Longitudinal section of HMS Beagle (Cherokee class) as of 1832, by then converted to a barque by addition of a mizzen-mast.
|Tons burthen||238 bm|
|Beam||24 ft 6 in (7.47 m)|
|Draught||12 ft 6 in (3.8 m)|
|Depth of hold||11 ft 0 in (3.4 m)|
The Cherokee class was a class of brig-sloops of the Royal Navy, mounting ten guns. Brig-sloops were sloops-of-war with two masts (a fore mast and a taller main mast) rather than the three masts of ship sloops. Orders for 115 vessels were placed, including five which were cancelled and six for which the orders were replaced by ones for equivalent steam-powered paddle vessels.
Many of these sailing vessels served as mail packet ships, and more than eight assisted with exploration and surveys. The best known of the class was HMS Beagle, then considerably modified for Beagle's second survey voyage under Robert FitzRoy, with the gentleman naturalist Charles Darwin on board as a self-funded supernumerary.
The carronade, nicknamed the "smasher" or "devil gun", was significantly smaller and lighter than conventional cannon. It was also found to have a more destructive broadside at close range, so that a smaller (and cheaper) ship could be more effective in naval actions than a much larger man-of-war. Sir Henry Peake designed a small ship to operate in both shallow and deep waters, carrying eight 16-pounder or 18-pounder carronades plus two long 6-pounder cannon as forward-mounted chase guns.
He completed the design for the Cherokee class in 1807, which was approved on 26 November 1807, with the first four vessels having been ordered in March 1807 but not laid down until December; by the end of 1808 another thirty vessels had been ordered to this design. After these 34, another two were ordered in 1812 which were built of teak at Bombay. The design was revived after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and another 78 were ordered in two batches between 1817 and 1827. The first batch of these later vessels consisted of 35 orders (of which one was cancelled) whilst the second amounted to 44 new vessels of which four were cancelled and six replaced by orders for paddle vessels.
The class was much criticised, being popularly known as 'coffin brigs', following the loss by wrecking or foundering of a number of them. Almost a quarter of them were lost, and they were also nicknamed "Half Tide Rock" as they had low freeboard so the deck was frequently awash with water, and solid bulwarks preventing the water from being shed quickly.These open flush-decked ships lacked a forecastle to deflect heavy seas crashing over the bow: one was added to Beagle in 1825 before its first voyage, together with a mizzen mast which improved the handling. Despite these modifications to the design, Captain Pringle Stokes protested that "our decks were constantly flooded".
Further extensive modifications were made for the second voyage of HMS Beagle. Darwin noted in his journal in April 1833 that "It blew half a gale of wind; but it was fair & we scudded before it. — Our decks fully deserved their nickname of a "half tide rock"; so constantly did the water flow over them", but John Lort Stokes who was on all three survey expeditions praised Beagle: "The reader will be surprised to learn that she belongs to that much-abused class, the '10-gun brigs'—coffins, as they are not infrequently designated in the service; notwithstanding which, she has proved herself, under every possible variety of trial, in all kinds of weather, an excellent sea boat."
William James, in his Naval History written before May 1827, dismissed the supposed design faults, and said that it would be "surprising indeed that the navy board would continue adding new individuals by dozens at a time" to "this worthless class". A more recent naval historian, Robert Gardiner, concurs, stating that there seems to have been no particular fault in their design, but they were considered to be somewhat too small for the global duties they took on. According to one experienced commander, they were not easy to sail but, "...if we put an officer who has always been accustomed to a line-of-battle-ship in to one of them, and he proves headstrong and self-sufficient, ten to one he upsets her, but in the hands of a good brig sailor, they are as safe as any other vessel". Lieutenant William Bowers, who spent 12 years in HMS Helicon and Leveret, felt that the class had been unduly criticised, he thought Helicon was a crack sailer once her hold had been restowed. Bowers however, complained that they were wet and cramped, and he particularly bemoaned their lack of warlike capabilities, claiming they had been vastly overrated. Despite these faults, the Cherokee brigs were quick when changing tack and extremely manoeuvrable, and with a crew of only 75, economical to run.
