HMS Ajax (1809)
HMS Ajax (1809)

Royal NavyVessels

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NameAjax (1809)Explanation
TypeThird rate TypeBlockship
Launched (Sail)2 May 1809 Converted to screw28 September 1848
HullWooden Length176 feet
PropulsionSail Men600
Builders measure1761 tons Builders measure (as screw)1761 tons
Displacement  Displacement (as screw)2828 tons
Guns74 Guns (as screw)60
Fate1864 Last in commission1864
ClassArmada Class (as screw)Blenheim
Ships bookADM 135/9   
Snippets concerning career prior to conversion
2 May 1809Launched as 3rd rate sailing ship at Perry & Co., Blackwall.
January 1840Out of commission at Portsmouth
Career as unarmoured wooden screw vessel
28 September 1848Completed as screw at Thomas & John White, Cowes
29 April 1850
- 9 September 1853
Commanded (from commissioning at Portsmouth until paying off at Plymouth) by Captain Michael Quin, flagship of Rear-Admiral John Brett Purvis, Queenstown (and June 1853 to Portsmouth)
10 September 1853
- 26 May 1856
Commanded by Captain Frederick Warden, Portsmouth, then the Baltic during the Russian War
25 August 1856
- 24 January 1858
Commanded by Captain Robert Spencer Robinson, Superintendent of the steam reserve, guard ship of Ordinary, Devonport
1 February 1858
- 9 February 1861
Commanded by Captain John NcNeill Boyd, Coast Guard, Kingstown (until Boyd was drowned)
18 February 1861
- 12 March 1862
Commanded by Captain Edmund Heathcote, Coast Guard, Kingstown
12 March 1862
- 21 March 1864
Commanded by Captain Michael De Courcy, Coast Guard, Kingstown (replaced by Royal George)
1864Broken up.
Extracts from the Times newspaper
(various)this gets replaced
Sa 25 October 1845

24 October 1845

The Ajax, 72, was brought down from among the ordinary yesterday alongside the jetty. She will be cut down, after which she will be sent to Mr. White, at Cowes, for the purpose of being repaired and completed for a block ship.
Th 30 October 1845

28 October 1845

The Edinburgh, 72, will be brought down from among the ordinary ships in a day or two, to be converted into a block ship for Portsmouth in the same manner as the Ajax.
Th 30 October 1845

28 October 1845

The Ajax is alongside the jetty at Portsmouth. Workmen are engaged in removing the housing over her, and preparing her for cutting down to a blockship for that port.
Th 30 October 1845

29 October 1845

The Ajax, 72, intended for a block ship, was docked yesterday to have her copper stripped off and to be cut down.
Ma 3 November 1845

2 November 1845

The Ajax, 72, was undocked yesterday at Portsmouth, having had her copper stripped off, ballast removed, and some of her bulkheads taken out. She will be towed to Cowes in a day or two for conversion to a blockship, by Mr. White.
Th 6 November 1845

5 November 1845

The Ajax, 72, having been cut down and stripped, was taken out of dock into the harbour at Portsmouth yesterday. She will be towed in a day or two down to Cowes, where she will be fitted, for a block ship for this port under the directions of Mr. White, the eminent ship and yacht builder.
Ma 17 November 1845

16 November 1845

The Ajax, 72, will be towed down to Cowes to-morrow from Portsmouth, by the Driver steam-sloop, Master Commander Driver, to be converted by Mr. White into a steam guard-ship for that port. Mr. John Fincham, foreman of shipwrights at Devonport Dockyard, has been ordered to Cowes to superintend her conversion, and Mr. May, inspector of shipwrights, who superintended the fitting of the Avenger steam-frigate in the river, is appointed acting-forman of Devonport Yard during Mr. Fincham's absence.
Tu 18 November 1845

17 November 1845

The Ajax, 72, was towed to Cowes this morning by the Echo steam-tug, to be converted into a block-ship, as a steam guard-ship for Portsmouth.
We 7 January 1846

