Vigilant-class gunvessel

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HMS Surprise (1856).jpg
Class overview
Name: Vigilant-class gunvessels
  •  Royal Navy
  • Qing dynasty Chinese Imperial Customs
  • Ottoman Empire Egyptian Government
Cost: £27,437 (Foxhound) - £33,906 (Renard)[1]
Built: 1855-1856
In commission: 1856–1872
Completed: 14
Lost: 2
General characteristics [1]
Type: Second-class wooden gunvessel
Displacement: 860 tonnes
Tons burthen: 669 79/94 bm
  • 180 ft 0 in (54.9 m) (gundeck)
  • 160 ft 7.5 in (49.0 m) (keel)
Beam: 28 ft 4 in (8.6 m)
Draught: 8 ft 0 in (2.4 m) (designed)[2]
Depth of hold: 14 ft 0 in (4.3 m)
Installed power:
  • 200 nhp
  • 593 to 778 ihp (442 to 580 kW)
  • 2-cylinder horizontal single-expansion steam engine
  • Single screw
Sail plan: Barque-rigged
Speed: 11 kn (20.4 km/h)[2]
Complement: 80

The Vigilant-class gunvessel of the Royal Navy was an enlarged version of the Arrow-class gunvessel of 1854. Both classes were designed for shallow-water operations in the Baltic and Black Seas during the Crimean War. Fourteen of the class were completed, but were ready too late to take part in that conflict. Cormorant was sunk in action at the Taku Forts, Osprey was wrecked on the coast of Africa in 1867 and the rest were all sold during the 1860s, with Sparrowhawk lasting until 1872.


The class were designed as second-class despatch and gunvessels. They were intended to operate close inshore during the Crimean War and were essentially enlarged versions of the Arrow-class gunvessel, which has been designed by the Surveyor’s Department in 1854.[1]


A two-cylinder horizontal single expansion steam engine produced (varying between vessels) between 593 ihp (442 kW) and 778 ihp (580 kW) through a single screw,[1] and gave a top speed of about 11 knots.[2]

Sail plan[edit]

All Vigilant-class gunvessels were barque-rigged.[1]


Although designed with a pair of 68-pounder Lancaster muzzle-loading rifles, the Vigilant class were finished with one 7-inch (180 mm)/110-pound (50 kg) Armstrong breech-loading gun, one 68-pound (31 kg) Lancaster muzzle-loading rifled gun and two 20-pounder breech loaders.[1]


Name Ship Builder[1] Launched[1] Fate[1]
Coquette R & H Green 25 October 1855 Broken up by White at Cowes in 1868
Wanderer R & H Green 22 November 1855 Broken up by Castle at Charlton, arriving on 31 August 1866
Alacrity C J Mare & Company 20 March 1856 Sold to Castle for breaking at Charlton on 7 October 1864
Vigilant C J Mare & Company 20 March 1856 Ordered to be sold at Bombay on 25 February 1869
Lapwing J. & R. White 26 January 1856 Sold to Marshall, Plymouth in 1864 and broken up in 1865
Ringdove J. & R. White 22 February 1856 Sold on 2 June 1865 and broken up by White at Cowes in November 1866
Surprise Money Wigram & Son 6 March 1856 Broken up by Marshall, Plymouth in November 1866
Renard C J Mare & Company 24 April 1856 Broken up by Castle at Charlton in March 1866
Foxhound C J Mare & Company 16 August 1856 Broken up by Castle at Charlton in August 1866
Mohawk Young, Magnay & Company 11 January 1856 Sold to the Chinese Imperial Customs on 20 September 1862, renamed Peking and sailed in April 1863 (to join Sherard Osborn’s "Vampire Fleet"). Resold to the Egyptian Government on 30 December 1865
Sparrowhawk Young, Magnay & Company 9 February 1856 Sold at Esquimault in 1872
Osprey Fletcher & Fearnall 22 March 1856 Wrecked on the South East African coast near Klippen Point on 30 May 1867
Cormorant Fletcher & Fearnall 19 May 1856 Sunk in action with the Taku forts in the Peiho river, China, on 28 June 1859
Assurance R & H Green 13 March 1856 Sold to Marshall, Plymouth on 8 March 1870


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Winfield (2004) pp.219-220
  2. ^ a b c Preston (2007) p.150