Forester-class gunboat

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HMS Foxhound (1877).jpg
HMS Foxhound
Class overview
Name: Forester-class gunboats
  • William Doxford, Sunderland
  • Robert Napier & Sons, Govan
  • Earle’s Shipbuilding, Hull
  • Barrow Iron Shipbuilding
  • J & G Thomson, Govan
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Ariel class
Succeeded by: Banterer class
Cost: Hull £14,150, machinery £6,550 (Foxhound)[1]
Built: 1874–1877
In commission: c.1874–1931
Completed: 12
Lost: 0
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Composite gunboat
  • First 6 ships: 440 tons
  • Last 6 ships: 455 tons
Length: 125 ft 0 in (38.1 m) pp
Beam: 23 ft 6 in (7.2 m)
Draught: 8 1210 12 ft (2.6–3.2 m)
Installed power:
  • 1 ×2-cylinder horizontal compound-expansion steam engine[Note 1]
  • 2 × boilers
  • 1 × screw
Sail plan: Three-masted barquentine rig
Speed: 10 kn (19 km/h)
Complement: 60

The Forester-class gunboat was a class of 4-gun composite gunboats built for the Royal Navy between 1874 and 1877. Although half had been sold by 1890, the rest survived into the 20th century as coal hulks, base vessels and other secondary uses. Foxhound survived as a hulk on the Blackwall Reach of the Thames until 1975, when she was broken up. They were 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 Nathaniel Barnaby, Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy, the Forester-class gunboats were similar in every respect to the preceding Ariel-class gunboats.[2] They were fitted with a 2-cylinder horizontal compound-expansion steam engine, although Moorhen and Sheldrake received a single-expansion direct-acting steam engine. These engines were rated for 60 nominal horsepower and generated between 387 ihp (289 kW) and 515 ihp (384 kW)).[2] 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. All the ships of the class carried a three-masted barquentine rig.[1]


Name Ship Builder Launched Fate
Cygnet William Doxford, Sunderland 30 May 1874 Broken up in 1889
Express William Doxford, Sunderland 16 July 1874 Sold in August 1889
Contest William Doxford, Sunderland 29 August 1874 Broken up at Devonport in 1889
Sheldrake Robert Napier & Sons, Govan 3 July 1875 Drill ship, renamed Drake on 13 March 1888. Coastguard watch vessel, renamed WV29 in 1893. Renamed Drake in 1906. Sold to Meyer Isaacs on 3 April 1906
Mallard Earle’s Shipbuilding, Hull 4 August 1875 Sold in August 1889
Moorhen Robert Napier & Sons, Govan 13 September 1875 Sold in November 1888
Foxhound Barrow Iron Shipbuilding 29 January 1877 Coastguard in 1886. Coal tug in 1897, renamed YC20. Sold as hulk Arabel in 1920, and remained in Blackwall Reach on the River Thames for 55 years. Broken up in 1975
Forward Barrow Iron Shipbuilding 29 January 1877 Coal hulk in 1892. Sold in 1904
Firm Earle’s Shipbuilding, Hull 14 February 1877 Sold to Cox for breaking up at Falmouth on 14 May 1907
Forester Earle’s Shipbuilding, Hull 26 February 1877 Coal hulk in 1894. Sold in 1904
Firebrand J & G Thomson, Govan 30 April 1877 Sold in 1905, became mercantile Hoi Sin
Firefly J & G Thomson, Govan 28 June 1877 Boom defence in 1904. Base ship on 3 April 1914, renamed Egmont. Renamed Firefly 1 in March 1923. Sold in May 1931


  1. ^ With the exception of Moorhen and Sheldrake, which received similarly rated single-expansion direct-acting steam engines


  1. ^ a b c Winfield (2004), p.297
  2. ^ a b c Preston (2007) p.171