HMS Pique (1834)
HMS Pique (1834)

Royal NavyVessels

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NamePique (1834)Explanation
TypeFifth rate   
Launched21 July 1834
Builders measure1633 tons
Ships book
Note1872 r.s.
1882 lent as hospital hulk
Snippets concerning this vessels career
17 November 1834
- 5 November 1835
Commanded by Captain Hon. Henry John Rous, trials off Spain, then North America
3 August 1837
- August 1841
Commanded by Captain Edward Boxer, North America, West Indies and (in 1840) the Mediterranean (including operations on the coast of Syria)
14 November 1841
- 1 August 1842
Commanded by Captain Henry Forbes, West Indies
1 August 1842
- 7 July 1846
Commanded (until paying off at Portsmouth) by Captain Montagu Stopford, North America and West Indies
26 December 1853Commanded by Captain Frederick William Erskine Nicolson, Pacific (including 1854 Anglo-French squadron during the Russian War and 2nd Anglo-Chinese War)
Extracts from the Times newspaper
Ma 28 July 1834 On Monday His Majesty's frigate Pique, of 36 guns, was launched at Plymouth Dockyard, She was built upon the plan of the present surveyor of the navy, Captain W. Symonds, who has now, we believe, had the construction of ten ships of war upon his fundamental principles, as a naval architect — that great breadth imparts to a vessel greater stability, or a capability of sustaining an inclined force at the least angle of inclination. This position must be undoubtedly true to a certain extent; but it is contended that its development has been carried to a degree of extravagance from which no desirable advantage whatever has been experienced, while the expense has been enormous; that previous scientific knowledge embraced, to an equal extent, the desirable qualities of swift sailing, upon all points, with capacity for stowage, good quarters for the men, without such excess of breadth as has been displayed in the Vernon and other ships. whose expense of "wear and tear," as well as original construction, is excessive. Captain John Hayes, C.B., has been permitted by the Admiralty to construct a ship of the same class as the Pique, upon his principle, to be called the Inconstant, in which, we under- stand, he contends that, having a breadth of four feet eight Inches less than the Pique, she will engross all the stability possessed by her competitor. If we are to take as our guide in the matter the opinions of practical seamen ,as the result of all competitions in ship-building, we should say, that we have not yet heard of any ship having been built which possesses all the qualities desirable in a perfect man of war, but each and every one of them possesses some superior quality at the expense of another — that the science of ship-building is not yet come to its perfect state of maturity. The dimensions of the Pique are — length of lower deck 160 feet, breadth extreme 44 feet, depth of hold 13 feet 9 inches, tonnage 1,400 tons. She has been constructed under the able directions of Thomas Roberts, Esq., the veteran ship-builder of Plymouth dockyard, who has now completed the 50th man-of-war launched since his advancement to his present honourable rank, to which professional ability alone raised him. The Pique was christened by Miss Ross, the daughter of Captain Superintendant Charles Ross, C.B., with a savoire faire that included about a dozen gentle, men in the wine-sprinkling ordinance.
Ma 20 April 1835The Firebrand steamer is ordered to bring round from London, Lord Amherst’sExternal link baggage. The Pique frigate, Hon. Captain Rous, which it to convey his Lordship to Quebec, will be ready for sea on Thursday. It is expected the Pique will go to New York, and remain to bring his Lordship to England again, as his mission will not occupy more than three months.
Ma 4 May 1835The Pique, 36, Hon. Captain Rous, is ready for sea at Spithead, but no day is fixed for Lord Amherst's embarcation as Commissioner to Canada.
Ma 6 July 1835The Pique, Hon. Captain Rous, will sail on the 9th instant with the newly appointed Commissioners to Canada.
Ma 20 July 1835The Pique, 36, Hon. Captain Rous, will sail on Tuesday, with the Commissioners, to Canada. Sir G. Gipps, and Mr. Elliot, the Secretary, are already arrived at the George Inn. Lord Gosford and Sir C. Grey will be here on Monday.
