HMS Trincomalee, a 46-gun, fifth rate Leda-class frigate, lies berthed at Hartlepool’s Historic Quay where she has been a major tourist attraction for the past 27 years. Trincomalee holds the distinction of being the oldest British warship still afloat as HMS Victory, although 52 years her senior, is in dry dock.
1812 to 1847
After being ordered on 30 October 1812, Trincomalee was built in Bombay, India by the Wadia family of shipwrights in teak, due to oak shortages in Britain as a result of shipbuilding drives for the Napoleonic Wars. The ship was named Trincomalee after the 1782 Battle of Trincomalee off the Ceylon (Sri Lanka) port of that name.
Trincomalee was launched on 12 October 1817 and then sailed to Portsmouth Dockyard where she arrived on 30 April 1819. After being fitted out, Trincomalee was placed in reserve until 1845, when she was re-armed with fewer guns giving greater firepower, had her stern reshaped and was reclassified as a sixth-rate spar-decked corvette.
1847 to 1857
Trincomalee departed from Portsmouth in 1847 and remained in service for ten years, serving on the North American and West Indies station. During her time, she was to help quell riots in Haiti and stop a threatened invasion of Cuba, and serve on anti-slavery patrol. In 1849, she was despatched to Newfoundland and Labrador before being recalled to Britain in 1850. In 1852 she sailed to join the Pacific Squadron on the west coast of America.
Trincomalee finished her Royal Navy service as a training ship, but was placed in reserve again in 1895 and sold for scrap two years later in May 1897. She was then purchased by entrepreneur George Wheatley Cobb, restored, and renamed Foudroyant in honour of HMS Foudroyant, his earlier ship that had been wrecked in 1897. She was used in conjunction with HMS Implacable as an accommodation ship, a training ship, and a holiday ship based in Falmouth then Portsmouth. She remained in service until 1986, after which she was again restored and in 1992, renamed back to Trincomalee.
HMS Trincomalee – the later years
Since 2014, Trincomalee has been part of the heritage fleet of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, alongside HMS Victory, HMS Alliance and HMS Caroline. Trincomalee is included within the Core Collection of the National Register of Historic Vessels of the United Kingdom and is owned and maintained by the HMS Trincomalee Trust, a registered charity.