South Africa
Stromboli 1839 280 6 970 9.0 Portsmouth
Spiteful 1842 280 6 1050 10.0 Woolwich
Styx 1841 280 6 1057 9.5 North America
Vixen 1840 280 6 1054 9.5 Pacific
Sphinx 1842 500 6 1058 10.5 Portsmouth
Bulldog 1845 500 6 1124 10.2 Portsmouth
Fury 1845 515 6 1124 10.5 East Indies
Scourge 1844 420 6 1124 11.0 Mediterranean
Salamander 1832 220 6 818 7.2 Woolwich
Devastation 1841 400 6 1058 10.0 North America
Merlin 1838 312 6 889 9.0 Devonport
Medina 1845 312 4 886 9.5 Mediterranean
Medusa 1839 312 4 880 9.0 West Africa
Medea 1833 350 6 836 9.0 Portsmouth
Rosamond 1844 280 6 1059 9.5 Portsmouth
Driver 1841 280 6 1056 9.0 Sheerness
Argus 1849 300 6 975 10.0 Mediterranean
Alecto 1839 200 5 800 8.2 Woolwich
Ardent 1841 200 5 800 8.5 Wooolwich
Prometheus 1858 200 5 796 8.2 Woolwich
Firefly 1832 220 4 550 Woolwich
Spitfire 1845 140 5 432 West Africa
Pluto 1831 100 4 365 West Africa
Rhadamanthus 1832 220 5 813 Partic. Serv.
Alban 1825 100 4 405 Portsmouth
Tartarus 1836 136 4 523 Mediterranean
Jackal 1844 150 4 340 Sheerness
Volcano (fact) 1836 140 3 720 East Indies
Triton 1847 260 3 650 West Africa
Antelope 1846 260 3 649 West Africa
Oberon 1847 260 3 650 South America
Avon 1825 160 3 361 Devonport
Cuckoo 1831 100 3 234 Sheerness
Myrmidon 1846 150 3 374 West Africa
Locust 1840 100 3 284 Partic. Serv.
Porcupine 1844 132 3 284 Partic. Serv.
Otter 1831 120 3 237 Sheerness
Bloodhound 1845 150 3 378 Woolwich
Lizard 1844 150 1 346 Sheerness
Caradoc 1847 350 2 650 16.0 Mediterranean
Dasher 1837 100 4 260 Portsmouth
Harpy 1845 200 1 345 Woolwich
Princess Alice 1844 120 1 270 Woolwich
Coromandel 1854 unk 4 450 East Indies
Dover 1843 90 1 294 River Gambia
Adder 1827 100 1 241 Chatham
Weser 1853 160 6 560 Mediterranean
Recruit 1853 100 6 560 Mediterranean

The details of all of these vessels are to be found in Brown’s “Paddle Warships”. Some were iron hulled. By the standards applied to sailing ships, many were not effective as warships, nor had they ever been. They were all useful for towing, transporting, scouting and carrying despatches and were important, even vital, to the operation of the navy.

Barracouta was an example of an “effective” sloop armed with 1 68-pr 95cwt pivot and 1 10-inch 84cwt pivot plus 4 32-pr 42cwt guns. Some ships had two 10-inch pivots but none had 2 68-pr guns. Spitfire had a 32-pr 50cwt pivot gun and 4 32-pr 25cwt guns. Lizard had only a single 32-pr 17cwt carronade.

Recruit and Weser were double-ended paddle gun vessels with 8 inches of teak backing behind the iron hull. They were originally ordered by the Prussian Navy and exchanged for a sailing frigate during the Crimean War when the British urgently needed shallow draft vessels. They were armed with 4 32-pr 56cwt guns and 2 12-pr 10cwt field howitzers, although in wartime they might have reverted to their earlier armament of 4 8-inch 65cwt and 2 32-pr 25cwt.

Volcano served as a steam factory ship in the China campaign repairing the temperamental high pressure machinery fitted in gun boats.

The quoted speed of 16 knots for Caradoc is an exagerration. Her half sister Banshee (see Paddle-Wheel Tenders) did make just over 16 knots on the measured mile, but Caradoc was the slower ship. Caradoc, Prince Alice, Dover, Merlin, Medina and Medusa were ex-Post Office packets used as despatch boats and ferries, and their armament would be limited to carronades or small guns.