Ma 19 October 1835

(From the Hampshire Telegraph.)

The Pique frigate, Hon. Captain Rous, arrived on Tuesday, from Quebec, which city she left on the 17th September. Five days after the Pique left Quebec she reached the entrance of the Straits of Belle Isle, having taken that passage from the force of the southerly winds; and it is not a little singular, that she entered the St. Lawrence through that unusual passage on her way out with Lord Gosford, having been driven to the northward from the same cause. On the evening of the 22d the wind was on her quarter, and she was making rapid progress; but the wind freshening about 9 o'clock, the studding-sails were taken in, and the courses hauled up. At half-past 10 o'clock the fore-topsail was on the cap, and the men were lying out to reef the sail, when Captain Rous (who was on the lee gangway) saw breakers close to the ship and ahead. The helm was instantly put down, and the ship readily answered it; but in doing so she struck with great violence on the rocks, and, excepting being lifted by the sea as the waves came in, she was immovable. She was going about seven knots at the time, and the weather was thick and foggy, and though the ship was not 50 yards from the rocky beach, the land was not discernible till day-break. It was about half ebb when she struck, but as the tides do not rise or fall much, she continued to lift and strike, with the exception of perhaps an hour, until she was hove off on the following morning, at 9. Here the beauty of Captain Symonds's system was eminent, for had she been a common flat-floored ship she would have bilged; but as she is constructed, all the mischief was spent on her false keel and kelson. On her first striking, the boats were got out, and the master sounded round her, and two or three anchors were got out astern; 20 guns were thrown overboard, as was the most considerable part of her shot, and about 100 tons of fresh water were started and pumped up. The crew was very active, but such was the order observed, that they piped to breakfast as usual the next morning, and they had not been down more than a quarter of an hour when Captain Rous found the ship move a little; the cables astern had been hauled taught, the men were turned up, the capstans quickly manned, and she was hove off with apparent ease, and subsequently was got into Ance au Loup, or Wolf's Cove, and by the next morning was put to rights, and went to sea. On the following Sunday, the wind blowing fresh, a violent sea struck the rudder, some of the pintles and gudgeons of which must have been broken while thumping on the rocks, and tore it from the stem-post. In a short time, however, a temporary one on Captain Symonds's plan was got ready, but it was found to strike so violently against the stempost and counter, that it was cut away, and the carpenter soon made a second, on Pakenham's plan, which was fixed, and the ship was steered by it for some days, when that was obliged to be cut away, from the ragged state of the bottom, the copper having chafed, and cut the guys, which were led forwards. The ship was now steered without a rudder for 1,400 miles, and when she rolled much, made more than three feet water an hour; and from the time of her getting off the rocks until her arrival in this harbour, never less than 20 inches. On Sunday evening last, a north-north west wind had driven her over to the coast of France, but as an excellent reckoning had been kept of her longitude, they made the Caskets lights (within a mile of where they were expected to be seen), 10 miles distant; at 9 o'clock that night she came to an anchor in 40 fathoms, with a good range of cable out; and on Monday morning sent a vessel, which offered her assistance, into Guernsey, for any steamer that could be found. Soon after noon, however, the wind being southerly, she weighed, and providentially reached St. Helen's anchorage early on Tuesday morning, steered only by a cable astern, with a gun-carriage attached to the end of it. Her signals for assistance were quickly answered from the dockyard, and Mr. E.M. Hepburn, with three dock lighters, and the Admiral's tender, went immediately to her help. An attempt was made to tow her into harbour that morning, but the halsers breaking, she brought up again before she reached Spithead, and on Wednesday she was towed into harbour by the Brunswick, Plymouth steamer, there being no Government steamer here. The Pique saw only four French brigs during her distress; two of them passed her unheeded — the third, having hove too near her at a time when the Pique leaked freely, and without