6 January 1846

The Ajax, 72, under the process of fitting for a block ship at the establishment of Messrs. Thomas and John White, at Cowes, has, upon examination, turned out so sound in her timbers, that we are informed a report has been forwarded of her state to the Lords of the Admiralty: it is consequently considered probable that, instead of being converted to a block ship, she will he razeéed to a heavy 50-gun frigate, like the Grampus. This ship was built in 1809, at Blackwall, upon draughts furnished by the then joint surveyors of the Navy (Sir Henry Peake, Sir William Rule, and Captain Tucker), by contract, as were a number of others denominated the "Forty Thieves." Her length is 176 feet, breadth 47 feet 9½ inches, and her tonnage 1,791. This ship has frequently been confounded with the Ajax burnt in the Dardanelles about 1805, a ship which had served under Nelson at the battle of the Nile, and many other splendid engagements, to commemorate the name of which vessel the present Ajax was built. On being paid off towards the close of the war this ship underwent a thorough refit, indeed almost a re-construction: her decks were taken up and diagonal ones substituted; her square stern was taken off and a round one took its place, and other alterations throughout, which made her almost a new ship; but it does not appear she has been since employed. The "bitts," "stanchions," &c., are in their rough state, without "sheaves," &c. The work of cutting down for a block ship is partially suspended, awaiting the decision of the Board.
We 23 September 1846

22 September 1846

The Ajax, a 74 reduced to a 56, and converted into a steam guard, or "block" ship, was undocked this day at Cowes, where her metamorphosis has been werked under the superintendence of Mr. Fincham, jun. This ship, one of the class denominated "the 40 thieves," was built in 1809, from designs of the then surveyors of the navy, by Messrs. Wigram and Green, of Blackwall, admeasured 1,761 tons, and was commanded by the late Admiral (then captain) Sir Robert Waller Otway, off Toulon, in Sir H. Blackwood's partial engagement with the French squadron, and subsequently in covering the siege of San Sebastian in 1813. When formerly loaded, we are told she weighed 3,028 tons, but it is now expected that her weight, caused by her conversion to a steam guard ship, will be increased. The reduction of stowage room, by the occupation of much of that space by her machinery, will, of course, be considerable, although not so much so as to preclude her carrying more than six weeks' provision for 400 men, as has been stated.
If mounted and manned as above reported, she will prove a formidable ship, and yet do a little "honest" work. The Echo tag, with the Assistant-Master-Attendant and Foreman of Shipwrights afloat of this Dockyard, went to Cowes this morning to tow the Ajax to this harbour, where she will remain until her services are required.
Fr 25 September 1846

23 September 1846

The Ajax steam guard ship was towed up to Portsmouth to-day from Cowes by the Echo steam tug, in charge of Mr. Flynn, master of the Victory.
Sa 26 September 1846

25 September 1846

The Ajax, 56, steam guard-ship, was docked yesterday to complete for service.
Sa 8 December 1849

Portsmouth, Dec. 6.

In Port and Fitting

In the Harbour. - The Victory and Illustrious flag-ships, the Excellent gunnery ship; the Blenheim steam-guard-ship; the Eurydice, stripping to pay off; the Contest, fitting out; the Rolla apprentices' brig, laying up for the winter; the Fairy and Elfin, and Portsmouth yachts; the Flamer packet from Holyhead, and the Echo tug.
In Dock. - The Britannia, 120; the Dauntless, 24; the Fantome, 16; the Lily, 16; the Fox, 42; the Devastation, and the Birkenhead steam frigates.
In the Basin. - The Princess Charlotte, 104; the Actaeon, 26; and the Sprightly and the Bee steam-vessels.
In the Steam Basin, - The Ajax, 60; the Penelope, 22; the Sidon, 26; the Victoria and Albert royal yacht; the Urgent , the Pike, the Asp, and the Blazer.
Building. - The Royal Frederick, 120 [subsequently cancelled and later completed as Frederick William]; the Prince of Wales, 120; the Princess Royal, 90; the Argus, and the Furious steam sloops.
Ma 6 March 1854