Few of the Cherokee-class ships took part in sea battles of any importance. HMS Lyra and Redpole were at the Battle of Basque Roads in 1809, guiding fireships to their target in the initial attack, and the latter also participated in the Walcheren Expedition later in the same year. Large numbers of them went on to serve as passenger and mail carrying packet ships, running from the UK to the US and Canada.
Several assisted with exploration and survey expeditions, including HMS Barracouta, which served with William Fitzwilliam Owen's survey of the African and Arabian coasts between 1821 and 1826 before being converted to a barque-rigged packet in 1829 and then being sold in 1836.
The first voyage of Beagle set out in 1826 under Captain Pringle Stokes as part of Phillip Parker King's survey of South American coasts, which returned late in 1830 with Beagle by then commanded by Robert FitzRoy. Captain Henry Foster commanded HMS Chanticleer on his survey around the South Atlantic, known as his "pendulum expedition", from 1827 to 1831. Chanticleer was then intended to be used for FitzRoy's next survey expedition, but was found to be in poor condition. Instead, the Beagle was repaired and modified for its famed second survey voyage from 1831 to 1836, which took along the naturalist Charles Darwin as a self-funded supernumerary. The Beagle subsequently carried out a survey of coasts of Australia from 1837 to 1843 under John Clements Wickham and John Lort Stokes.
From 1838 to around 1841 HMS Britomart, commanded by Owen Stanley, carried out survey work and other duties around Australia and New Zealand. Other survey ships of this class included HMS Fairy from about 1832 to 1840, Scorpion from 1848 to 1858 and Saracen from 1854 to 1860.
The first four vessels listed below were ordered on 30 March 1807, two more on 26 November 1807 and the next twenty vessels on 31 December 1807. Eight more orders were placed during 1808. All 34 were built by commercial contractors.
|Rolla||Thomas Pitcher, Northfleet||30 March 1807||December 1807||13 February 1808||Sold 18 April 1822|
|Cherokee||Perry, Wells & Green, Blackwall||30 March 1807||December 1807||24 February 1808||Sold 26 March 1828|
|Leveret||Perry, Wells & Green, Blackwall||30 March 1807||December 1807||24 February 1808||Sold 18 April 1822|
|Cadmus||John Dudman & Co., Deptford||30 March 1807||December 1807||26 February 1808||Coast Guard Watch Vessel in February 1835.|
Sold 12 March 1864
|Achates||Samuel & Daniel Brent, Rotherhithe||26 November 1807||December 1807||1 February 1808||Wrecked 7 February 1810|
|Parthian||William Barnard, Deptford||26 November 1807||December 1807||13 February 1808||Wrecked 15 May 1828|
|Briseis||John King, Upnor||31 December 1807||February 1808||19 May 1808||Wrecked 5 November 1818|
|Jasper||Jabez Bailey, Ipswich||31 December 1807||February 1808||27 May 1808||Wrecked 20 January 1817|
|Ephira||John King, Upnor||31 December 1807||February 1808||28 May 1808||Wrecked 26 December 1811|
|Onyx||Jabez Bailey, Ipswich||31 December 1807||February 1808||8 July 1808||Sold 3 February 1819|
|Badger||Joseph & Thomas Brindley, Frindsbury||31 December 1807||February 1808||23 July 1808||Mooring ship 1834.|
Broken up 1864.
