HMS Constant Warwick (1645)

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Royal Navy EnsignEngland
Name: Constant Warwick
Builder: Peter Pett I, Ratcliff
Launched: 1645
Captured: 1691
General characteristics as built[1]
Class and type: 32-gun fourth-rate frigate
Length: 85 ft 0 in (25.91 m) (keel)
Beam: 26 ft 5 in (8.05 m)
Depth of hold: 13 ft 2 in (4.01 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Armament: 32 guns - comprising 12 culverins, 12 demi-culverins and 10 sakers
General characteristics by 1660[1]
Class and type: 32-gun fourth-rate frigate
Tons burthen: 341.25 tons (347.5 tonnes)
Length: 88 ft (27 m) (keel)
Beam: 27 ft 0 in (8.23 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft 8 in (3.86 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Armament: 34 guns
General characteristics after 1666 rebuild[2]
Class and type: 42-gun fourth-rate ship of the line
Tons burthen: 379.8 tons (385.9 tonnes)
Length: 90 ft (27 m) (keel)
Beam: 28 ft 2 in (8.59 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft 8 in (3.86 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Armament: 42 guns - comprising 20 demi-culverins, 18 sakers (6-pounder guns) and 4 light sakers (5-pounder guns)

Constant Warwick was a 32-gun fourth-rate frigate which served in the English Royal Navy, built by Peter Pett I at Ratcliff and launched in 1645.[1] She is sometimes regarded as the 'first English frigate',[1] although a number of vessels built or acquired earlier (during the 1630s and 1640s) also merit a similar description. The term 'frigate' during the period of this ship referred to a method of construction, rather than a role which did not develop until the following century.

Service history[edit]

Constant Warwick was not built for the Navy, but was built as a privateer for a consortium which included the Earl of Warwick (hence her name) and Sir William Batten (Surveyor of the Navy), but was hired by the navy from 1646 until 20 January 1649, when she was purchased outright.[1]

She was rebuilt at least once. Her original dimensions altered by 1660, evidence that she may have seen structural changes during the 1650s. She was certainly rebuilt by Sir John Tippetts at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1666 as a 42-gun fourth rate ship of the line. Her armament had been reduced to 40 guns by 1685,[2] with eighteen demi-culverins (drakes) on the lower deck, eighteen sakers (6-pounder guns) on the upper deck, and four 3-pounder guns on the quarter deck. She was downgraded to a fifth rate in 1691, scheduled to be reduced to 28 guns, but before this took effect she was captured on 12 July 1691 off Portugal by a French squadron.[2]


Mr Samuel Pepys states,

"The Constant-Warwich was the first frigate built in England. She was built in 1649, by Mr. Peter Pett, for a privateer for the Earl of Warwick...Pett took his model of a frigate from a French frigate he had seen in the Thames; as his son Sir Phineas Pett, acknowledged to me."[3]

Research by William M. James states,

"Constant-Warwick was built in 1646, at Ratcliffe...(she was) of 380 to 400 tons, and mounted 26 guns; consisting of 18 light demi-culverins or short 9-pounders, on the main deck, six light sakers, or short 6-pounders, on what was virtually the quarterdeck, and two minions, on what, as being no greater extent than was requisite for a roof to the chief officer's cabin, may be called a poop...The deck on which the sakers are mounted is really a whole deck, reaching from stem to stern; but the bulwark, or barricade, commences only where that of the modern quarterdeck does, at the after side of the gangway-entrance...(she is) well formed in her lower body, lightly but handsomely ornamented in her upperworks, and rigged according to the most approved plan of the day...The first list, in which the Constant-Warwick appears as a national ship, is one of 1652. There she classes as a fifth-rate, or 28 guns. In another list of the same year, her guns are stated at 32; a difference to be explained, perhaps, by one being the lowest, the other the highest, number of guns assigned to the ship in her new employ"[4]

James continues,

"Our suspicion that this had taken place (overfitting re: armament) was excited by seeing the name of the Constant-Warwick, as one of the six fourth-rated 42-gun ships...There the ship, having her two bow-ports filled, carries 20, instead of 18 demi-culverins on, what is now, in truth, the first gundeck; and, having her quarterdeck bulwark continued forward on each side to her stem, readily finds room for a second whole tier of guns."[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Lavery, Ships of the Line vol. 1, p. 159.
  2. ^ a b c Lavery, Ships of the Line vol. 1, p. 161.
  3. ^ 1633-1703., Pepys, Samuel, (2010). Memoires of the Royal Navy 1690. Davies, J. D. Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 9781848320659. OCLC 431193285.
  4. ^ a b -1827., James, William, (©2002-). The naval history of Great Britain : during the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Lambert, Andrew D., 1956-. London: Conway Maritime. ISBN 9780851779058. OCLC 50493356. Check date values in: |date= (help)


  • 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.