HMS Castor (1785)

HMS Castor was a 32-gun Amazon-class fifth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. She served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The French briefly captured her during the Atlantic Campaign of May 1794 but she spent just 20 days in French hands as a British ship retook her before her prize crew could reach a French port. Castor eventually saw service in many of the theatres of the wars, spending time in the waters off the British Isles, in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, as well as the Caribbean.

Capture of the Castor.jpg
Print by Thomas Whitcombe depicting HMS Carysfort retaking Castor from the French on 29 May 1794
Royal Navy EnsignGreat Britain
Name: HMS Castor
Ordered: 30 January 1782
Builder: Joseph Graham, Harwich
Laid down: January 1783
Launched: 26 May 1785
Completed: 11 July 1786
Fate: Sold on 22 July 1819
General characteristics
Class and type: 32-gun Amazon-class fifth-rate frigate
Tons burthen: 680 (bm)
  • 126 ft (38.4 m) (overall)
  • 104 ft (31.7 m) (keel)
Beam: 35 ft 1 in (10.7 m)
Draught: 9 ft (2.74 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft 2 in (3.71 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Complement: 220
  • As built:
  • UD: 26 × 12-pounder guns
  • QD: 4 × 6-pounder guns + 4 × 18-pounder carronades
  • Fc: 2 × 6-pounder guns + 2 × 18-pounder carronades
  • After 1809:
  • UD: 22 × 32-pounder carronades
  • QD: 2 × 6-pounder guns + 4 × 32-pounder carronades
  • Fc: 2 × 12-pounder guns + 2 × 32-pounder carronades

Construction and commissioningEdit

Castor was ordered on 30 January 1782 and laid down in January the following year at the yards of the shipbuilder Joseph Graham, of Harwich.[1] She was launched on 26 May 1785 and completed by July the following year.[2] The ship was then laid up in ordinary at Chatham Dockyard.[1]


Early yearsEdit

Castor spent nearly five years in ordinary until the Spanish Armament of 1790 caused her to be fitted out at Chatham between June and August 1790 for the sum of £2,795. She commissioned in July that year under Captain John S. Smith, but the easing of international tensions caused Castor to be paid off later that year.[3] The rising tensions with France immediately prior to the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars led the Admiralty to again prepare Castor for active service. She was fitted at Chatham between February and April 1793 for £4,066, recommissioning that February under Captain Thomas Troubridge.[3]

French Revolutionary Wars and captureEdit

Troubridge sailed for the Mediterranean on 22 May 1793, where in June she and HMS Mermaid captured a 14-gun privateer.[3] Castor was then part of Admiral Hood's fleet at Toulon. While Castor was escorting a convoy back to Britain, on 9 May 1794 a French squadron under Rear-Admiral Joseph-Marie Nielly chased and captured her off Cape Clear.[3] A French prize crew then sailed her back towards France. Twenty days later, on 29 May, Francis Laforey's HMS Carysfort sighted Castor off Land's End and recaptured her.[2][3] Castor was re-registered as a naval ship on 6 November and recommissioned in January 1795 under Captain Rowley Bulteel.[3] Bulteel took her to the Mediterranean in May 1795, but paid her off in September 1796.[3]

Castor underwent a refit at Plymouth between November 1798 and March 1799, recommissioning under Captain Edward Leveson Gower. In March 1799 a quantity of the gunpowder stores were accidentally ignited, causing severe injury to one of Castor's midshipmen.[4] The injured man having been replaced, Captain Gower sailed Castor to Newfoundland in April 1799, but by December that year Castor was on the Spanish coast when she captured the 2-gun privateer Santa Levivate y Aninimus off Oporto on Christmas Day 1799.[3] Captain David Lloyd took command of Castor in 1801, but he was soon succeeded by Captain Bernard Hale who sailed for the West Indies in April 1801.[3] Hale died in 1802; his successor Captain Richard Peacocke continued to command Castor in the West Indies.[3]

West Indies and CaribbeanEdit

Castor returned home, and was fitted out as a guardship for Liverpool between August and October 1803.[3] She came initially under the command of Captain Edward Brace, but by April 1805 she had been moved to Sheerness, where she recommissioned under Captain Joseph Baker.[3] She spent between 1806 and 1809 undergoing a repair and refit, before she came under the command of Captain William Roberts.[3] On 27 March 1808 her boats, along with those of HMS Ulysses, HMS Hippomenes and HMS Morne Fortunee made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the 16-gun French Griffon from Port Marin, Martinique.[5]

In April 1809, a strong French squadron arrived at the Îles des Saintes, south of Guadeloupe. There they were blockaded until 14 April, when a British force under Major-General Frederick Maitland invaded and captured the islands. Castor was among the naval vessels that shared in the proceeds of the capture of the islands.[Note 1] Castor was next involved in the chase on 16 and 17 April 1809 of the 74-gun French ship of the line Hautpoult off Puerto Rico.[3]

Mediterranean and final yearsEdit

Captain Charles Dilkes took command in October 1810, and Castor spent 1811 and 1812 on the Leeward Islands and Jamaica stations.[3] She moved to the Mediterranean in late 1812, and on 22 June 1813 captured the 2-gun privateer Fortune off the Catalan coast.[3] She captured two other privateers, the one gun Heureux and Minute (or Minuit), off Barcelona on 22 or 25 January 1814.[3][Note 2]


Castor was finally laid up in August 1815 in Portsmouth at the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars. The Admiralty sold her for breaking up on 22 July 1819 to G. Bailey for the sum of £2,650.[2][3]

Notes, citations, and referencesEdit

  1. ^ The prize agent for a number of the vessels involved, Henry Abbott, went bankrupt. In May 1835 there was a final payment of a dividend from his estate. A first-class share was worth 10s 2¾d; a sixth-class share, that of an ordinary seaman, was worth 1d. Seventh-class (landsmen) and eighth-class (boys) shares were fractions of a penny, too small to pay.[6]
  2. ^ Head money for Minuit was finally paid in October 1832. A first-class share was worth £20 18s4d; a sixth-class share was worth 3s 9¾d.[7]
  1. ^ a b Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail. p. 208.
  2. ^ a b c Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy. p. 62.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail. p. 209.
  4. ^ Grocott 1997, p.74
  5. ^ Winfield (2008), p.273.
  6. ^ "No. 19255". The London Gazette. 3 April 1835. p. 643.
  7. ^ "No. 18980". The London Gazette. 28 September 1832. p. 2169.