|Opossum||Muddle, Gillingham||31 December 1807||March 1808||9 July 1808||Sold 3 February 1819|
|Wild Boar||John Pelham, Frindsbury||31 December 1807||March 1808||9 July 1808||Wrecked 15 February 1810|
|Rinaldo||John Dudman & Co., Deptford||31 December 1807||March 1808||13 July 1808||Sold 6 August 1835|
|Chanticleer||Daniel List, East Cowes||31 December 1807||March 1808||26 July 1808||Coast Guard Watch Vessel in January 1833.|
Broken up, completed 3 June 1871
|Goldfinch||John Warwick, Eling||31 December 1807||March 1808||8 August 1808||Sold 8 November 1838|
|Woodlark||William Rowe, Newcastle||31 December 1807||March 1808||17 November 1808||Sold 29 January 1818|
|Shearwater||William Rowe, Newcastle||31 December 1807||March 1808||21 November 1808||Sold November 1832|
|Calliope||John Dudman & Co., Deptford||31 December 1807||April 1808||8 July 1808||Broken up, completed 13 August 1829|
|Hope||Jabez Bailey, Ipswich||31 December 1807||April 1808||22 July 1808||Sold 3 February 1819|
|Britomart||John Dudman & Co., Deptford||31 December 1807||April 1808||28 July 1808||Sold 3 February 1819|
|Prince Arthur||John Dudman & Co., Deptford||31 December 1807||April 1808||28 July 1808||Sold 1808 to Sultan of Morocco|
(prior to completion)
|Cordelia||John King, Upnor||31 December 1807||May 1808||26 July 1808||Sold 12 December 1833|
|Redpole||Robert Guillaume, Northam||31 December 1807||May 1808||29 July 1808||Sunk in action August 1828 |
against pirate vessel Congress
|Helicon||John King, Upnor||31 December 1807||May 1808||8 August 1808||Broken up July 1829|
|Lyra||John Dudman & Co., Deptford||31 December 1807||May 1808||22 August 1808||Sold 11 July 1818|
|Beaver||Jabez Bailey, Ipswich||April 1808||October 1808||16 February 1809||Sold 24 June 1829|
|Drake||Jabez Bailey, Ipswich||27 June 1808||August 1808||3 November 1808||Wrecked 22 June 1822|
|Rosario||Jabez Bailey, Ipswich||27 June 1808||August 1808||7 December 1808||Sold November 1832|
|Renard||John King, Upnor||9 July 1808||August 1808||5 December 1808||Sold 29 June 1818|
|Tyrian||Robert Guillaume, Northam||18 July 1808||August 1808||16 December 1808||Sold 22 July 1819|
|Bermuda||John Pelham, Frindsbury||18 July 1808||August 1808||20 December 1808||Wrecked 16 November 1816|
|Rhodian||Robert Guillaume, Northam||18 July 1808||August 1808||3 January 1809||Wrecked 21 February 1813|
|Sarpedon||John Warwick, Eling||30 September 1808||September 1808||1 February 1809||Wrecked 1 January 1813|
Two vessels were ordered 2 October 1812. These were built in India at the Bombay Dockyard under a contract from the British East India Company. They were built of teak, but were otherwise identical to their predecessors.
|Sphinx||Bombay Dockyard||2 October 1812||25 January 1815||Sold 6 August 1835|
|Cameleon||Bombay Dockyard,||2 October 1812||15 January 1816||Broken up in April 1849|
Unlike the wartime batch, all the post-war batches were built in the Royal Dockyards rather than by contractors. Note that several names of vessels from the 1808–1816 batch were re-used for vessels in the second or third batches (as indicated below).
Thirty-five vessels were ordered in 1817–1821 – twelve on 13 June 1817, twelve on 2 November 1818, two on 8 December 1818, six on 23 May 1820, one on 6 January 1821 and two on 19 April 1821.
