HMS Rosario (1860)

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Sister-ship, HMS Peterel
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Rosario
Ordered: 1 April 1857
Builder: Deptford Dockyard
Laid down: 13 June 1859
Launched: 17 October 1860
Commissioned: 20 June 1862
Fate: Sold for breaking on 31 January 1884
General characteristics
Class and type: Rosario-class sloop
Displacement: 913 tons
Length: 160 ft 10 in (49.02 m)
Beam: 30 ft 6 in (9.30 m)
Draught: 15 ft 10 in (4.83 m)
Installed power: 436 indicated horsepower
  • 2-cylinder horizontal single-expansion steam engine
  • Single screw
Sail plan: As built: Ship-rigged
From c.1869: Barge-rigged
Speed: 9.2 kn (17.0 km/h) under power
Complement: 140
Armament: As built: 11 guns:
  • One 40-pdr Armstrong breech loaders
  • Six 32-pdr muzzle-loading smooth-bore guns
  • Four 20-pdr Armstrong breech loaders
By 1869: 3 guns

HMS Rosario was an 11-gun Rosario-class screw sloop of the Royal Navy, launched in 1860 at Deptford Dockyard. She served two commissions, including eight years on the Australia Station during which she fought to reduce illegal kidnappings of South Sea Islanders for the Queensland labour market. She was decommissioned in 1875, finally being sold for breaking nine years later. A team from Rosario played the first ever New Zealand International Rugby Union match against a Wellington side in 1870. She was the fifth Royal Navy ship to bear the name, which was first used for the galleon Del Rosario, captured from the Spanish in 1588.


The Rosario class was designed in 1858 by Issac Watts, the Director of Naval Construction. They were built of wood, were rated for 11 guns and were built with a full ship rig of sails (this was reduced to a barque rig by about 1869). With a length overall of 160 feet (49 m) and a beam of 30 feet 4 inches (9.25 m),[1] they had a displacement of 913 tonnes.[2] These were the last sloops constructed for the Royal Navy to retain all-wooden construction; their successors, the Amazon class, incorporated iron cross beams.[1]


Rosario was fitted with a Greenock Foundry Company two-cylinder horizontal single-expansion steam engine driving a single screw. With an indicated horsepower of 436 horsepower (325 kW) she was capable of 9.2 knots (17.0 km/h) under steam.[1]


As designed, ships of the class carried a single slide-mounted 40-pounder Armstrong breech-loading gun, six 32-pounder muzzle-loading smooth-bore guns and four pivot-mounted 20-pounder Armstrong breech loaders. By 1869 the armament had been reduced to a single 7-inch (180 mm) muzzle-loading gun and two 40-pounders.[1]


Rosario was ordered from Deptford Dockyard on 1 April 1857[1] and laid down on 13 June 1859.[1] She was the first of her class to be launched, on 17 October 1860 and she was commissioned under Commander James Stanley Graham on 20 June 1862[3]


First Commission (1862 - 1866)

From June to October 1862 she was employed in fishery protection duties in the North Sea.[3] In October she was transferred to the North American and West Indies Station, and cases of fever and small pox were recorded in her in 1864 after visits to Kingston, Jamaica and Fort Monroe in Virginia.[4] The strained relationship between the Union and Britain during the American Civil War did not prevent visits to American ports, but ships of the North America Station would also have used Bermuda and the Royal Naval Dockyard, Halifax as bases. The Lyons–Seward Treaty of 1862 allowed for greater co-operation between the US Navy and the Royal Navy in combating slavery, and it is probable that anti-slavery formed part of her employment, particularly in the Caribbean.

In 1866 she was ordered from Quebec to Montreal to provide protection to the harbour during the Fenian Raid of 1866.[5] Sixteen members of her ship's company were awarded the "Fenian Raid 1866" clasp to the Canada General Service Medal 1866-70,[6] possibly while serving as members of a Naval Brigade.

After four years on the North America and West Indies Station she paid off at Chatham on 13 October 1866.[3]

Second Commission (1867 - 1875)

File:Seizure of blackbirder Daphne.jpg
The seizure of the blackbirding schooner Daphne

Rosario recommissioned at Woolwich on 28 September 1867 under her previous captain, Commander Louis Venturne. Commander George Palmer then took command in October 1867 and under him she sailed for the Australia Station. In 1869 Rosario detained the schooner Daphne on suspicion of "blackbirding",[7] or the illegal recruitment (including enslavement) of the indigenous populations of nearby Pacific islands or northern Queensland. Commander Palmer brought charges at the Vice Admiralty Court of New South Wales, but the charges were dismissed by the Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir Alfred Stephen, on the grounds that the British Slave Trade Act 1839 did not apply to the South Pacific Ocean.[8]

In 1870 a team from Rosario played the first New Zealand International Rugby Union match against a side from Wellington.[9]

It was intended to recommission her in Sydney in 1871, with a new crew being brought out from England in HMS Megaera, but with Commander Challis remaining in command.[10] In the event Megaera became a total loss at the isolated St Paul Island, and her passengers were rescued by HMS Rinaldo and SS Malacca. There were no fatalities, and the new crews eventually reached their intended ships.[11]

Albert Hastings Markham became acting commander of Rosario between October 1871 and 10 February 1872,[12] during a voyage to the New Hebrides for the suppression of the South Seas labour trade. He published an account of the cruise under the title The cruise of the Rosario amongst the New Hebrides and Santa Cruz Islands, exposing the recent atrocities connected with the kidnapping of natives in the South Seas.[13][14] The cruise included a visit to the island of Nukapu to inquire into the murder of Bishop Patteson, but little of value was found until they came to the south-east side of the Island, where the Bishop had been killed. In the words of the contemporary newspaper report:

