HMS Lowestoffe (1761)

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Capture of La Minerve off Toulon, June 24th 1795 by Thomas Whitcombe. In the foreground the damaged and dismasted Minerve duels with HMS Dido, while in the background Artémise flees, pursued by Lowestoffe.
Career (Great Britain) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Lowestoffe
Ordered: 15 February 1760
Builder: Thomas West, Deptford Dockyard
Laid down: 9 May 1760
Launched: 5 June 1761
Completed: 1 August 1761
Fate: Wrecked on 11 August 1801
General characteristics
Class and type: 32-gun fifth rate frigate
Tons burthen: 717 bm
Length: 130 ft 6 in (39.78 m) (overall)
108 ft 1.5 in (32.957 m)
Beam: 35 ft 3.75 in (10.7633 m)
Draught: 9 ft 3 in (2.82 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft (3.657600 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 220

32 guns:

  • Gun deck: 26 x 12 pdrs
  • Quarter deck: 4 x 6pdrs
  • Forecastle: 2 x 6 pdrs + 12 1/2 pdr swivels

HMS Lowestoffe was a 32-gun fifth rate of the Royal Navy. Built during the latter part of the Seven Years War, she went on to see action in the American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary War, and served often in the Caribbean. Lowestoffe has become famous as the ship in which a young Horatio Nelson served shortly after passing his lieutenant's examination. She spent most of her later years in British and Mediterranean waters, winning particular glory for her part in an engagement with two French frigates in 1795. Her final duties were back in the familiar waters of the West Indies, where she was wrecked in 1801 while escorting a convoy.

Construction and commissioning

Sir Thomas Slade designed Lowestoffe, basing her lines based on those of HMS Aurora, a former French prize named Abenakise.[1] She was the only ship built to her design, though over a decade later the Navy would have two more frigates, HMS Orpheus and HMS Diamond, built to a modified design.[2] She was ordered on 15 February 1760 from Thomas West, Deptford Dockyard, with West contracted to launch her within 12 months, at a cost of £11.0.0d per ton.[1] Lowestoffe was laid down on 9 May 1760, launched on 5 June 1761 and completed by 1 August 1761.[3] She officially received the name Lowestoffe on 28 October 1760.[1] She had cost a total of £7,715.1.10¾d to build, coming in just slightly under the contracted price of £7887. The Navy spent a further £4,281.7.8d on having her fitted out.[1]


Commissioned late in the Seven Years War, she saw little action in Home waters under her first captain, Walter Stirling, and the Navy paid her off in 1762.[1] Lowestoffe was initially moored at Portsmouth. Then in early 1763 she was armed and stored, sailing on 26 July 1763 under the command of her new captain James Baker.[1][4] After spending some time cruising in the English Channel and stopping neutral merchants for inspections, Baker sailed Lowestoffe to Madeira and then on to the West Indies.[4] She arrived at Carlisle Bay on 13 September, and then sailed on to Antigua.[4] Lowestoffe spent several years on the station, carrying out patrols between Barbados and Antigua. Baker died on 31 March 1765. His successor, Joseph Norwood, sailed Lowestoffe home to be paid off in August 1766.[1] Lowestoffe underwent a small repair at Sheerness between December 1766 and April 1767, and after a period out of service was recommissioned again in June 1769 under Captain Robert Carkett.[1] Carkett returned her to the West Indies in October that year, returning in May 1773 to Britain after four years at Jamaica.[1] She was paid off in 1773, and reduced to a 28-gun Sixth Rate.

American War of Independence

Lowestoffe now underwent a large repair. She was recommissioned under Captain William Locker in early 1777 and prepared for service in the Leeward Islands.[1] Joining her for this voyage was a young Lieutenant Horatio Nelson, who had passed his examination on 9 April, and was joining the Lowestoffe as her second lieutenant.[5] Also serving on the Lowestoffe at this time was Cuthbert Collingwood, who would go on to have an enduring friendship with Nelson, serving with him on a number of occasions, including at the Battle of Trafalgar. The ship sailed in early May, escorting a convoy to the West Indies, where they arrived in mid July.[6] She was coppered at Jamaica and then went on a number of cruises, capturing an American sloop with a cargo of rice in August 1777.[6]

A second cruise saw the capture of an American privateer, and a notable incident for Nelson. Lowestoffe sent her boat and first lieutenant to take over the prize, but the seas were too rough to allow the American to be boarded, so the lieutenant returned. Nelson stepped forward and volunteered to make an attempt; he succeeded.[6]

By the time of Lowestoffe's third cruise, Nelson had taken command of the ship's tender, the schooner Little Lucy.[6] Locker and the Lowestoffe spent the rest of 1778 and the early part of 1779 carrying out routine cruises and patrols, until Captain Christopher Parker replaced him in March 1779.[1][7] Locker, who had by now been ill for some time, had recommended Nelson to Sir Peter Parker, who found a space for Nelson aboard his flagship, the 50-gun HMS Bristol.[8] Nelson joined her as third lieutenant on 1 July 1778.[8]

Lowestoffe became part of Captain John Luttrell's squadron and carried out operations in the Bay of Honduras in October and November 1779. During these operations the British ships captured Spanish prizes worth in excess of $3,000,000.[9] Capt. Christopher Parker transferred into HMS Diamond on 1 November 1780, Captain James Cornwallis briefly to replace him on Lowestoffe.[9] Cornwallis requested and received a transfer to HMS Badger five weeks later. His successor, Captain Thomas Haynes, left in May 1781 to take over the 64-gun Third Rate Ruby.[1] Haynes } Her next captain was George Stoney, with Captain Thomas Windsor replacing him on 31 January 1782. Windsor sailed Lowestoffe home and paid her off at Portsmouth.[1] She was laid up there for nine months, before being moved to the River Thames.[9]