The victualling of the ships at Spithead for six months foreign service was completed yesterday. There are now at this rendezvous to-day the following ships, the complements of which we give, as nearly as we can arrive at them without consulting the ships' books:—
Princess Royal, Captain Lord Clarence Paget, flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Napier, K.C.B., &c.913,129880400
Prince Regent, Captain Hutton, flag of Rear-Admiral Corry.902,513821
Edinburgh, Captain Hewlett, flag of Rear-Admiral Chads. C.B.561,772660450
Royal George, Captain Codrington, C.B.1212,6161,100400
St. Jean d'Acre, Captain the Hon. Henry Keppel.1013,600900650
Boscawen, Captain Glanville.702,212620
Hogue, Captain W. Ramsay.601.750660450
Imperieuse, Captain Watson, C.B.512,347530360
Arrogant, Captain Yelverton.471,872450360
Amphion. Captain A.C. Key.341.474320300
Tribune, Captain the Hon. S.T. Carnegie.301,570200300
Dauntless, Captain Ryder.331,490300580
Leopard, Captain Giffard.181,412280550
Valorous, Captain C.H.M. Buckle.161,255220400
Dragon, Captain Willcox.61,270200500
Bulldog, Captain W.C. Hall.61,123160500
Frolic, Commander Nolloth.16511120
They have each been ordered (this day) to draw charts for the Baltic.
Every day will add to this force, which will eventually include the three-deckers, Duke of Wellington, 131; St. George, 120; Waterloo, 120; Neptune, 120; Caesar, 91; Nile, 91; James Watt, 91; Algiers, 91; Monarch, 84; Ganges, 84; Cressy, 81; Majestic, 81; Blenheim, 60; Ajax, 60; Euryalus, 51 ; Fox, 42; Pique, 40; and numerous others. Sir Charles Napier will, we believe, command personally 20 sail of the line, and 10 sail of French. There will be about 50 sail of smaller ships, which will be apportioned to the English and French Rear-Admirals and Commodore Martin, and it is reported a squadron of sailing-sloops or brigs is to be commissioned to cruise off the Scotch coast to prevent privateering. Rear-Admiral Corry will shift his flag to-morrow from the Prince Regent, 90, to the Neptune, 120, an order having been received yesterday, appointing Captain Hutton to the Neptune, and Captain Smith, C.B., from the Neptune, to the Prince Regent. Captain Hutton takes with him Commander Bunce, Lieutenant Brandreth, and 50 of the Prince Regent's crew. When the change of officers and ships was made known on board the Prince Regent yesterday, the whole ship's company, who really love their admiral and captain, and are devotedly attached to their matchless ship, wanted to follow the admiral, as one man, into the Neptune, and when told that only 50 would be allowed to be draughted by the Admiralty, their countenances betokened the sincerest dejection. Subsequently all the petty officers went aft on the quarter deck and respectfully requested that the Admiralty might be memorialised for their removal with their admiral and captain. The Neptune will be some time getting ready. She has lower yards and topmasts up and topgallant masts pointed, but has only 150 men on her books besides her draught of Royal Marines. We expect, therefore, that Rear-Admiral Chads will be the first despatched with a "flying squadron" of frigates towards the Baltic, that Sir Charles Napier will follow, and that Rear-Admiral Corry will bring up the rear. Captain Hay, of the Victory, has declined the flag-captaincy to Sir Charles Napier. The Prince Regent, the St. Jean d’Acre, the Amphion and the Odin were paid wages down to the 31st of January yesterday. The Imperieuse, Tribune, and Valorous will be paid to-morrow, leaving only the Arrogant (whose pay books have not yet been landed) of Admiral Corry's division to be paid. The Blenheim, 60, Captain the Hon, F.J. Pelham, has readjusted her compasses and will be ready to join the fleet to morrow. The Caesar, 91, Captain Robb, is rattling down her rigging. The Odin, 16, Captain F. Scott, is repairing boilers in the steam-basin. The fleet are daily exercised in .gunnery, reefing, furling, &c. Mr. Parratt, of the Treasury, brought down last night from London a small tubular collapsing boat, upon the principle of his admirable liferaft, which he has this day taken off to the St. Jean d'Acre, for the Hon. H. Keppell. The 23d, 42d, and 79th Regiments are preparing for active service. The two latter corps will be augmented by volunteers from the 72d and 79th depots, 31 volunteers from the 11th Foot, 32 from the 65th, and 62 from the 35th embarked from this dockyard at 6 o'clock this morning, in the Foyle, British and Irish Steam-pocket Company's vessel, to join the 1st battalion of the Royals, at Plymouth. The Foyle embarks the 93d depôt at Plymouth, to-morrow, for the Isle of Wight. The depôt of the 2d battalion of the Rifle Brigade will be conveyed to the Isle of Wight to-morrow in Her Majesty's steam-tender Sprightly.
The Cruiser, 14, Commander G.H. Douglas, will join the Baltic fleet.
Th 9 March 1854


