HMS Sceptre (1802)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Sceptre.
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Sceptre
Ordered: 4 February 1800
Builder: Dudman, Deptford
Laid down: December 1800
Launched: 11 December 1802
Fate: Broken up, 1821
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Repulse-class ship of the line
Tons burthen: 1727 (bm)
Length: 174 ft (53 m) (gundeck)
Beam: 47 ft 4 in (14.43 m)
Depth of hold: 20 ft (6.1 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Armament: GD: 28 × 32-pounder guns

Upper GD: 28 × 18-pounder guns
QD: 14 × 9-pounder guns

Fc: 4 × 9-pounder guns

HMS Sceptre was a 74-gun third rate of the Royal Navy, built by Dudman of Deptford after a design by Sir William Rule, and launched in December 1802 at Deptford.[1] She served in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 before being broken up in 1821.


On 20 June 1803, after a shakedown period, she came into Plymouth for a refit. She then sailed again on 28 June under the command of Captain A. C. Dickson to join the Channel fleet.

East Indies[edit]

In July 1803, she sailed for the East Indies station. On 21 December 1803, in the eastern Indian Ocean, Sceptre and Albion captured the French ship Clarisse, 12 and her crew of 157 men. In 1804, Captain Joseph Bingham, formerly of St. Fiorenzo, assumed command of Sceptre. On 11 November 1806, HMS Sceptre and Cornwallis under Captain Johnston made a dash into St. Paul's Bay, Isle of Bourbon, and attacked the shipping there, which consisted of the frigate Sémillante, three armed ships and twelve captured British ships. (The eight ships that had been earlier taken by Sémillante were valued at one and a half million pounds.) However, what little breeze there was soon failed, and the two ships found it difficult to manoeuvre and were unable to recapture any prizes.

In 1808, Sceptre, in company with Cornwallis, engaged and damaged Sémillante, together with the shore batteries that she sought to protect. She served for six years in the East Indies before transferring to the Caribbean. During the passage from England Captain Samuel James Ballard trained his crew in the use of the broadsword. This later proved of value when they were used ashore. He arrived off Martinique with Alfred and Frejus under his orders, to find that four French frigates had captured and burnt Junon, belonging to the Halifax squadron, about 150 miles to the windward of Guadaloupe.

On 18 December, Sceptre, Blonde, Thetis, Freija, Castor, Cygnet, Hazard, Ringdove, and Elizabeth proceeded to attack two of the enemy frigates, Seine and Loire, anchored in Anse à la Barque ("Barque Cove"), about nine miles to the northwest of the town of Basse-Terre. Blonde, Thetis and the three sloops bore the brunt of the attack but forced the French to abandon their ships and set fire to them. Captain Cameron, who was killed in the attempt, landed with the boats of Hazard and destroyed the shore batteries. Sceptre and Cornwallis, much affected by scurvy, retired to Madagascar for their crews to recuperate. Sceptre then returned home in 1808 accompanied by two homeward-bound Danish East Indiamen that Captain Bingham had captured off the Cape of Good Hope.

Channel and West Indies[edit]

Sceptre was paid off but, after repair and refitting, was recommissioned by Captain Bingham and joined Sir Richard Strachan in the expedition to the Scheldt in 1809. Towards the end of January 1810 Sceptre escorted a division of the troops destined for the attack on Guadaloupe from St. Lucia to the Saintes. While other troops were landed on the island he created a diversion off Trois-Rivières before landing his troops and marines between Anse à la Barque and Basse-Terre. Until the surrender of the island, Captain Ballard commanded the detachment of seamen and marines attached to the army. Sceptre visited most of the West Indian islands before sailing from St. Thomas in August with the homebound trade.


She arrived at Spithead on 25 September 1810 and was docked and refitted. Sceptre was employed in the Channel watching the enemy in Brest and the Basque Roads until January 1813.

War of 1812[edit]

In 1813, Captain Charles Ross, took command of Sceptre as the flagship of Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn for operations against the United States. On 11 July 1813, Sceptre, with Romulus, Fox, Nemesis, and Conflict and the tenders Highflyer and Cockchafer, anchored off the Ocracoke bar, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. They had on board troops under the orders of Lieutenant Colonel Napier. An advanced division of the best pulling boats commanded by Lieutenant Westphall and carrying armed seamen and marines from Sceptre attacked the enemy's shipping. They were supported by Captain Ross with the rocket-boats. The flat and heavier boats followed with the bulk of the 102nd Regiment and the artillery.

The only opposition came from a brig, Anaconda, of 18 guns, and a privateer schooner, the Atlas, of 10 guns, which were the only armed vessels in the anchorage. When Lieutenant Westphall attacked, supported by rockets, the Americans abandoned Anaconda and Atlas struck. The troops took possession of Portsmouth Island and Ocracoke Island without opposition. The British took the two prizes into service as Anaconda and St Lawrence.[Note 1]

On 12 May 1814, Sceptre recaptured the letter of marque Fanny.[3] The capture and recapture of Fanny, together with Scepter‍ '​s claim for salvage, gave rise to several important legal cases.[Note 2]


Sceptre spent her final years in the Channel in the blockade of the French fleet.[citation needed] In 1815, Sceptre was decommissioned at Chatham. After a period in ordinary, she was finally broken up at Chatham in 1821.[1]


  1. ^ A first-class share of the prize money for the two was worth £32 3s 2¼d; a sixth-class share was worth 9s 8¼d.[2]
  2. ^ A first-class share of the salvage money, the share accruing to Captain Ross, was worth £605 7s 2d; a sixth-class share, that of an ordinary seaman, was worth £3 12s 1½d.[4]



  1. ^ a b c Lavery, Ships of the Line vol.1, p185.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 18015. p. 540. 3 April 1824.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16973. p. 29. 7 January 1815.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16976. p. 90. 17 January 1815.


  • Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650-1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.