The Rosario's boat had got to within 50 yards of the mainland when the natives commenced their war dance and made other hostile indications. They then sent a shower of arrows at the Rosario's boat, which however, all fell short. The boat then returned to the ship to report the attack, and to ask permission to return it. The boat was ordered to return, and the ship was cleared for action, and opened fire with shell from the 40-pounder Armstrong, and the 7in. six and a half ton gun; while the crew of the boat opened fire with their rifles. The Rosario made a circuit of the island, and when abreast of the native village fired on it with shell at 2,300 yards. At 4 p.m., it being high water, the boats were able to cross the reef, and four of them advanced on the village with small arms, and engaged the natives, who kept up a continual discharge of arrows; the ship sent in shell at a range of a mile. After firing several hundred rounds, the men landed from the boats and drove the natives in from the beach. Here one of the arrows struck Corporal Marcus in the arm, and the wound afterwards proved fatal. The native canoes were destroyed, and the seamen pulled on to the village, where one of them received two bad wounds, but ultimately recovered from their effects. The village proved to be very strongly fortified with stonework, which was thrown up in front of each hut. In a few minutes the native habitations were set in flames. It was estimated that from 20 to 30 natives were killed in the engagement.

—The Rosario and the Murderers of Bishop Patteson, reported in The Argus[15]

The ill feeling against white men in Nukapu is easily understood; one of the vessels stopped by Rosario during the November 1871 cruise was the brig Carl, which had been the scene of a particularly brutal massacre. Markham was too late to find any evidence of the murder of up to 50 islanders on board (that came later when one of the crew turned King's evidence), but the activities of the ship in the area explain the aggressive attacks of the local population, and probably also explain the murder of the Bishop.[16] The measures taken by Rosario became the subject of questions in the House of Commons,[17] and Markham's book[13] on the subject may well have been prompted by them. The book itself makes clear that Markham clearly understood the cycle of violence and deplored both the murderous activities of the Blackbirders, and the apparent need for further violence in restoring order.[13]

In April 1872, once again under Commander Challis, she visited Wellington, Otago and Auckland in New Zealand.[11] Her cruise of the later part of the year took her to the Solomon Islands, and was conducted entirely under canvas.[18] The summer of 1874 was spent visiting Fiji, the Marshall Islands, the Ellis Islands and the Gilbert Islands, in part searching for William "Bully" Hayes, who was notorious for his slaving and piracy. Rosario picked up a number of his shipwrecked crew from Kosrae, but Hayes evaded the search.[19]

In 1874 she was employed as a prison hulk for young criminals,[Note 1][1] and on 12 October 1875 Rosario paid off at Sheerness after an eight-year commission.[3]


She is listed at Chatham in 1880, and on 31 January 1884 she was sold to Castle for breaking up at Charlton.[3]

Commanding Officers

From To Captain
20 June 1862 1863 Commander James Stanley Graham[3]
14 May 1863 30 September 1864 Commander Henry Duncan Grant[3]
1866 4 October 1867 Commander Louis Hutton Venturne[3]
4 October 1867 8 April 1870 Commander George Palmer[3]
8 April 1870 22 January 1874 Commander Henry Joseph Challis[3]
22 January 1874 12 October 1875 Commander Arthur Edward Dupuis[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Winfield, Rif; Lyon, David (2003). The Sail and Steam Navy List, 1815-1889. Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1861760326. 
  2. "HMS Rosario at Naval Database website". Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 "HMS Rosario at William Loney website". Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  4. Health of the Navy - 1864; Return to an Order of the Honourable the House of Commons dated 5 August 1867 (Ed: Lord Henry Lennox)
  5. "A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870, Chapter XI". Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  6. "Coins and Medals". Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  7. "Telegraphic Summary for Europe and the East". The Argus (Melbourne). Saturday 19 June 1869. 
  8. Reid Mortensen (2000). "Slaving In Australian Courts: Blackbirding Cases, 1869-1871". Journal of South Pacific Law 4. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  9. Todd, S. (1976) Sporting Records of New Zealand. Auckland: Moa Publications. ISBN 0-908570-00-7
  10. "News". The Argus (Melbourne). Monday 27 March 1871. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Arrivals". Otago Witness (Otago). Saturday 13 April 1872 1871. 
  12. Clowes, William Laird (1997 [1900]). The Royal Navy, A History from the Earliest Times to 1900, Volume IV. Chatham Publishing. pp. 230–231. ISBN 1-86176-013-2. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Markham, Albert Hastings (1873). The cruise of the Rosario amongst the New Hebrides and Santa Cruz Islands. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle. 
  14. "Biography of Albert Hastings Markham at the National Maritime Museum". Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  15. "The Rosario and the Murderers of Bishop Patteson". The Argus (Melbourne). Thursday 15 February 1872. 
  16. "Harper's Magazine Volume XLIX – No 292-33 pp.488-500 - The South Sea Islands". Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  17. "Hansard, 11 March 1872". Retrieved 2009-11-19. "Mr W Johnston asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If there is any foundation for the statement that Her Majesty's ship Rosario has shelled and destroyed the village in the Island of Nukapu, in which resided the natives who murdered Bishop Patteson; and, if so, by whose orders this was done?" 
  18. "Shipping - Arrivals". The Brisbane Courier (Melbourne). Saturday 11 January 1873. 
  19. "Cruise of the Rosario". The Argus (Melbourne). Saturday 7 November 1874. 


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