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Ceres (1787)
The East Indiaman 'Ceres' off the Spithead Depicted in Four Different Views.jpg
The East Indiaman Ceres off the Spithead Depicted in Four Different Views, by Thomas Luny, 1788; Sir Max Aitken Museum, Cowes, Isle of Wight
Career (East India Company) Flag of the British East India Company (1707).svg
Name: Ceres
Owner: Thomas Newte, Esq.[1]
Builder: Perry & Co., Blackwall Yard
Launched: 28 November 1787
Fate: Sold to the Royal Navy in 1795
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Grampus
Acquired: 1795 by purchase
Fate: Grounded and abandoned January 1799
General characteristics [2]
Class & type: Fourth rate in Royal Navy service: Storeship from December 1797
Tons burthen: 1180 8994 (bm)
Length: 157 ft 1 in (47.88 m) (overall)
130 ft 5 34 in (39.770 m) (keel)
Beam: 41 ft 3 in (12.57 m)
Depth of hold: 15 ft 6 12 in (4.737 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Complement: 130 as Indiaman;[3] 324 as Fourth Rate; 155 as storeship

Indiaman: 28 x 9 & 18-pounder guns[3]
Fourth Rate
Lower deck: 28 x 18-pounder guns
Upper deck: 26 x 32-pounder carronades

Storeship: Lower deck guns removed

Ceres was an East Indiaman launched in 1787. She made three trips to China for the Honourable East India Company (HEIC). After the outbreak of war with France in 1793, the Admiralty, desirous of quickly building up the Royal Navy, purchased a number of commercial vessels, including nine East Indiamen, to meet the need for small two-decker fourth rates to serve as convoy escorts.[2] The Admiralty purchased Ceres in 1795 and renamed her HMS Grampus. In 1797 the Admiralty converted her to a storeship. That year her crew participated in the Spithead and Nore mutinies. Grampus grounded in January 1799 and was abandoned.

East Indiaman[]

Ceres made three trips to China for the HEIC.

1st voyage

Ceres's captain for her first voyage was Captain Thomas Price.[1] He sailed her for the coast of India and China, leaving Portsmouth on 5 April 1788. She reached Madras on 15 July, and Whampoa on 2 October. On the return leg of her voyage, she crossed the Second Bar on 14 December. She reached Saint Helena on 9 April 1789 and Long Reach on 2 June.[4] Other accounts have her returning to her moorings on 1 September 1789.[1] In either case, Price died on 20 June.[5]

2nd voyage

Ceres's captain for her second voyage was Captain George Stevens.[6] He too sailed her for the Indian coast and China, leaving Torbay on 6 March 1790. She reached Madras on 22 June, and Negapatam on 29 July. Two days later she was back at Madras. She then reached Whampoa on 11 October. She crossed the Second Bar on 20 January 1791, and then stopped at Macao on 17 March. She reached St Helena on 3 July, and Long Reach on 1 September.[4]

3rd voyage

George Stevens was again captain of Ceres for her third voyage.[7] She left Portsmouth on 21 May 1793, after war with France had begun on 1 February. The HEIC arranged for her to sail under a letter of marque, issued to Stevens, and dated 22 April 1793.[3] On 24 June 1793 the fleet of Indiamen captured the French brig Franc;[8] the crew of Ceres took possession.[4] On 10 November Ceres reached Manilla. Then on 20 December she arrived at Whampoa. At Whampoa that December were several other East Indiamen, among which were several that on their return to Britain the Admiralty would purchase: Warley, Royal Charlotte, Earl of Abergavenny, and Hindostan.[9] The British Government had chartered Hindostan to take Lord Macartney to China in an unsuccessful attempt to open diplomatic and commercial relations with the Chinese empire.

For her return trip, Ceres crossed the Second Bar on 18 February 1794 and stopped at Macao on 16 March. She reached St Helena on 18 June, and Long Reach on 10 September.[4]

Royal Navy service[]

The Admiralty purchased Ceres and commissioned her as HMS Grampus in December under Captain Alexander Christie, for the North Sea.[2] (There was already a frigate Ceres in the Royal Navy, and a previous fourth-rate Grampus had just been sold for breaking up.) The new Grampus was commissioned on 9 March 1795. She then spent some two months with Perry at Blackwall being coppered. In September 1795 Captain John Williamson took command, and in March 1796 he sailed her for Jamaica.