a rudder, it was determined to put Lord and Lady Aylmer, and the sick, with some soldiers' wives, on board of her, she bring bound to Bordeaux; but on the carpenter going on board to examine her, and finding her in as leaky and helpless a state as the Pique, they separated. The fourth vessel promptly rendered assistance and towed round the Pique’s head, so as to put her before the wind; she had then been lying some hours in the trough of the sea, and attempts had in vain been made to get her in the position desired; but no sooner had the brig put her in that position, than the Pique shot ahead, and thereby frustrated any further assistance from the brig, which could not keep way with her. To be ready for the worst, the boats were made as seaworthy as possible; a quantity of pork was cooked and coopered up in small casks, as were also bread, water, and spirits; and to ease the labouring of the ship, four additional guns were thrown overboard in the Atlantic. No words can describe the admirable conduct of the crew during all this difficulty and danger; they worked hard and willingly; they saw that promptitude only could preserve the ship and their lives, and they had confidence in their officers. The self-command of Captain Rous throughout the whole was pre-eminent, and had such a moral influence over the subordinates, that his orders were at once understood and obeyed; indeed, the safety of the ship mainly depended upon the exercise of great coolness and decision. She will be taken into dock on Monday, when the full extent of the injury she has sustained will be learned. It will scarcely be believed that after the millions spent on our dockyard, this frigate could not be taken into dock yesterday from want of depth of water.
Ma 26 October 1835The Pique was taken into dock on Monday, and the crowds of people who have since visited the yard to inspect her bottom have been astonishing. She has lost her false keel entirely, and, upon an average, 8 inches of her keel are gone, fore and aft. The most considerable damage, however, is forward, her stem and fore-foot being completely gone, leaving the apron and stemson exposed; and the planking forward, where it is rabbeted into the solid stem, is left wholly unsupported; close to the keel on the larboard side, just abaft the foremast, is a terrific place, of about 13 feet in circumference, where she must have ground against a rock, the centre of which has rubbed through the planking, and within two inches of the inner side of the floor timbers. About 15 feet further aft is another place nearly the same size, but not so deep, also close to the keel. A third place has the most awful appearance; it is under the bread-room, and in the fore part of the dead wood. The ship must have had her keel upon a rock, and have hung, as it were, upon a pivot, for it is nearly circular, and of a conelike shape, about 16 feet in circumference, and hollowed out to the height of about three feet from the outer surface of the false keel. There was no damage on the starboard side, except a little ruffling of the copper. The decks do not appear to have been strained, and we cannot understand that her iron knees have at all loosened. She will take about two months to repair; in the meantime she will be paid off, orders having been received to that effect, and she will most probably be then again commissioned. We should not omit to mention, that two of Captain Lihou's patent rudder pintles were left in the gudgeons when the rudder was carried away, a small twist in each having prevented them from dropping out, which they ought to have done.
Tu 27 October 1835


The result of the following court-martial has already appeared in our columns, but as considerable interest has been excited relative to the voyage of the Pique, we have borrowed from the Hampshire Telegraph a more detailed report of the proceedings:—
A court-martial was held on Tuesday on board the Victory (hulk to the Britannia), in Portsmouth harbour, composed of Rear-Admiral Sir Frederick Maitland, K.C.B., President; and Captains Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence, Vidal, Williams, Eden, Beechey, and Hastings, with James Hoskins, Esq., Judge-Advocate, to try Captain the Hon. H.J. Rous, and Mr. Hemsley, master of His Majesty's ship Pique for having, on the 22d of September, run that ship on Point Forteau, on the coast of Labrador, on her passage to England from Quebec. The proceedings commenced by the Judge-Advocate reading the following letter, addressed by Captain Rous to the Secretary to the Admiralty:—
"His Majesty’s Ship Pique, Oct. 13.
