Index of 19th Century Naval Vessels and some of their movements

(Includes links to most of the events mentioned by William James in his History of the RN : 1793-1827)

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Miscellaneous Establishments etc..

Additions in progress - movements of RN ships and Revenue cruisers from about 1840 - 1850 : have just (12/12/15) uploaded movements for 1842. Movements, additions and corrections for 1801 being uploaded 13/05/16).

Further to above whilst collecting the movements usually come across bits and pieces regarding changes in the Service and service life as they've come to hand - click here for 1842 ie items that don't perhaps require a full article or web page.

N.B. A health warning. This database was created from many sources published in the 19th Century, including navy lists, directories, newspapers, books, such as the Naval Chronicles etc. I make no claims as to its accuracy, eg there are times when sources conflict ! In addition, I have noted on occasion that some vessels would appear to have been incorrectly identified : and I occasionally see references to vessels for which I can find no trace in the usual sources and must therefore conclude that whilst the name might have been correct it was perhaps a merchant vessel incorrectly allocated..... hopefully I have weeded out the obvious ones, but take nothing for granted.....I often find that I'm having to make corrections.

For the record, this index, which was originally created for my personal use, should be used merely as a guide, and you are strongly advised to refer to the captain's, master's and ship's logs etc., one or more of which are often available at the Public Records Office, Kew, London (now the National Archives.), from whence extracts can now be ordered on-line. And very good they are too ! There is nothing like reading the source material, and these days there is no need to take a trip to Kew.

You may come across notes such as the following :

Jul 1830 Sheerness


20 Dec 1848 East Indies

This merely indicates that I have found a note, in this case in a Navy Lists for 1830, and 1848, that this is where a vessel was supposed to be when the book was printed. There are many such notes of a similar nature. Taking into account the time that information used to take to travel in those days, one should draw conclusions accordingly.

It is also perhaps worth remembering that sailing vessels relied on the wind for their propulsion. There are occasions when passages, that would only take a few days by sea today, may have taken a month or more in the early part of the 19th Century, especially where large numbers of vessels were concerned eg convoys, and you may find a convoy for the West Indies forming up at Portsmouth in say November, sailing in December, being forced into Falmouth due to bad weather, and having to remain there for another month until the wind was right : sailing for Cork to pick up more vessels whilst passing, and maybe having to wait there until more favourable winds arrived. There are occasions when troop transports, loaded with their regiments at Portsmouth, have had to wait out at Spithead for a couple of months before the wind has changed to an appropriate direction, often with many false starts in between. One wonders what living in such cramped and crowded conditions must have done to the health and morale of the troops ?

For those wishing to find out more about the ships of the Royal Navy for this period in question I can recommend:-

British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793-1817 by Rif Winfield 2005

The Sail and Steam Navy List 1815-1889 by the late David Lyon and Rif Winfield 2004

Ships of the Royal Navy by J.J. Colledge, an index of ships, providing brief details of when and where built, when and where scrapped or broken up, wrecked etc., tonnage, vital statistics, armament, etc.

And where to find the important Naval events involving many of those ships:

Naval History of Great Britain 1793 - 1827 by William James published in 6 volumes in 1837, including earlier and subsequent editions, including a modern one, the details of which escape me - but the one considered, by some, to be the best, the 1837 edition, is on-line on this web site - take links back to the main menu. Several original editions are also available in Google Books.

The Royal Navy - A History from the Earliest of Times to 1900 in 7 volumes by WL Clowes, first published 1901-3, reprinted in softback 1997, but now also available in Google Books.

See also the Australian National Maritime Museum for what I thought a reasonable resumé of suggested reading.

Some important dates :

2 Oct 1801 Preliminary Articles of Peace between his Majesty, the Batavian Republick and the French Republic were signed last night at Lord Hawkesbury's office, in Downing-street, by the Right Honourable Lord Hawkesbury, one of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, on the part of his Majesty, and by M. Otto, on the part of the French Government. To be concluded with the Peace of Amiens of 27th of March, 1802.

The preparation for and declaration of War by the United States on Great Britain in 1812.

14 Apr 1812 an act was passed, laying an embargo on all ships and vessels of the United States, during the space of 90 days.
1 Jun 1812 The president's message to congress sounded the preparative for war between the US and Great Britain.
18 Jun 1812 an act of congress was passed declaring the "actual existence of war between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the United States of America."

Peace concluded between the United States and Great Britain 1814-15.

24 Dec 1814 the treaty had been signed at Ghent.
18 Feb 1815 the treaty of Ghent ratified by the president at Washington.
25 Nov 1816 a memorial was submitted by the board of admiralty to the prince regent, proposing a re-rating of ships of the Royal navy, and that they should be rated according to the number of carriage-guns mounted, which was published and introduced in February 1817, although it would appear that certain carronades were still ignored.

13 Jun 1817 circular sterns introduced. By an order of the board of Admiralty, of 13 Jun 1817, directs, that all new ships, down to fifth-rates inclusive, are to be so constructed, and all ships of the same rates receiving extensive repairs are also to have circular sterns, provided the timbers in the old or square sterns are defective. The number of ships belonging to the British navy, which on the 1st of January, 1820, were repairing, building, or ordered to be built, with circular sterns, amounted to 67, † and the number of ships building of teak, at the same date, amounted to 19.

Letters to denote the State of the Weather

b denotes Blue sky; whether with clear or hazy atmosphere.
c ditto Cloudy; i.e., detached opening clouds.
d ditto Drizzling rain.
f ditto Fog.
g ditto Gloomy dark weather.
h ditto Hail.
l ditto Lightning.
m ditto Misty or hazy - so as to interrupt the view.
o ditto Overcast i.e., the whole sky covered with impervious cloud.
p ditto Passing showers.
q ditto Squally.
r ditto Rain i.e., continuous rain.
s ditto Snow.
t ditto Thunder.
u ditto Ugly threatening appearance in the weather.
v ditto Visibility of distant objects, whether the sky be cloudy or not.
w ditto Wet dew.
* ditto Under any letter denotes an extraordinary degree.

Figures to denote the Force of the Wind.

0 Calm.    
1 Light air just sufficient to give Steerage-way.
2 Light Breeze. with which a well-conditioned man-of-war, under all sail, and clean full, would go in smooth water, from 1 to 2 knots.
3 Gentle Breeze. 3 to 4 knots.
4 Moderate Breeze  5 to 6 knots.
5 Fresh Breeze in which the same ship could just carry closed Royals, &c.
Single-reefs and top-gallant-sails, Double-reefs, jib, &c.
Triple-reef, courses, &c.
6 Strong Breeze
7 Moderate Gale
8 Fresh Gale
9 Strong Gale.
10 Whole Gale. with which she would only bear Close-reefed main-topsail and reefed foresail.
11 Storm. with which she would be reduced to Storm-staysails.
12 Hurricane. to which she could show No canvas.

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