Grampus shared with five other naval vessels in the prize money arising out of the capture on 1 April of the French privateer Alexander, and the salvage money from the recapture of her prize, the Portuguese vessel Nostra Signora del Monte del Carmo.[10] Alexander was armed with ten guns and had a crew of 65 men under the command of M. Petre Edite. She was ten days out of Nantz and the capture took place at 37° 11' North, 18° 16' West.[11] In May, Grampus was among the vessels that took part in the campaign to capture Saint Lucia under Rear Admiral Hugh Cloberry Christian and General Ralph Abercromby.[12]

In September Grampus returned to Britain and was paid off. Two months later she was at Sheerness being fitted as a storeship. Lieutenant Charles Carne recommissioned her in December, with the refitting lasting until February 1797.[2]


In April and May the Spithead and Nore mutinies broke out. Grampus was one of the vessels caught up in the disorder, and is named in the proclamation read out on 10 June.[13] The exact date of her arrival at Sheerness, the date of her joining the mutiny, and the date of her crew returning to duty are not known. Still, she was at Sheerness by 16 May. At the time, Grampus was preparing for a voyage to the West Indies.[14] After the reading of the Proclamation on 10 June,[13] the crews of a number of vessels sought to abandon the mutiny. On Grampus a fight broke out between loyalists and mutineers, a fight that the mutineer faction won.[15] Under some reports, the mutineers abandoned her.[2]

The mutineers on the various vessels involved found Grampus particularly useful because as a storeship, stocked for a voyage, she was able to provide them with supplies. Still, after the reading of the proclamation the mutiny collapsed and by mid-June Grampus had returned to Royal Navy control. After the end of the mutiny, five men from Grampus were sentenced to death.[16] Another account reports that three men were condemned to death and two were confined to solitary cells.[17] Grampus then sailed for Jamaica in August.[2]

Return to service

In Jamaica, Admiral Hyde Parker, the commander of the station, was concerned that Grampus had brought a disaffected crew that could spread mutiny there too. He identified one agitator, whom he had hanged.[18] By 1798 Grampus was under the command of Captain George Hart, serving as a transport.[2]


On the morning of 19 January 1799, Grampus was in the Thames and under the command of Captain John Hall. She weighed at 7a.m., and took a pilot, Sammuel Richardson, on board. Nevertheless, by 9a.m. she had grounded on the Barking Shelf. She could not be refloated and so for the next three days work went on to remove her stores, her masts, and whatever else could be salvaged. On 21 January the decision was made to abandon her as by then she had 20 feet of water in her hold. The subsequent courtmartial absolved Captain Hall and his officers and crew of any responsibility, instead blaming Richardson's ignorance.[19]

In April, the Commissioners of the Navy issued a call for proposals to "remove and clear the River Thames of the Wreck of His Majesty's late Ship Grampus, now on Shore on Barking-Shelf, opposite the Powder-Houses".[20]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hardy and Hardy (1811), p.128.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Winfield (2008), p.111.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Register of Letters of Marque against France 1793-1815"; p.55. Accessed 13 April 2013]
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 National Archives - accessed 14 April 2013
  5. Anderson (1918), p.93.
  6. Hardy & Hardy (1811), p.138.
  7. Hardy & Hardy (1811), p.156.
  8. "No. 13856". 22 September 1795. 
  9. Anderson (1795), p.448.
  10. "No. 15097". 9 January 1799. 
  11. "No. 13894". 21 May 1796. 
  12. "No. 15265". 7 June 1800. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "No. 14016". 7 June 1797. 
  14. The Naval Mutinies, pp.102-103.
  15. The Naval Mutinies, p. 153.
  16. The Naval Mutinies, pp.183-5.
  17. Duncan (1805), Vol. 4, p.70.
  18. Guttridge (2006), p.80.
  19. Hepper (1994), p.90.
  20. "No. 15122". 6 April 1799. 


  • Anderson, Aeneas (1795) Narrative of the British Embassy to China in the Years 1792, 1793 and 1794. (J. Debrett).
  • Anderson, A. (1818) History and antiquities of Kingston-upon-Thames.
  • Duncan, Archibald (1805) The British trident: or, Register of naval actions; including authentic accounts of all the most remarkable engagements at sea, in which the British flag has been eminently distinguished; from the period of the memorable defeat of the Spanish armada, to the present time; chronologically arranged. (J. Cundee).
  • Guttridge, Leonard F. (2006) Mutiny: A History of Naval Insurrection. (Naval Institute Press). ISBN
  • Hardy, Charles and Horatio Charles Hardy (1811) A register of ships, employed in the service of the Honorable the United East India Company, from the year 1760 to 1810: with an appendix, containing a variety of particulars, and useful information interesting to those concerned with East India commerce. (London: Black, Parry, and Kingsbury).
  • Hepper, David J. (1994). British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail, 1650-1859. Rotherfield: Jean Boudriot. ISBN 0-948864-30-3. 
  • The Naval Mutinies. (Manchester University)
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1861762461. 

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