HMS Unicorn (1824)

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Career (UK) RN Ensign
Name: HMS Unicorn
Operator: Royal Navy
Ordered: 23 July 1817
Builder: Royal Dockyard, Chatham, Kent, England
Laid down: February 1822
Launched: 30 March 1824
Status: Museum ship, Dundee, Scotland
General characteristics
Class and type: Modified Leda-class frigate
Tons burthen: 1077 bm
Length: 151 ft 9 in (46.25 m) (lower deck)
125 ft (38 m) (keel)
Beam: 40 ft 3 in (12.27 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft 9 in (3.89 m)
Sail plan: Although never given masts, she was planned as a Full-rigged ship
Complement: 315
Armament: Upper deck: Twenty-eight 18-pounder guns
Quarter deck: Fourteen 32-pounder carronades
Forecastle: Two 9-pounder guns and two 32-pounder carronades

HMS Unicorn and her near-sister ship, HMS Trincomalee, are surviving sailing frigates of the successful Leda class, although the original design had been modified by the time that the Unicorn was built, to incorporate a circular stern and "small-timber" system of construction. Listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, Core Collection, Unicorn is now a museum ship in Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom.

HMS Unicorn was built in peacetime at Chatham Dockyard, Kent and launched in 1824. A superstructure was built over her main deck and she was laid up "in ordinary", serving as a hulk and a depot ship for most of the next 140 years. Her lack of active duty left her timbers well preserved, and in the 1960s steps were initiated to convert her to a museum ship.

Though steps were taken, including the addition of the totally new bowsprit visible in the picture, to restore Unicorn to a similar condition as her sister, HMS Trincomalee, this plan has been changed. It was discovered that the ship was the only example of a wooden frigate of her type existing in ordinary, and as a result the intention is now to preserve her in her current condition.

Unicorn was never rigged, and only went to sea for the voyage from Chatham to Dundee, during which she was under tow. It is thought the roof that covers her upper deck has never been replaced.[1]


  • David Lyon and Rif Winfield (2004), The Sail and Steam Navy List: All the Ships of the Royal Navy 1815-1889. Chatham Publishing. ISBN 1-86176-032-9.

External links

Close-up view of the unicorn sculpture at the head of the ship.

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