HMS Sparrowhawk (1856)

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HMS Surprise (1856).jpg
Sparrowhawk's sister-ship, Surprise
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
NameHMS Sparrowhawk
Ordered26 July 1855
  • Young, Magnay & Co., Limehouse
  • Engines by Humphrys, Tennant & Dykes
Laid down6 August 1855
Launched9 February 1856
CompletedBy 7 April 1856
FateSold in 1872
General characteristics
Class and type Vigilant-class second-class despatch/gunvessel
Displacement860 tons
Tons burthen669 79/94 bm
  • 180 ft (54.9 m) (gundeck)
  • 160 ft 7.5 in (49.0 m) (keel)
Beam28 ft 4 in (8.6 m)
Draught8 ft (2.4 m) (designed) [1]
Depth of hold14 ft (4.27 m)
Installed power
  • 2-cylinder horizontal single-expansion steam engine
  • Single screw
Sail plan Barque-rigged
Speed11 kn (20 km/h) under steam

HMS Sparrowhawk was a Vigilant-class second-class despatch/gunvessel launched on 9 February 1856 at Limehouse, England and served at various stations in the Far East. By the spring of 1865, her rig was a converted to that of a three-masted barque. She was sold in 1872, converted to a sailing barque in mercantile service, and was later a coal lighter in Australia.



Her class were designed as second-class despatch and gunvessels. They were intended to operate close inshore during the Crimean War and were essentially enlarged versions of the Arrow-class gunvessel, which has been designed by the Surveyor’s Department in 1854. [2]


A two-cylinder horizontal single expansion steam engine by Humphrys, Tennant and Dykes provided 726 indicated horsepower (541 kW) through a single screw, [2] and gave a top speed of about 11 knots. [1]

Sail plan

All Vigilant-class gunvessels were barque-rigged. [2]


Although designed with a pair of 68-pounder Lancaster muzzle-loading rifles, the Vigilant class were finished with one 7-inch (180 mm)/110-pound (50 kg) Armstrong breech-loading gun, one 68-pound (31 kg) Lancaster muzzle-loading rifled gun and two 20-pounder breech loaders. [2]

Service history

Porcher Island, near Prince Rupert, British Columbia, is named after Edwin Augustus Porcher [3] (1821–1878), who served as captain of HMS Sparrowhawk at Esquimalt Naval Base, Vancouver Island, from the spring of 1865 until he returned to England in autumn 1868. While serving with the North Pacific Squadron, Commander Porcher made four summertime voyages to the North Coast of British Columbia - in 1866, 1867 and twice in 1868.

Sale and further service

Sparrowhawk was sold by auction at Esquimalt on 20 November 1872, for about £4,000, to Corbett (or Corbitt) and Company of Portland, Oregon. [2] [4] [5] Her engines were used to power a sawmill owned by Sewell Moody at Moodyville, British Columbia. [6] In 1873 the ship was registered as a 3-masted sailing barque at the port of Victoria, British Columbia with Official Number 64142. [7] [8] In 1876 Sparrowhawk was sold to William Morley of Melbourne, Victoria for his coastal coal trade, but was put up for sale with the rest of his business after his death in 1877. [9] [10] In June 1878 the business was bought by Huddart Parker and Company of Geelong and in 1881 Sparrowhawk was reduced to coal lighter. [11] [12] [5]

On 7 April 1892, while berthed at Melbourne, Sparrowhawk was run into by the steamship Flinders and sank in the Yarra River. [13] She was raised, repaired, and later in service with Jeremiah O'Sullivan of West Melbourne. [5] [14] [15] In 1917 Sparrowhawk's registration was closed as "dismantled and broken up in Saltwater River, at date unknown". [5] [16]

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  1. 1 2 Preston (2007) p.150
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Winfield (2004) p.220
  3. For more on Edwin Augustus Porcher see: O'Byrne, William R. (1849). "Porcher, Edwin Augustus"  . A Naval Biographical Dictionary . London: John Murray.
  4. "Naval and Military Intelligence". The Irish Times. No. Vol.XV, 5941. Dublin. 29 January 1873. p. 2. Retrieved 22 February 2022 via British Newspaper Archive.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Laxon, William A. (2008). Huddart Parker: A Famous Australasian Shipping Company, 1876-1961. Caulfield South, Vic.: Nautical Association of Australia. pp. 14, 179. ISBN   978-0-9756896-1-5.
  6. Lamb, W. Kaye (1972). "Moody, Sewell Prescott". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Archived from the original on 21 February 2022. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  7. "Ship whose official number is 64142". Crew List Index Project. P & J Owens. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  8. Mercantile Navy List. London. 1874. p. 459. Retrieved 22 February 2022 via CLIP.
  9. Mercantile Navy List. London. 1877. p. 482. Retrieved 22 February 2022 via CLIP.
  10. "To Capitalists, Coal Merchants, Carriers and others". The Argus. No. 9817. Melbourne. 1 December 1877. p. 11. Retrieved 22 February 2022 via Trove.
  11. "Commercial Intelligence". The Argus. No. 9971. Melbourne. 1 June 1878. p. 6. Retrieved 22 February 2022 via Trove.
  12. "Town Talk". Geelong Advertiser. No. 10, 252. 15 June 1881. p. 2. Retrieved 22 February 2022 via Trove.
  13. "The Flinders and Sparrowhawk Collision". The Herald. No. 3710. Melbourne. 27 April 1892. p. 4. Retrieved 22 February 2022 via Trove.
  14. The Register of Australian and New Zealand Shipping. Melbourne: Marine Underwriters and Salvage Association of Victoria. 1915. p. 143. Retrieved 22 February 2022 via issuu.
  15. Mercantile Navy List. London. 1915. p. 990. Retrieved 22 February 2022 via CLIP.
  16. Register of British Ships: Melbourne. Melbourne, Victoria. p. 153. Retrieved 22 February 2022 via Australian National Archives.