Ariel-class gunboat

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HMS Coquette (1871).jpg
HMS Coquette, by William Frederick Mitchell (1873)
Class overview
Name: Ariel-class gunboats
  • Pembroke Dockyard
  • Chatham Dockyard
Preceded by: Britomart class
Succeeded by: Forester class
Cost: Hull £10,600, machinery £3,900 (Swinger)[1]
Built: 1871–1873
In commission: 1871–1895
Completed: 9
Lost: 0
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Composite gunboat
  • 430 tons
  • (except Ariel & Zephyr - 438 tons)
Tons burthen: 295 bm
Length: 125 ft 0 in (38.1 m)
  • 22 ft 6 in (6.9 m)
  • (except Ariel & Zephyr - 23 ft)
Draught: 10 ft 3 in (3.1 m) max
Installed power: 60 nhp
  • 1 × 2-cylinder horizontal compound-expansion steam engine (except Swinger - single-expansion)
  • 2 × boilers
  • 1 × (hoisting) screw
Sail plan: Three-masted barquentine rig
Speed: 9.5 kn (17.6 km/h)
Complement: 40 (later 60)

The Ariel-class gunboat was a class of nine 4-gun composite gunboats built for the Royal Navy between 1871 and 1873. Although most were sold by 1890, one of them survived into the 1920s as a salvage vessel in private ownership. They were the first class of Royal Navy gunboat built of composite construction, that is, with iron keel, stem and stern posts, and iron framing, but planked with wood.

Design and construction[edit]

Designed by Sir Edward Reed, Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy, the Ariel-class gunboats were the first Royal Navy gunboats of composite construction.[2] They were some of the first vessels to be fitted with compound-expansion engines, allowing the Royal Navy to experiment with new engine designs at little risk in small, cheap vessels.[2][Note 1] These engines were rated 60 nominal horsepower (an indicated horsepower of between 461 ihp (344 kW) and 534 ihp (398 kW)). They were armed with two 6-inch (150 mm) 64-pounder (56cwt) muzzle-loading rifles and two 4-inch (100 mm) 20-pounder Armstrong breech loaders. All 4 guns were mounted on traversing carriages. Some of the class were re-armed in the 1880s with two 5-inch and two 4-inch breech loaders. All the ships of the class carried a three-masted barquentine rig.[1]

The launch of HMS Swinger


Name Ship Builder Launched Fate
Coquette Pembroke Dockyard 5 April 1871 Sold in August 1889
Foam Pembroke Dockyard 29 August 1871 Sold in June 1887
Decoy Pembroke Dockyard 12 October 1871 Sold in October 1885
Merlin Pembroke Dockyard 24 November 1871 Sold on 27 February 1891
Mosquito Pembroke Dockyard 9 December 1871 Sold in December 1888
Goshawk Pembroke Dockyard 23 January 1872 Hulk in 1902. Sold c1906
Swinger Pembroke Dockyard 7 February 1872 Hulk 1895. Sold to Rogers & Company in June 1924
Ariel Chatham Dockyard 11 February 1873 Coastguard 26 November 1877. Sold in August 1889
Zephyr Chatham Dockyard 11 February 1873 Sold to George Cohen as a salvage vessel in February 1889. Broken up at Briton Ferry in June 1929


  1. ^ Swinger, uniquely in the class, was engined by Humphrys, Tennant & Co. with a horizontal single-expansion steam engine.


  1. ^ a b c Winfield (2004), p.297
  2. ^ a b Preston (2007) p.160