The years of peace

Robert Batson, of Limehouse carried out a great repair on Lowestoffe between July 1783 and March 1786. She returned to service in the English Channel in October 1787 under Captain Edmund Dodd.[1][9] She sailed to the Mediterranean in May 1788, before returning to Britain where Captain Robert Stopford briefly took command in November 1790. Lowestoffe was paid off later that year and was fitted out at Plymouth between July 1792 and January 1793.[1][9] Lowestoffe was then recommissioned in December 1792 under Captain William Wolseley.[1][9]

French Revolutionary War

Wolseley sailed to the Mediterranean in May 1793, joining Hood's fleet then blockading Toulon.[10][11] She joined a flying squadron under Commodore Robert Linzee to act against French forces in the Mediterranean. On 30 September 1793, Commodore Robert Linzee took his squadron, including Lowestoffe, into the Gulf of San Fiorenzo to attack the redoubt of Forneilli on Corsica. Lowestoffe fired two broadsides at a tower at Mortella Point that protected the deep entrance to the gulf. The fire caused the tower's French defenders to abandon the tower and its three guns, allowing a landing party from Lowestoffe under the command of Lieutenants Francis Annesley and John Gibb to capture the tower.[11] Linzee, however, delayed his assault on the city until he could bring his larger ships into action. These larger ships bombarded the town from 1 October, but sustained considerable damage from the garrison, which forced Linzee to withdraw.[11][a]

Lowestoffe remained in the area, supporting British operations against the French garrisons on Corsica during 1794. On 7 March 1794 Captain Charles Cunningham took over command from Wolsely, but was himself replaced by Captain Benjamin Hallowell on 12 August. Hallowell commanded her during the Naval Battle of Genoa on 14 March 1795, during which she received some damage from long range shots from the French fleet.[11] Captain Robert Gambier Middleton replaced Hallowell in June 1795.[10]

Dido and Lowestoffe defeat Minerve and Artémise

Admiral Hotham then sent Lowestoffe, and the 28-gun HMS Dido under Captain George Henry Towry to reconnoitre the French fleet at Toulon.[12] While off Minorca on 24 June 1795 the two frigates encountered two French frigates, the 42-gun Minerve and the 36-gun Artémise.[12] The French were initially wary, but when they realised that they were larger and stronger than the British vessels, the French captains manoeuvred to attack.[12] Minerve attempted to run down Dido but when Dido turned to avoid the impact Minerve's bowsprit became entangled in Dido's rigging, costing Dido her mizzenmast and colours.[12] Lowestoffe came along the port side of the Frenchman to discharge a broadside that carried away Minerve's foremast and topmasts, crippling her.[12] Lowestoffe pursued the retreating Artémise, which eventually escaped. Lowestoffe returned to Minerve, firing on her until she struck. Lowestoffe had three men wounded, the Dido six killed and 15 wounded.[12] Minerve lost about 10 percent of her crew of over 300 men. The British took Minerve into service as the 38-gun frigate HMS Minerve. The weight of Minerve's broadside alone was greater than that of the two British frigates together, making the battle a notable victory; the Royal Navy duly awarded the two captains a Naval Gold Medal each.[13][14]

Later service and wreck

Captain Robert Plampin relieved Middleton in December 1795, going on to serve with a squadron under Thomas Troubridge.[10][15] After a refit in Britain, Lowestoffe escorted convoys in the West Indies. She sailed from Kingston, Jamaica on 22 July 1801, and met her convoy five days later. While working through the Caicos passage late on 10 August Pamplin realised that the strong currents known to run through the channel had reversed direction, and Lowestoffe was running into shallow waters. Attempts were made to haul off the shore but to no avail, and the Lowestoffe ran broadside onto the breakers on Little Inagua (“Heneaga”) Island.[3][15] The crew threw stores and equipment overboard to lighten the ship, and boats came from other ships in the convoy to try to pull her off, but this failing, the crew abandoned her by mid-afternoon. Only five men drowned in the wreck, and that when their boat capsized in the surf.[10][15] The change in currents also caused the wreck of five merchantmen.[15] The subsequent court-martial at Port Royal on 3 September, recognized that the cause was a sudden change in the current after dark and exonerated Pamplin and his officers of blame.[16]


a. ^ On 7 February 1794, two British warships, the 74-gun HMS Fortitude and the 32-gun HMS Juno, unsuccessfully attacked the tower; the tower eventually fell to land-based forces under Sir John Moore after two days of heavy fighting. The effectiveness of the tower, when properly supplied and defended, impressed the British, who copied the design for what they would call Martello towers.[17]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail. p. 190. 
  2. Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail. p. 195. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy. p. 205. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Goodwin. Nelson's Ships. p. 56. 
  5. Goodwin. Nelson's Ships. p. 57. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Goodwin. Nelson's Ships. p. 58. 
  7. Goodwin. Nelson's Ships. p. 59. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sugden. Dream of Glory. p. 128. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Goodwin. Nelson's Ships. p. 60. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail. p. 191. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Goodwin. Nelson's Ships. p. 61. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Goodwin. Nelson's Ships. p. 62. 
  13. W.H. Long. 1805. Medals of the British Navy and How They were Won. (London: Norrie and Wilson), pp. 79-81.
  14. Royal Navy (1850). The Navy List. H.M. Stationery Office. p. 296. OCLC 1604131. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Goodwin. Nelson's Ships. p. 63. 
  16. Phillips. "LOWESTOFFE (28)". 
  17. Sutcliffe. Martello towers. p. 20.