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Leda-class frigate

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

HMS Trincomalee, one of the two surviving members of the class.
Class overview
NameLeda class
Operators Royal Navy
SubclassesModified Leda class
Built1805 - the last 2 ordered were cancelled in 1832
General characteristics
Class and type38-gun frigate
Tons burthen10627994 (bm)
  • 150 ft 1+12 in (45.758 m) (gundeck)
  • 125 ft 4+78 in (38.224 m) (keel)
Beam39 ft 11 in (12.17 m)
Depth of hold12 ft 9 in (3.89 m)
Sail planFull-rigged ship
Complement284 (later 300);
  • Upper deck: 28 × 18-pounder guns
  • Fc: 2 × 9-pounder guns + 2 × 32-pounder carronades
  • QD: 8 × 9-pounder guns + 6 × 32-pounder carronades

The Leda-class frigates, were a successful class of forty-seven British Royal Navy 38-gun sailing frigates constructed from 1805 to 1832. Based on a French design, the class came in five major groups, all with minor differences in their design. During their careers, they fought in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. Forty-five of the 47 were eventually scrapped; two still exist: HMS Trincomalee and HMS Unicorn.


The design of the name ship, Leda of 1800, was based on Sané's design for the French Hébé-class frigate.[1] The British 44-gun fifth rate HMS Rainbow captured Hébé in 1782. (The British took Hébé into service as HMS Hebe but in 1805 renamed her HMS Blonde). The class of frigates built to the lines of Leda were in contemporary parlance called the 'Repeat Leda class'.[2]

Pomone and Shannon, the second and third ship of the class respectively, was built using Josiah Brindley's patent method of construction which dispensed with 'lodging' and 'hanging knees', oak elements that had to be grown to shape. Oak suitable for shipbuilding had become increasingly difficult to obtain through the long period of warfare. Bindley's fastenings proved to be weak. Captain Philip Broke of Shannon claimed her topsides were weak and "worked like a basket." Shannon was actually in such poor condition by 1813 that she almost missed her engagement with the USS Chesapeake.[3]

Characteristics and performance[edit]

The vessels of the class were fast, most recording 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph) large and 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) close-hauled. However, their French-style proportions made them unweatherly compared to frigates designed to British proportions (such as the Lively class). Many captains requested additions to the frigates' false keels to remedy this. The Leda class stood to their canvas well and liked a stiff gale, but were prone to excessive pitching in very heavy seas. All captains complained of the class's poor stowage capacity, the result of their fine French underwater lines, but stowage improved after the introduction of iron fresh-water tanks. Lastly, captains considered the class to be "wet", a result of lively rolling and pitching causing seams to loosen.[4]

Ships of the class[edit]

HMS Pomone
HMS Unicorn

The name Leda was taken from Greek mythology, as was common at the time; the Greek Leda was a woman whom Zeus seduced while he was masquerading as a swan. After Leda, the Admiralty had no more ships to this design for several years. Then with the resumption of war with France either looming or under way, the Admiralty ordered eight further ships to this design in 1802-09:

In 1812 the Admiralty ordered eight ships to be built of "fir" (actually, of red pine) instead of oak; these were sometimes called the Cydnus class:

The Admiralty ordered seven more vessels to this design in 1812–15, with those constructed in Britain reverting to oak and those constructed in Bombay using teak:

The Admiralty ordered another six vessels in 1816, but of a modified design that incorporated Sir Robert Seppings's circular stern and "small-timber" form of construction:

A further twenty-three ships were ordered to this modified design in 1817, although the last six were never completed, or not completed to this design:

The last six ships of the 1817 orders were never completed to this design:

  • HMS Pegasus – canceled 1831
  • HMS Nemesis – re-ordered to Seringapatam-class design.
  • HMS Statira – re-ordered to Seringapatam-class design.
  • HMS Jason – re-ordered to Seringapatam-class design.
  • HMS Druid – re-ordered to Seringapatam-class design.
  • HMS Medusa – canceled 1831


  1. ^ Gardiner, p. 94.
  2. ^ Gardiner, p. 94
  3. ^ Gardiner, pp. 76-78
  4. ^ Gardiner, pp. 141-142.


  • Gardiner, Robert (2000) Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars, Chatham Publishing, London.
  • Winfield, Rif (2007). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 978-1-86176-246-7.

External links[edit]