A new class of six paddle despatch vessels were begun in 1861. The Helicon class were about 835 tons burthen, 985 tons displacement, 220′ x 28’2″ x 10’6″ loaded. Their 250 NHP engines produced between 1300 and 1800 ihp and they had trial speeds of 13 or 14 knots. Their designed armament was 2 20-pr 15cwt guns. At least one other paddle vessel was built in the 1860s, the strange iron turret stern-wheel ship Pioneer, built in Sydney for the Maori Wars. The turrets mounted 12-pr 8cwt RBL guns and some reports say she was armoured. She is reported as 295 tons burthen, 153′ oa x 20′ with a speed of about 9 knots.

Name When
Built
HorsePower Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Tugs
Comet 1822 80 3 238 Portsmouth
Kite 1835 170 3 300
Pigmy 1827 100 3 227 Portsmouth
Lucifer 1825 180 2 380 Portsmouth
Redpole 1853 160 1 360 Gibraltar
Prospero 1829 144 249 Devonport
Pike 1837 50 111 Devonport
Fearless 1831 76 165 Sheerness
Thais 1854 80 Devonport
Wallace 1854 100 128 Portsmouth
Widgeon 1837 90 164 Woolwich
Monkey 1821 130 212 Woolwich
Echo 1827 140 295 Woolwich
Confiance 1827 140 295 Devonport
African 1828 90 295 Sheerness
Hearty 1854 100 295 Malta
Bustler 1854 100 217 Woolwich
Zephyr 100 3 237 Devonport

Some of these tugs served into the 1860s and 1870s including the very early paddle steamers Comet and Pigmy. Monkey had been a very early packet steamer, older than listed by Busk, originally called Lightning, then Royal Sovereign, then Sovereign and finally Monkey when in naval service.

Name When Built Horse Power Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Screw Gun Vessels (see also Screw Sloops)
*Philomel 1860 80 5 428 8-11
*Ranger 1859 80 5 428 8-11
Intrepid 1855 350 6 851 Devonport
Victor 1855 350 6 851 11.583 Sheerness
Flying Fish 1855 350 6 868 11.58 Portsmouth
Roebuck 1856 350 6 857 East Indies
Pioneer 1856 350 6 868 11.366 Portsmouth
Nimrod 1856 350 6 859 East Indies
Vigilant 1856 200 4 680 Mediterranean
Wanderer 1855 200 4 670 10.733 Mediterranean
Foxhound 1856 200 4 681 Sheerness
Surprise 1856 200 4 670 11.149 West Africa
Sparrowhawk 1856 200 4 670 11.065 East Indies
Assurance 1856 200 4 670 11.142 Portsmouth
Alacrity 1856 200 4 670 10.87 Sheerness
Cormorant 1856 200 4 677 East Indies
Coquette 1855 200 4 670 10.853 Mediterranean
Mohawk 1856 200 4 670 9.925 East Indies
Lapwing 1856 200 4 670 11.021 Mediterranean
Ringdove 1856 200 4 670 10.824 Portsmouth
Osprey 1856 200 4 670 Mediterranean
Minx 1846 10 3 303 5.441 Woolwich
Teazer 1846 40 2 296 6.315 Woolwich

The Philomel class are listed in Conways as 570 displacement tons, 145′ x 25′ x 11-12′, 1 68-pr or 110-pr, 2 24-pr howitzers and 2 20-pr. Vigilant and her sisters were about 181′ long and 28’6″ beam, displacement around 850 tons, probably armed with 2 68-pr and 2 smaller guns when new, later with 1 110-pr, 1 68-pr and 2 20-pr. The larger Intrepids were reported as 201′ long between perpendiculars, 30’3″ beam, 14’6″ draft and about 1040 tons displacement with 2 pivots and 4 broadside guns.

Name When Built Horse Power Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Screw Mortar Ships
Forth 1833 200 12 1228 Devonport
Seahorse 1830 200 12 1212 9.298 Devonport
Eurotas 1829 200 12 1168 Sheerness
Horatio 1807 250 12 1090 8.85 Portsmouth

Originally frigate block ships for Coast Guard service. Reputedly when armed and stored for sea, and with the engines filling the hold, there was no room left for any coal. Apart from the space problem, they were quite well liked in spite of being ugly ships, so their armament was reduced to save weight and space and reduce the crew required. In service as a screw frigate Horatio carried 18 8-inch guns on the main deck and 4 10-inch guns on the upper deck.

