May 19, 2009

Historic Royal Navy Photograph Identified


Down here at Canterbury Heritage we're always pleased to be able to identify reader's old New Zealand photographs, but we'll have to admit that maritime history continues to be an equal interest. Accordingly we were delighted to see a mid-Victorian photograph, of great rarity and of potentially significant interest to international maritme historians, in the collection of a renowned Christchurch collector of early photography.

In a northerly aspect of the anchorage off Portland Harbour, Dorset, at some time between 1872 and 1874, the photograph depicts three Royal Navy warships at anchor.

In the foreground is the cadet training ship HMS Boscawen, launched as HMS Trafalgar in 1841, Stationed at Portland from 1872 until 1906, she was broken up in the following year.

The middle ship is the HMS Achilles, launched in 1863, she served as the guardship at Portland from 1868 until 1874. In her time the five-masted ironclad was the largest sailing vessel in the Royal Navy and mounted the greatest area of canvas ever spread by a warship of any nationality. Renamed HMS Hibernia, she became a base ship in 1902, subsequently known as HMS Egmont, then HMS Egremont, her last change of name came in 1919 as HMS Pembroke. A modified design of the extant HMS Warrior, her 63 year career ended with demolition in 1925.

In the distance is HMS Minotaur, commissioned in 1868 as the Flagship for the Channel Squadron at Portsmouth. In 1893 Minotaur was re-named as HMS Boscawen II and used as the cadet training ship at Portland until 1905. Subsequently renamed HMS Ganges, she was broken up 1922.

The date ascribed to the photograph is attributed as a consequence of the stationing of the Boscawen at Portland from 1872 and the removal of two of Achilles's masts in 1875.


Sarndra said...

Well done! Very satisfying too for you i bet! It's a great photo!

Sidney Wood said...

This is a fantastically clear photo. But still some uncertainty about identification. Both Boscawen and Trafalgar were launched at Woolwich. Boscawen, a 70 gun third rate in 1844, Trafalgar a 120 gun first rate in 1841. Wikipedia has links to early paintings that clearly show Trafalgar had three gundecks. Trafalgar, being larger, replaced Boscawen at Portland in 1873, also taking over the name. Boscawen was renamed Welesley. In view of your dating, I suggest the photograph shows the 1844 Boscawen still in service, shortly to be relieved by the Trafalgar.

Sidney Wood