"Sir,— I beg you will acquaint my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that I left Quebec on the 17th of September, with Lord and Lady Aylmer and suite on board. On the 21st, off Anticosti, wind southerly, I bore up for the Belleisle Passage, and being close in with St. John's Head, Newfoundland, at 6.30. p.m., on the 22d, I stood over to the Labrador side, to avoid the low shore and islands on the opposite coast. At 10 p.m., the weather petting foggy, wind moderate at west, shortened sail, and steered a channel course E. by N. At 10.20., whilst the officer of the watch was in the act of reefing topsails, the master and myself looking out, breakers were reported under the bows; put the helm hard a-port the ship immediately struck, and hung; clewed up everything and the ship swung with her head to the northward; made sail again, and hove all aback: she tailed off, but the tide catching her, wedged her in between two rocks; furled sails and sent the master to sound; down royal and top-gallant yards and masts, the ship striking heavily.
"The master reported hour-and-a-half and five fathoms round the ship, excepting a rock with three fathoms under the larboard main chains and 17 feet abreast the starboard chesstree, deep water outside; the weather being thick and rainy, we could only discover a low rocky ledge, extending about 50 fathoms E.1/2.S. parallel to the ship, distant about 60 yards; out all boats, laid out the stream E.S.E. and hove a heavy strain. The ebb tide made about 11 o'clock; employed starting water, heaving shot and guns overboard, and pumping ship. At 2 o'clock a.m., wind freshened from W.S.W., boats were obliged to lay under her larboard fore chains for shelter; frigate striking very heavily, and the masts threatening to fall at every blow.
"On the flood tide again making, laid out a kedge S.E. by S., and warped out the launch, carrying a bower anchor, with the cutters and jolly-boat buoying up a 100-fathom cable, hove a taught strain. 7.30, wind shifted to W.N.W., a point off the land; set the foresail, bracing forward the head-yards. 8, piped to breakfast; 8.15, the ship forged ahead a few feet (set the fore topsail), and heaving alternately heavy strains, and the ship's company running forward on the bowsprit. At 9.13. she wormed herself out from her bed of rocks, and ran into Ance or Loup-bay. and anchored, frigate making 13 inches of water per hour. This misfortune was owing to the flood-tide setting us to the N.W., as we stood over to the N.E. from the coast of Newfoundland. The following morning we were under all sail for England. The leak increased gradually until the 26th of September — viz., to 23 inches per hour. On the 27th lost our rudder. in lat. 50. 10, long. 40. 6. September 28 shipped a temporary rudder, which was carried away by a heavy sea on the 29th. September 30, not being able to wear ship in a heavy gale from the northward, we were obliged to heave to, with our head to the W.; ship labouring very much, and the foremast working in the step, got topgallant mast on deck, cut away best bower anchor, and cleared out everything from the fore part of the ship. On the 1st of October fell in with the French brig Suftren, of St. Maloes, who offered us every assistance in her power. Sent by her the particulars of our situation, lat. 48. 48., long. 30. 30. October 4, the carpenter successfully stopped up a leak in her forefoot, and mended one of the chain pumps which had worn through. On the 6th rigged a Pakenham rudder, being the first fine day we had experienced. A heavy sea carried away this rudder on the 10th, and we again broached to in a heavy N.W. gale, with our head to the S.W.; on the 11th it moderated, wore round. At 8 p.m., on the 12th, were obliged to anchor in 41 fathoms to the westward of the Caskets, not being able to weather them with a northerly wind, and at 2 p.m.. yesterday got under weigh, and anchored at St. Helen's at 4 o'clock a.m., and the ship having run l,500 miles without any rudder, and the ship requiring to be pumped every hour. 1 have great pleasure in recommending to their Lordships' notice the gallant and steady conduct of every officer, seaman, and marine, under all these trying circumstances. It is not in my power to do justice to their merits, and I am happy that no loss of life or serious injury has befallen any one.
"I have, &c.,
"H.J. Rous. Captain.