|Alacrity||Deptford||13 June 1817||October 1817||29 December 1818|
|Ariel||Deptford||13 June 1817||February 1819||28 July 1820|
|Barracouta||Woolwich||13 June 1817||June 1818||13 May 1820|
|Woolwich||13 June 1817||June 1818||11 May 1820|
|Bustard||Chatham||13 June 1817||November 1817||12 December 1818|
|Brisk||Chatham||13 June 1817||November 1817||10 February 1819|
|Delight||Portsmouth||13 June 1817||November 1817||10 May 1819|
|Cygnet||Portsmouth||13 June 1817||November 1817||11 May 1819|
|Eclipse||Plymouth||13 June 1817||March 1818||23 July 1819|
|Emulous (2nd of name)||Plymouth||13 June 1817||June 1818||16 December 1819|
|Falcon||Pembroke||13 June 1817||May 1818||10 June 1820|
|Frolic||Pembroke||13 June 1817||August 1818||10 June 1820|
|Lyra (2nd of name)||Plymouth||2 November 1818||March 1819||1 June 1821|
|Jasper (2nd of name)||Portsmouth||2 November 1818||May 1819||26 July 1820|
|Britomart (2nd of name)||Portsmouth||2 November 1818||June 1819||24 August 1820|
|Partridge||Plymouth||2 November 1818||December 1819||22 March 1822|
|Reynard (2nd of name)||Pembroke||2 November 1818||May 1820||26 October 1821|
|Weazle||Chatham||2 November 1818||May 1820||26 March 1822|
|Kingfisher||Woolwich||2 November 1818||December 1820||11 March 1823|
|Procris||Chatham||2 November 1818||March 1821||21 June 1822|
|Algerine||Deptford||2 November 1818||April 1821||10 June 1823|
|Magnet||Woolwich||2 November 1818||June 1821||13 March 1823|
|Halcyon||Woolwich||2 November 1818||unknown||Cancelled|
21 February 1831
|Zephyr||Pembroke||2 November 1818||November 1821||1 November 1823|
|Opossum (2nd of name)||Sheerness||2 November 1818||November 1819||11 December 1821|
|Onyx (2nd of name)||Sheerness||2 November 1818||November 1819||24 January 1822|
|Plover||Portsmouth||23 May 1820||August 1820||30 June 1821|
|Ferret||Portsmouth||23 May 1820||August 1820||12 October 1821|
|Hope (2nd of name)||Plymouth||23 May 1820||March 1822||8 December 1824|
|Mutine||Plymouth||23 May 1820||April 1822||19 May 1825|
|Forester||Deptford||23 May 1820||unknown||Re-ordered at Chatham|
23 May 1826
|Griffon||Deptford||23 May 1820||unknown||Re-ordered at Chatham|
23 May 1826
|Tyrian (2nd of name)||Woolwich||6 January 1821||April 1823||16 September 1826|
|Philomel||Portsmouth||19 April 1821||June 1821||28 April 1823|
|Royalist||Portsmouth||19 April 1821||August 1821||12 May 1823|
Forty-four vessels were ordered in 1823–1826, thirty on 25 March 1823, two on 23 November 1824, two on 7 December 1824, four on 23 May 1826 and six on 28 October 1826. Of these only thirty-four were built as sailing brigs; four were cancelled outright, and the orders for six more were replaced (before any work had commenced) by orders for paddle vessels, using the same names.
|Leveret (2nd of name)||Portsmouth||25 March 1823||May 1823||19 February 1825|
|Musquito||Portsmouth||25 March 1823||May 1823||19 February 1825|
|Hearty||Chatham||25 March 1823||July 1823||22 October 1824|
|Myrtle||Portsmouth||25 March 1823||July 1823||14 September 1825|
|Lapwing||Chatham||25 March 1823||September 1823||20 February 1825|
|Sheldrake||Pembroke||25 March 1823||November 1823||19 May 1825|
|Harpy||Chatham||25 March 1823||March 1824||16 July 1825|
|Fairy||Chatham||25 March 1823||July 1824||25 April 1826|
|Skylark||Pembroke||25 March 1823||May 1825||6 May 1826|
|Espoir||Chatham||25 March 1823||January 1825||9 May 1826|
|Calypso (2nd of name)
|Chatham||25 March 1823||March 1825||19 August 1826|
|Spey||Pembroke||25 March 1823||July 1825||6 October 1827|
|Variable||Pembroke||25 March 1823||May 1826||6 October 1827|
|Briseis (2nd of name)||Deptford||25 March 1823||August 1827||3 July 1829|
|Rapid||Portsmouth||25 March 1823||January 1824||17 August 1829|
|Recruit||Portsmouth||25 March 1823||February 1825||17 August 1829|
