HMS Surprise (1856)

From SpottingWorld, the Hub for the SpottingWorld network...
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Surprise
Ordered: 26 July 1855
Builder: Money Wigram and Son of Blackwall Yard
Cost: £33,356[1]
Laid down: 30 August 1855
Launched: 6 March 1856
Commissioned: 12 April 1856
Fate: Broken up in 1866
General characteristics
Class and type: Vigilant-class gunvessel
Displacement: 860 tonnes
Length: 180 ft (55 m)
Beam: 28 ft 4 in (8.64 m)
Installed power: 778 indicated horsepower (580 kW)
  • 2-cylinder horizontal single-expansion steam engine
  • Single screw
Sail plan: Barque-rigged
Complement: 80
  • One 7-inch/110-pounder Breech Loader
  • One 68-pounder Muzzle-loading Rifle
  • Two 20 pounder Breech Loaders

HMS Surprise was a Vigilant-class gunvessel of the Royal Navy. She was launched at Blackwall Yard, London in 1856 and broken up in Plymouth in 1866.


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.[1]


A two-cylinder horizontal single expansion steam engine by Miller, Ravenhill and Salkeld provided 778 indicated horsepower (580 kW) through a single screw.[1]

Sail Plan

All Vigilant-class gunvessels were barque-rigged.[1]


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) breech-loading gun, one 68-pound (31 kg) muzzle-loading rifled gun and two 20-pounder breech loaders.[1]


Surprise was ordered on 26 July 1855 at the same time as nine others of her class. Her keel was laid at the Blackwall yard of Money Wigram and Son on 30 August and she was launched on 6 March 1856.[1]


From 18 March 1856 she was commanded by Commander Charles Egerton Harcourt-Vernon,[2] and he commissioned her at Blackwall on 12 April the same year.[1] From 1857 under Commander Cresswell the ship served in the East Indies including the Second Anglo-Chinese War,[2] and from 1861 she formed part of the Mediterranean Fleet.[2] Between August 1864 and 24 April 1866 she was commanded by George Tryon, later to become infamous as the Admiral who caused the loss in 1893 of his flagship HMS Victoria during fleet manoeuvres.


Surprise was sold to Marshall of Plymouth and broken up in November 1866.[1]

Commanding Officers

From Captain
18 March 1856 Commander Charles Egerton Harcourt-Vernon[2]
11 March 1857 Commander Samuel Gurney Cresswell[2]
2 August 1861 Commander William Henry Whyte[2]
August 1864 Commander George Tryon[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Winfield, Rif; Lyon, David (2003). The Sail and Steam Navy List, 1815-1889. Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1861760326.  p.220
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "HMS Sepoy at William Loney website". Retrieved 2009-07-06.