Signal was made by the Port-Admiral’s flagship Victory to-day, about 4 p.m., to Sir Charles Napier's fleet at Spithead and in harbour, "Prepare for sea." This was followed immediately afterwards by, "be prepared to sail at the shortest notice." By this it is expected a movement will be made sooner than has been anticipated. It is reported afloat that the fleet will rendezvous in Kiel Bay, which has been surveyed by the officers in Her Majesty's steamsloop Hecla, and found capable of harbouring a large naval armament.
The screw two-decker Ajax, 60, Captain Warden, arrived to-day from Queenstown.
The Neptune, 120, Captain Hutton, flag of Rear-Admiral Corry, bent sails this afternoon, and is ready to go to Spithead.
Lieutenant John Clayton Cowell, of the Royal Engineers, is ordered to embark to-morrow in Sir Charles Napier's flagship, for service in the fleet. Rear-Admiral Chads has been exercising the respective crews again to-day in shot practice, beyond which we have not noticed any movement afloat. The wind is rising, and the barometer falling.

PLYMOUTH, March 8.

Her Majesty's paddle-wheel despatch steam-frigate Magicienne, 16, Captain T. Fisher, arrived at Queenstown on the 5th inst. from Spithead, having been sent to collect the remainder of the Coastguardmen selected for active service in the fleet. She was to leave on the 6th for Castletown, and to call at Valentia, Limerick, Galway, Clifden, West-port, Killala Bay, Sligo, Donegal, and Loch Swilly, returning to Plymouth about the 20th, and thence to Spithead. Mr. Aylen, Master of the Royal yacht, has been, appointed to the Magicienne for this service.
Tu 12 February 1861





Intelligence reached town this afternoon that Captain Boyd, of Her Majesty's ship Ajax, and 14 men of his crew, were unfortunately drowned about 12 o'clock to-day outside Kingstown Harbour. A telegram received states that-
"Captain Boyd with his men were standing on the Eastern Pier, endeavouring to save the crew of a vessel which had gone ashore at the back of the pier, when a wave swept them all into the sea. Mr. John Mulvany, architect, was with them, but was saved.

"KINGSTOWN, 2 30 p.m. - As far as can be ascertained, 16 vessels have gone ashore in or about Kingstown Harbour. Many lives have been lost in addition to those of Captain Boyd and boat's crew." Last night, about 9 o'clock, one of the severest gales remembered in Dublin for many years set in from the south-east, and continued to rage up to an advanced hour to-day, accompanied by heavy rain and sleet. In addition to the sad disasters at Kingstown already detailed, numerous shipwrecks have occurred along the eastern coast, in the neighbourhood of Dublin, and it is much feared that the destruction of life and property has been considerable.



The ravages committed by the gale of Friday night and Saturday forenoon are much more serious and extensive than the uncertain accounts received in town during Saturday led one to expect. The papers of this morning have each several columns devoted to the records of the disasters which have occurred at various points along the Eastern coast, from Bray in the South to Drogheda in the North; but as yet it is impossible to estimate closely the number of lives lost or of the vessels which have foundered or been broken to pieces. The Freeman's Journal, in an article on the storm, observes:-

"The storm that wrecked the Royal Charter was one of the most violent, for its duration, within the last 20 years. Great damage was the consequence, besides the loss of a noble ship, large property, and many valuable lives. The storm of Friday night and Saturday was still more violent and destructive in its ravages. No phenomena indicated any unusual interruption to the fine weather that prevailed during the last few weeks, which reminded one of the softness of April rather than the harsh and tempestuous days of February; but in the afternoon of Friday the barometer took a sudden turn and rushed down, while the weather-vanes whirled violently between north and east. At midnight, or a little earlier, the storm set in with frightful fury, and raced without intermission until late in the afternoon of Saturday. It gradually subsided towards nightfall, and, though high wind prevailed during Saturday night, it did not approach in fury the storm of the morning. Though the wind blew from between north and east, and more to the north than east during its greatest violence, yet the rush frequently took a wider compass, and appeared to come from the south and west. The storm was or the true cyclonic character, and, as had been anticipated, accompanied with frightful losses, All along the coast we hear of lamentable disasters, but the complete loss will not be known for some days."

