HMS Mercury (1779)

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Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Mercury
Ordered: 22 January 1778
Builder: Peter Mestaer, King and Queen Shipyard, Rotherhithe
Laid down: 25 March 1778
Launched: 9 December 1779
Completed: By 24 February 1780
Fate: Broken up in January 1814
General characteristics
Class and type: 28-gun Enterprise-class sixth-rate frigate
Tons burthen: 605 12/94 bm
Length: 120 ft 9.75 in (36.8237 m) (overall)
99 ft 10.5 in (30.442 m) (keel)
Beam: 33 ft 9 in (10.3 m)
Draught: 11 ft 0.5 in (3.366 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 200

28 guns

  • Upper deck: 28 × 9pdrs
  • Quarter deck: 4 x 6pdrs + 4 x 18pdr carronades
  • Forecastle: 2 x 18pdr carronades
  • 12 x swivels

HMS Mercury was a 28-gun Enterprise-class sixth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. She was built during the American War of Independence and serving during the later years of that conflict. She continued to serve during the years of peace and had an active career during the French Revolutionary and most of the Napoleonic Wars, until being broken up in 1814.

Construction and commissioning

Mercury was ordered from Peter Mestaer, at the King and Queen Shipyard, Rotherhithe on the River Thames on 22 January 1778 was laid down there on 25 March 1778. She was launched on 9 December 1779 and was completed by 24 February 1780 after being fitted out at Deptford Dockyard.[1] £6,805.7.0d was paid to her builder for her construction, with the total including fitting and coppering subsequently rising to £13,603.8.0d.[1] Mercury entered service in 1780, having been commissioned in October 1779 under Captain Isaac Prescott.[1]

American War of Independence and the interwar years

Prescott sailed Mercury to Newfoundland in April 1780, where she joined George Johnstone's squadron the following year.[1] Captain William Carlyon took command in May 1781 and sailed Mercury to Hudson Bay, where on 17 May he recaptured the cutter HMS Sprightly.[1] Captain Henry Edwyn Stanhope succeeded Carlyon in September 1782, and paid Mercury off later that year.[1] She was recommissioned under Stanhope in April the following year, and went out to Nova Scotia in June. After three more years in command she was again paid off in July 1786 and spent the period between August 1787 and January 1788 undergoing a small repair at Woolwich.[1] After being fitted out there she was recommissioned in May 1788 under Captain Augustus Montgomery, and sailed to the Mediterranean. She returned to Britain and was paid off in 1790.[1]

French Revolutionary Wars

Mercury was not immediately returned to service following the outbreak of war with Revolutionary France, but after being fitted at Portsmouth, re-entered service in early 1796, under the command of Captain George Byng. After time spent at Newfoundland command passed to Captain Thomas Rogers in April 1797.[1] Rogers captured three privateers while serving on the Lisbon station, the 16-gun Benjamin on 5 January 1798, the 16-gun Trois Soeurs on 15 January 1798, and the 12-gun Constance on 25 January 1798.[1] He took Mercury to Newfoundland in June that year, and after returning to Portsmouth for a refit in early 1799, went back there in 1799. Mercury captured the 15-gun privateer Egyptienne off the Isle of Wight on 5 February 1800 during a period spent in the English Channel, and then sailed for the Mediterranean in May 1800.[1] Mercury was briefly part of Sir John Borlase Warren's squadron off Cadiz, after which she went on to Alexandria, arriving there on 31 July 1800.[1]

Rogers continued to operate successfully against small French warships and privateers, capturing the 20-gun Sans Pareille on 20 January 1801, and making an attempt to recapture the 18-gun HMS Bulldog at Ancona on 25 May 1801.[1] Though the attempt failed, a second effort on 16 September 1801, carried out in company with HMS Santa Dorothea, succeeded in retaking the vessel.[1] Mercury's crew also destroyed a band of pirates in the Tremiti Islands.

Napoleonic Wars

Mercury was fitted out as a floating battery at Deptford in May 1803, under the command of Captain Duncombe Bouverie. She went on to operate against Spanish shipping in the Eastern Atlantic and captured the 4-gun Fuerte de Gibraltar on 4 February 1805.[1] Bouverie was succeeded by Captain Charles Pelly in August 1805 and Mercury returned to Newfoundland in May 1806. In June 1807 James Alexander Gordon took command and took Mercury into the Mediterranean to operate off the Southern Spanish coast.[1] On 4 April 1808 Mercury in company with HMS Alceste and HMS Grasshopper attacked a Spanish convoy off Rota, destroying two of the escorts and driving many of the merchants ashore. Seven were subsequently captured and sailed back out to sea by marines and sailors of the British ships.

In November 1808, command passed to Henry Duncan, who took her into the Adriatic Sea to participate in the Adriatic campaign of 1804–1814. She cut out the gunboat Leda from Rovigno on 1 April 1809, and was in action with HMS Spartan and HMS Amphion at Pesaro on 23 April, and at Cesenatico on 2 May.[1] On 7 September she cut out the schooner Pugliese from Barletta, her last action before being paid off in early 1810.[1] She was fitted out as a troopship at Woolwich in mid-1810 and commissioned in May that year as a 16-gun troopship under Lieutenant William Webb.[1] Webb was succeeded by Commander John Tancock in mid-1810 and Mercury spent most of 1811 on the Lisbon station.[1] Commander Clement Milward took over in November 1811 and went out to the Leeward Islands. Mercury's final commanding officer was Commander Sir John Charles Richardson, who took over while she was still in the Leewards.[1] HMS Mercury was finally broken up at Woolwich in January 1814.[1]


  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 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail. p. 229.