|Reindeer||Plymouth||25 March 1823||December 1824||29 September 1829|
|Thais||Pembroke||25 March 1823||July 1828||12 October 1829|
|Rolla (2nd of name)||Plymouth||25 March 1823||June 1825||10 December 1829|
|Savage||Plymouth||25 March 1823||October 1829||29 December 1830|
|Saracen||Plymouth||25 March 1823||December 1829||30 January 1831|
|Scorpion||Plymouth||25 March 1823||June 1830||28 July 1832|
|Sealark||Plymouth||25 March 1823||November 1830||Cancelled|
10 January 1831
|Deptford||25 March 1823||unknown||Cancelled|
21 February 1831
|Termagent||Portsmouth||23 November 1824||October 1829||26 March 1838|
|Lynx||Portsmouth||23 November 1824||February 1830||2 September 1833|
|Nautilus||Woolwich||7 December 1824||April 1829||11 March 1830|
|Curlew||Woolwich||7 December 1824||November 1829||25 February 1830|
|Delight (2nd of name)||Chatham||23 May 1826||August 1827||27 November 1829|
|Algerine (2nd of name)||Chatham||23 May 1826||October 1827||1 August 1829|
|Griffon (2nd of name)||Chatham||23 May 1826||July 1830||11 September 1832|
|Forester (2nd of name)||Chatham||23 May 1826||September 1830||28 August 1832|
|Partridge (2nd of name)||Pembroke||28 October 1826||August 1828||12 October 1829|
|Wizard||Pembroke||28 October 1826||October 1829||24 May 1830|
|Charybdis||Portsmouth||28 October 1826||December 1829||27 February 1831|
|Buzzard||Portsmouth||28 October 1826||December 1829||23 March 1834|
|Foxhound||Plymouth||28 October 1826||unknown||Cancelled|
21 February 1831
|Helena||Plymouth||28 October 1826||unknown||Cancelled|
21 February 1831
Six of the vessels originally ordered 25 March 1823 were swiftly re-ordered as paddle steamers in May 1824 – Alban and Carron (both at Deptford), Columbia, Confiance, Dee and Echo (all four at Woolwich).
- "HMS Beagle – Port of science and discovery – Port Cities". Retrieved 30 January 2009.
- Taylor 2008, pp. 36–38
- FitzRoy 1839, pp. 17–22
- Gardiner, Robert (Ed.) (1998) The Naval War of 1812, Chatham Publishing, London, p. 90.
- Taylor 2008, pp. 33–35
- Keynes, Richard (2001), Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary, Cambridge University Press, p. 152
- Stokes 1846, Volume 1, Chapter 1
- Knight 2022, p. 60
- Blake and Lawrence (1999) p. 42
- James pp. 105-106
- "No. 16650". The London Gazette. 26 September 1812. p. 1971.
- Taylor 2008, p. 37
- Taylor 2008, pp. 36–37, 183–185
- Francis West (1967). "Stanley, Owen (1811–1850)". Biography – Owen Stanley. Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
- Blake, Nicholas; Lawrence, Richard (1999). The Illustrated Companion to Nelson's Navy. London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 1-86176-090-6.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8.
- Knight, Roger (2022). Convoys. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300268751.
- Rif Winfield, The Sail and Steam Navy List, 1815–1889 (Chatham Publishing, 2004)
- Rif Winfield, British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793–1817 (2nd edition, Seaforth Publishing, 2009)
- Rif Winfield, British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1817–1863 (Seaforth Publishing, 2014).
- FitzRoy, Robert (1839). "Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe. Proceedings of the second expedition, 1831–36, under the command of Captain Robert Fitz-Roy, R.N." London: Henry Colburn. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
- James, William (1827). The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume V, 1808–1811. London: Richard Bentley. OCLC 918372293.
- Stokes, John Lort (1846). Discoveries in Australia. London: T and W. Boone., Volume 1, Volume 2
- Taylor, James (2008). "1: The Origin & Design of HMS Beagle". Voyage of the Beagle: Darwin's Extraordinary Adventure in Fitzroy's Famous Survey Ship. Conway Publishing, Anova Books. ISBN 978-1-84486-066-1.