"To Charles Wood, Esq., &c." Evidence being then gone into, whereby the whole of the facts stated in Captain Rous's letter were confirmed, the following testimony was given —
Mr. Thomas Harby examined. — I am the master of a merchant vessel, and have passed up and down the river Lawrence upwards of 50 times. If I was on the eastern point of Anticosti, the wind hanging to the southward, I should most certainly consider it a safe course to proceed through the Straits of Belleisle, instead of going the southern passage. If I was off the Bay of St. John's, and had a good view of the land, and perfectly knew my position, I should certainly have no doubt of the propriety of running through the straits in the night. There is a very strong current running in the Straits of Belleisle from the eastward in mid-channel, which is very much affected by the winds, which, by taking a ship on cither bow, would be very likely to throw her out of her course. I have found it so. I have observed that the compasses are affected in the straits, and in every part of the Gulf and River St. Lawrence. 1 do not believe the latitudes laid down in the charts to be correct; and Captain Bayfield is of the same opinion; so much so, that last year, when he came down to the Straits of Belleisle, he was unable to proceed on the survey on finding the headlands laid down so inaccurately.
The Right Hon. Lord Aylmer examined. — I beg to state to the Court that, in the course of a long professional life, l have often been on board of His Majesty's ships, and have witnessed the conduct of officers and seamen under most varieties of the service; the result has been to inspire me with the highest admiration of His Majesty's naval service; but until the late events on board His Majesty s ship Pique l had no conception of what British naval officers and seamen were capable of doing. The intrepidity, coolness, decision, and if I may be permitted, not belonging to the profession, to say so, the seamanlike qualities displayed by Captain Rous far surpassed anything of which I had previously formed an idea. Every difficulty appeared to me to find a ready remedy in his mind, and to judge by what I saw I should have imagined that the perilous situation of His Majesty ship Pique must have been a matter of daily occurrence, from the emergency as it occurred. I beg leave to add that he appeared to me to be most ably and efficiently seconded by his officers and ship's company; his orders were readily and punctually obeyed, and in no instance did it appear to me that the discipline of the ship was in any way affected by the perilous circumstances in which she was placed.
The evidence for the prosecution having here ended. Captain Rous made the following defence: —
"Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Court, — I appear before you to answer for the cause and circumstance of His Majesty's ship under my command grounding on the coast of Labrador, on the night of the 22d of September. At 10 o'clock that evening it appeared to Lieutenant Estcourt, Lieutenant Richardson, Mr. Hemsley, and myself, we could command a distance of two miles with our night-glasses; every precaution was taken, the mainsail was hauled up. both anchors clear for running, and the watch in the act of reefing the topsails preparatory to heaving to, the ship steering a channel course E. by N. At 10. 20., when, from the recent departure from St. John's Head, our distance was estimated five miles, and we considered the ship in perfect safety, breakers were seen a-head, and we struck the rocks. Twenty yards further to the southward the ship would have been clear of danger. I can only account tor this misfortune by the local attraction of the compass, which is always experienced in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the current setting us to the N.W. With reference to the report I had the honour to transmit to the Secretary of the Admiralty, I hope the Court is of opinion that every step in a seaman-like point of view was taken for the preservation of His Majesty's ship, and that no blame can be attached to Mr. Hemsley, who acted under my responsibility. I am happy to say such a mutual confidence existed, that Lord and Lady Aylmer, and the rest of the passengers, although offered a passage to St. John’s or Halifax, preferred the dangers of a home ward voyage with their old companions in misfortune. It is my duty to add, that during the night of the 22d, when the destruction of His Majesty's ship appeared inevitable, nothing could exceed the activity, coolness, and devotion of every officer, seaman, and marine, by whose exertion the Pique was restored to His Majesty's service — that the same high spirit carried them cheerfully through the fatigues and difficulties of bringing a leaky ship across the Atlantic, with out a forefoot, without a keel, without a rudder, working every hour for three weeks at the pumps, and steering by the sails; and if it had pleased the Almighty that the Pique should have stranded on the rocks, or sunk silently in the deep, the survivors would have proved to our King and country that she was not lost until it was out of the power of man to save her.”
