HMS Defiance (1861)

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Class overview
Name: Defiance
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Renown class
Succeeded by: Bulwark class
Completed: 1
RN Ensign
Name: HMS Defiance
Ordered: 17 June 1855
Builder: Pembroke Dock
Cost: £119,442
Laid down: 20 September 1858
Launched: 27 March 1861
Completed: 1862
Fate: Sold, 26 June 1931
General characteristics (Lambert[1])
Type: Steam two-decker ship of the line
Tonnage: 3475 tons BOM
Displacement: 5,700 long tons (5,791 t)
  • 246 ft 9 in (75.21 m) o/a
  • 220 ft (67 m) keel-line
Beam: 55 ft 4 in (16.87 m)
Draught: 24 ft 6 in (7.47 m) forward, 24 ft 6 in (7.47 m) aft
Propulsion: Maudslay engine, 800 nhp, 3,550 ihp (2,647 kW)
Sail plan:
  • Main mast : 67 ft (20 m) × 40 in
  • Fore mast : 61 ft (19 m) × 37 in
  • Mizzen mast : 51 ft 6 in × 27 in
Speed: 11.884 knots (13.676 mph; 22.009 km/h) under power (not masted or stored)
Complement: 860

HMS Defiance was the last wooden line-of-battle ship launched for the Royal Navy. She never saw service as a wooden line-of-battle ship. In 1884 she became a schoolship.


Defiance was a development of the Renown class. The second pair of Renown's, HMS Atlas and HMS Anson, had a modified, finer stern run. Defiance was originally laid down as to the same plan as Atlas, but a new plan dated 8 October 1858 was prepared giving Defiance a lengthened bow.[2]

Defiance was the last ship to use the midsection design that Isaac Watts created for HMS James Watt.[3]


Her trials off Plymouth on 5 February 1862 were conducted when she was neither masted nor stored. The trial speed of 11.886 knots (22.013 km/h) was worse than the similar trials of Atlas 13.022 knots (24.117 km/h) and Anson 12.984 knots (24.046 km/h). However Defiance's lack of sea service means that there can be no certainty as to whether her design was an improvement on Atlas.[4]

On 26 November 1884 Defiance became the Devonport torpedo and mining schoolship.[5] Commander Frederick Hamilton was appointed in command on 1 November 1897,[6] and re-appointed in early January 1898 after promotion to Captain.[7] Captain James de Courcy Hamilton was appointed in command on 1 November 1900.

A special railway station to serve personnel travelling to and from the school, known as "Defiance Platform", was situated just west of Saltash railway station from 1905 until 1930.

She was sold on 26 June 1931 to Castle's Shipbreaking Yard for dismantling at Millbay, Plymouth.[8] Doige's Annual for 1932 poignantly describes her as "the last of England's 'Wooden Walls'".


  1. ^ Lambert, Battleships in Transition, pp.122-6.
  2. ^ Lambert, Battleships in Transition, pp.125-6.
  3. ^ Lambert, Battleships in Transition, p.126.
  4. ^ Lambert, Battleships in Transition, pp.125-6.
  5. ^ Lambert, Battleships in Transition, p.126. Online history HMS Defiance
  6. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (35338). London. 19 October 1897. p. 8.
  7. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (35408). London. 8 January 1898. p. 10.
  8. ^ Lambert, Battleships in Transition, p.126. Online history HMS Defiance

Some of the timbers, including 6 oak pillars, the captain's fire surround, two cross members and some decking was used in the renovation of Furzehatt House in Plymstock that was owned and occupied by the Castle family (this account was relayed to me by Major Bunny Castle (retired) who came over from NZ on holiday to see his childhood home.


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