HMS Research (1863)

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Career RN Ensign
Builder: Pembroke Dockyard
Laid down: September 3, 1861
Launched: August 15, 1863
Completed: April 6, 1864
Fate: Broken up, 1884
General characteristics
Original displacement: 1,200 tons
Displacement on conversion: 1,743 tons
Original length: 185 ft (56 m)
Length on conversion: 195 ft (59 m)
Original beam: 33 ft 2 in (10.11 m)
Beam on conversion: 38 ft 6 in (11.73 m)
Original draught: 13 ft (4.0 m) light,
15 ft (4.6 m) deep load
Draught on conversion: 13 ft (4.0 m) light,
16 ft 4 in (4.98 m) deep load

Boulton and Watt one-shaft horizontal direct

I.H.P. = 1,040
Sail plan: Barque rig, sail area 18,250 sq ft (1,695 m2)
Speed: 10.3 knots (19 km/h) under power;
6 knots (11 km/h), best sailing speed
Complement: 150
Armament 1864: Four 100-pounder Smoothbore
Armament 1870: Four 7-inch (180 mm) muzzle-loading rifles
Armour: 4.5 inch belt and battery
4.5 inch bulkheads

HMS Research was a small ironclad warship, converted from a wooden-hulled sloop and intended as an experimental platform in which to try out new concepts in armament and in armour.

In the period from 1860 to 1865 the Board of Admiralty were seriously concerned at the speed with which France was producing ironclad warships. One of the steps taken to counter this perceived threat was the conversion of partially built British wooden ships into ironclads. (See Prince Consort class).

The 17-gun sloop HMS Trent had been ordered in November 1860 as one of the Perseus class. She was selected for conversion to an ironclad, and her name was changed to HMS Research. Although she had been building for a year work was not far advanced, and the necessary changes to her length and beam could easily be made. Her sloop ends were replaced by an oval stern and a ram bow, and the draught altered to give her a trim of 3.5 feet (1.1 m) by the stern.

Her armament was carried in a midships armoured compartment which, when used in subsequent designs, became known as a box battery. The designed armament of seventeen guns was discarded, and the offensive power of the ship was concentrated into four 100-pounder Somerset smoothbore cannon, which were at the time the most powerful guns afloat. While these guns were certainly much more effective against armour than smaller pieces, whether a two-gun broadside would have prevailed against more gernerously armed ironclads is open to question.

For the first time, in this ship, a degree of axial fire was possible from broadside guns. The hull sides were recessed at either end of the battery, and gunports were constructed facing fore and aft to which the guns could be moved. Moving the guns in anything other than calm weather was a hazardous procedure.

Research rolled excessively, and was normally retained in harbour during the winter months. Although Edward Reed, her designer, had expected great things of her, the Standard of October 27, 1865 said "probably the very worst vessel, both as a fighting machine and a sea-boat, that ever yet went out of a dockyard of any nation pretending to a maritime reputation".

She served in the Channel Fleet from 1864 to 1866, and in the Mediterranean from 1871 to 1878. She saw no other service before being sold.


  • Oscar Parkes, British Battleships ISBN 0-85052-604-3
  • Conway, All the World's Fighting Ships ISBN 0-85177-133-5