Mr. Hemsley called on Commander Dilke, of the Wanderer, to speak to his character. Commander Dilke said he considered him a zealous, attentive, and efficient officer. Mr. Hemsley having handed in written testimonials to the same effect, the court was cleared, and shortly afterwards re opened. when the following sentence was read:—
"The Court is of opinion that from some cause, which has not been accounted for in the evidence, His Majesty's ship Pique was four miles to the northward of the situation that the course and distance run between 25 minutes after 6 o'clock, when the ship's position was carefully determined, and 20 minutes after 10 o'clock, would have placed her in, by which means she ran upon Point Forteau, when those on board had every reason to suppose that the ship was four miles distant from the land. The Court is further of opinion that no blame is attached either to the said Captain, the Hon. H.J. Rous, or to the said Mr. William Hemsley, for their conduct on that occasion, inasmuch as they had a personal knowledge of the Straits 0f Belleisle, having beat through them on the passage to Quebec, and ascertained the coast of Labrador to be safer to approach than the opposite shore. The Court does therefore fully acquit both the said Captain, the Hon. H.J. Rous, and Mr William Hemsley, and they, the said Captain, the Hon. H.J. Rous, and Mr. William Hemsley, are hereby fully acquitted accordingly."
We 22 February 1854


The narrow escape of one of the finest frigates in Her Majesty's navy, while quietly moored in the safe harbour of Hamoaze, has created a great sensation among the naval and dockyard authorities in this port. It has vividly recalled to memory the fatal loss of the Royal GeorgeExternal link, 108, which sunk at Spithead while undergoing the operation of what is technically termed the "Parliament heel;" this occurrence took place on the 29 th of August, 1782, when Admiral Kempenfeldt and near 1,000 men unhappily perished. The Pique, 40, Captain Sir F. Nicolson, is almost ready for sea, and is now lying off the ballast pond at the foot of St. John's Lake, near Torpoint, on the western shore of Hamoaze. Her crew is however what is termed "hulked" on board the Argo, a dismantled ship in ordinary, lying half-a-mile distant, south-south-east, close to the Devonport Dockyard on the eastern shore. All the frigate's guns are on board, and every arrangement would have been completed early this week for the transfer of the crew, which is only about 50 short of the complement. In the meantime she is chiefly guarded by marines. The discovery of her sinking condition appears to have been made simultaneously by three different persons about 2 o'clock on Sunday afternoon. The warrant officers of one of the ships in ordinary lying near observed that her main deck scuppers and the flukes of her anchors (suspended from the bow) were nearer the water's edge than on the previous day. The position of the anchors was seen by the sergeant of marines on duty, and the wife of one of the marines heard strange noises in the hold, caused by its contents being floated about against each other. On opening the lower hatches the dangerous condition of the ship was apparent, and a distress signal was immediately hoisted at the peak. Captain Nicolson, First-Lieutenant Bland, and the crew of the Pique, with the crew of the St. George and other ships in commission, hastened on board. They found that the ship had sunk three streaks, that the water was up to her platform beams, from 10 to 14 feet deep, and was by computation about 340 tons. It suddenly occurred to the carpenter that the cock of the wash-deck pipe, or fire-pipe, had not been turned after washing decks on Saturday, and he quickly jumped below and turned it. After six hours' pumping, using the wash-deck and all other engines, the ship was happily relieved. Her stock of bread is spoilt and the flour injured. The slops, consisting of blankets, beds, cloth, duck, thread, &c., are saturated, and are to be sent to the Royal William Victualling-yard; the coal is to be discharged. Only one of the fresh-water tanks is flooded. The accident will cause the ship's detention for two or three weeks. The wash-deck cock is cased over with "rabbetted" board, in the orlop deck, above the shelf-piece which takes the orlop deck beams. When not in use it is protected with a padlock, the key of which is in the custody of the ship's carpenter, and is ordinarily brought to him by the ship's caulker. Between them this act of gross negligence was committed. A similar accident could not occur on board a ship in full commission, it being the duty of a lieutenant, accompanied by a sergeant of marines, the master-at-arms the ship's corporal, and others, to go the round every night at 8 or at 9 o’clock, when the lights are extinguished, and every morning when divisions are beat.

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