The most melancholy of the numerous disasters recorded is decidedly the death of Captain Boyd and his boat's crew, mentioned in my despatch of Saturday. The reporter of the Freeman's Journal gives some details in reference to this event, which I subjoin:-

"Kingstown, Sunday Night,
"It is too true about the fate of poor Captain Boyd, of Her Majesty's ship Ajax, and his gallant companions. They are gone - lost in their humane efforts so save the lives of their brother sailors. Captain Boyd, you are aware, was an Irishman -I believe a native of Derry. During his sojourn among us he gained the esteem of all for his many good qualities. A nobler fellow never trod the deck - beloved by his officers and men. The particulars under which he came to his death are as follows:- Three large brigs were perceived drifting in towards the rocks at the back of the East Pier, near to a short breakwater that was run out some time ago. Captain Boyd at once observed their perilous situation, and, with the true spirit of a sailor, immediately summoned his men to man boats for the pier. They landed, and at once proceeded to the other side of the pier, where the vessels were drifting. The vessels came on and were smashed on the rocks. The shrieks of those on board were heard far above the tempest. Ropes were thrown towards them, but they were driven back by the force of the storm. A mortar was used to throw a line, but it was utterly useless, the wind being too strong. The poor sailors were then seen to throw themselves overboard, and met with instantaneous death. Some of Captain Boyd's men procured ropes, lashed themselves with them and plunged into the surf, to endeavour to get on board either of the ill-fated vessels, but tho sea was too powerful. At this time a large number of people collected, all willing and able to assist, but their good intentions were powerless. Their fellow-creatures were drowning before their eyes at a few yards' distance, and nothing could be done to save them. Captain Boyd saved a few of his own men from death by pulling them out of the surf. It was at this time, 12 o'clock noon, blowing fearfully. At last there was a treacherous lull, and an enormous wave came round the point of the breakwater on which he and his brave crew were standing, and, as it receded, swept all that were there into the sea-the gallant captain and his courageous crew were seen no more. Others who were standing as spectators narrowly escaped death; fortunately they were extracated in time from their perilous situation by others. A man named Anderson, who was standing within a few yards of Captain Boyd, got his thumb jammed between the rocks, and thus was miraculously preserved to his family. Those who escaped were bruised and otherwise wounded by the rocks. Tho doctors of the town dressed the wounds, and those sailors who were injured were immediately taken on board the Ajax, and attended to by Dr. Buchanan, the surgeon of the ship. This gentleman broke the sad intelligence of the fate of poor Captain Boyd to his wife, who resides on board."

We 13 February 1861


A letter received at Plymouth from the Ajax, at Kingstown, says:-
"On Friday, the 8th, the weather was very rough, but not stormy; the wind north-east, and right in for the harbour. A brig tried to go out but could not, and in tacking went ashore close to the lighthouse. We saved all the men, but the vessel was dashed to pieces; she was laden with salt. On Friday night it blew very heavily from north-east and on Saturday morning we could not see a particle of the wreck. The mail steamboat Leicester tried to go to Holyhead, but had to put back, having been nearly lost in the gale. It was dreadful to see the waves. Some dozen vessels at sea endeavoured to put in for shelter; all but four succeeded. The first, a fine brig, ran on the rocks 500 yards from our ship. Our people were all on shore trying to save the crew; they saved one man, the master; all the rest, five, were drowned. At the same time another vessel ran on the rocks close to the first. She was lost, and three men out of five were drowned. A third vessel was driven ashore, but the crew escaped. The rocks were all crowded with our men, trying to help the crews of the wrecked ships, and a lot of people from the town were looking on. I cannot describe properly what occurred, but a sea like a mountain came and washed every one off. Many were carried up on the land, and drawn back again by the waves. How many were drowned we cannot tell as yet, but we have recovered nine bodies, some from under stones a ton weight. Twenty-one townspeople were lost that we know of, and we expect there were more. Our loss from tho Ajax was Capt. Boyd, John Curry, seaman; James Johnson, A.B.; John Murphy, seaman; A. Forsyth, A.B.; and John Russell. The captain's body is not yet found. Our gunner, Mr. Farren, is much cut by the rocks, and a dozen more are in the same condition; they are all in bed. Our ship is very sad and lonely. The gale is all over now. There have been thousands of people from Dublin to see the place where the wrecks occurred and where our sailors were lost."

Tu 5 March 1861Captain Boyd's Funeral

The remains of the lamented commander of the Ajax were consigned to their resting place in St. Patrick's Cathedral yesterday, amid extraordinary demonstrations of respect from the people of all classes.

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