When the Crimean War began, the British found they were short of mortar vessels. The frigate block ships and the small screw frigate Fox were proposed as screw mortar frigates. Fox became a transport instead and is listed there. Horatio, the only one to be commissioned as a mortar frigate, carried 2 68-pr 95cwt on the upper deck with 8 32-pr 42cwt guns and 2 13-inch mortars on the main deck.

Name When Built Horse Power Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Screw Floating Batteries
Thunderbolt 1856 200 16 1973 4 Chatham
Terror 1856 200 16 1971 4 Bermuda
Erebus 1856 200 16 1954 4 Portsmouth
Aetna 1856 200 14 1588 4 Chatham
Trusty 1855 150 14 1539 4 Chatham
Thunder 1855 150 14 1469 Sheerness
Glatton 1855 150 14 1535 4.5 Portsmouth
Meteor 1855 150 14 1469 5.77 Portsmouth

Armoured boxes built to attack Russian fortresses like the French batteries. The original design was French.

The first three listed were built with iron hulls, the rest wood. They were armed with 68-pr 95cwt guns. Dimensions were 172’6″ x 45’2″ x 8’8″ for the 1855 ships, 157’10” x 44′ x 6′ for Aetna and 186′ x 48’6″ x 8’10” for the three iron ships. The iron ships were more ship like and seaworthy but all were towed over any distance. The armour on these ships was of poor quality compared to later material, too hard and brittle, and was reported to be thinner than the 4 inches called for.

These ships served as guard ships, floating experimental targets to test armouring schemes and, in the case of HMS Trusty, as test ship for Captain Coles’ armoured cupolas. The cupola differed from later turrets only in having sloped sides. The one tested aboard Trusty in September 1861 had been ordered in 1859 by Scott Russell and was completed at Woolwich. It mounted a 40-pr Armstrong gun. The sides were sloped at around 45 degrees, measuring about 15 feet across at the base and around 6 feet at the roof covered with four and a half inches of iron, tongued and grooved, doubled around the gun port. The turret stood up fairly well to 5 hits from 100-pr shot with 5lb charges and 26 hits (from 34 shots fired, this in a calm against a stationary target) with 12lb charges and finally to 4 68-pr shot with 16lb charges. Two rounds broke in the gun port and would have caused heavy casualties to the crew.

A wooden model of a larger cupola, mounting 2 100-pr Armstrong guns, was tested aboard the old sloop Hazard in February, March and June 1862 and worked well. Between times, in January 1862, £ 120,000 was added to the estimates to cover work on an iron armoured cupola ship which would enter service as HMS Prince Albert.

Name When Built Horse Power Guns Tonnage Trial Speed Station
Steam Transports
Dee 1832 200 4 704 Partic. Serv.
Fox 1829 200 42 1080 Portsmouth
Simoom 1849 350 8 1980 8.897 Partic. Serv.
Megaera 1849 350 6 1391 Partic. Serv.
Vulcan 1849 350 6 1747 8.936 Portsmouth
Perserverance 1854 360 2 1967 Partic. Serv.

Dee was a wooden paddle steamer, formerly a 2nd class sloop. Fox was small and cramped screw frigate conversion which had been considered as a mortar frigate but became a transport instead.

The remaining ships were large screw steamers. Perseverance was a former Russian steamer seized while under construction. Simoom, Megaera and Vulcan had been ordered as iron screw frigates. While they were being built the Admiralty had second thoughts about iron hulls for unarmoured warships. Tests were not favourable so these ships, along with Greenock, sold in 1852, and the iron paddle frigate Birkenhead, wrecked in 1852, became transports.

Simoom displaced 2920 tons and measured 246′ x 41′ x 17’6″, Megaera was 2025 tons displacement and 207′ x 37’10” x 16′, while Vulcan had a displacement of 2474 tons and measured 220′ x 41’5″ x 17’6″. As a frigate, Simoom would have carried 12 long 32-pr guns on the main deck with 4 32-pr and 2 68-pr guns on the upper deck and would have had a speed of about 12 knots. All of the iron frigates had their engines replaced by smaller ones to increase carrying capacity and endurance. After spending some years in store, the original engines were reused, Simoom’s for Duke of Wellington, Vulcan’s for James Watt, Greenock’s for Hannibal and Megaera’s for Algiers

3 thoughts on “Busk’s Navies of the World – 1859 – Britain I

  1. Raymond 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

    I wish I could have seen all these ships in their prime. Great post!

    Like

  2. Patrick 10 February 2012 / 5:52 am

    This is one of the single most helpful resources I have found online for the researches i"m doing about 1850s British Naval power.
    THANK YOU !

    Like

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