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This is a list of frigate classes of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom (and the individual ships composed within those classes) in chronological order from the formal creation of the Royal Navy following the Restoration in 1660. Where the word 'class' or 'group' is not shown, the vessel was a 'one-off' design with just that vessel completed to the design. The list excludes vessels captured from other navies and added to the Royal Navy.

All frigates built for the Royal Navy up to 1877 (when the Admiralty re-categorised all frigates and corvettes as "cruisers") are listed below. The term "frigate" was resuscitated in World War II and subsequent classes are listed at the end of this article, but the individual ships within those classes are not listed in this article.

The frigate before 1660[edit | edit source]

The initial meaning of frigate in English/British naval service was a fast sailing warship, usually with a relatively low superstructure and a high length:breadth ratio - as distinct from the heavily armed but slow "great ships" with high fore- and after-castles. The name originated at the end of the 16th century, the first "frigats" being generally small, fast-sailing craft, in particular those employed by Flemish privateers based on Dunkirk and Flushing. Subsequently the term was applied to any vessel with these characteristics, even to a third-rate or fourth-rate ship of the line.

In this list, the term is restricted to fifth rates and sixth rates which did not form part of the battlefleet (i.e. were not ships of the line); many of the earliest ships described as English frigates, such as the Constant Warwick of 1645, were third-rate or fourth-rate ships of the line and thus are not listed below. As the Royal Navy was not officially created until 1660, vessels from the preceding (Commonwealth) era are only included where they survived past 1660. Prizes taken from enemy naval forces and added to the Royal Navy are also excluded.

Fifth rate-frigates before 1660[edit | edit source]

Fifth rates were essentially two-decked vessels, with their main battery on the lower deck and a lesser number of guns of lesser power on the upper deck (as well as even smaller guns on the quarter deck).

  • Vessels of 1653-1656 Programmes:
    • Colchester - launched 23 February 1654
    • Islip - launched 25 March 1654 (wrecked 24 July 1655)
    • Fagons - launched 22 May 1654, renamed HMS Milford in 1660
    • Selby - launched 22 April 1654, renamed HMS Eagle in 1660
    • Basing - launched 26 April 1654, renamed HMS Guernsey in 1660
    • Grantham - launched 1654, renamed HMS Garland in 1660
    • Norwich - launched 11 September 1655
    • Pembroke - launched September 1655
    • Dartmouth - launched 22 September 1655
    • Cheriton - launched 16 April 1656, renamed HMS Speedwell in 1660
    • Wakefield - launched November 1656, renamed HMS Richmond in 1660
    • Oxford - launched November 1656
    • Forrester - launched 3 September 1657
    • Bradford - launched March 1658, renamed HMS Success in 1660

Sixth-rate frigates before 1660[edit | edit source]

Sixth rates were single-decked vessels, with a battery on the (single) gun deck, and usually some lesser guns on the quarter deck.

  • Vessels of 1651 Programme:

Frigates from 1660 to 1668[edit | edit source]

Fifth-rate frigates 1660 to 1688[edit | edit source]

  • Vessels of 1665 Programme:
  • Vessels of 1668-1669 Programmes:
  • Vessels of 1670s construction:
    • Rose - launched September 1674
    • Sapphire - launched 29 June 1675

Sixth-rate frigates 1660 to 1688[edit | edit source]

Frigates from 1688 to 1719[edit | edit source]

For ships before the 1745 Establishment, the term 'class' is inappropriate as individual design was left up to the master shipwright in each Royal dockyard. For other vessels, the Surveyor of the Navy produced a common design for ships which were to be built under a commercial contract rather than in a Royal Dockyard. Consequently, the term 'group' is used as more applicable for ships built to similar specifications (and to the same principal dimensions) but to varying designs.

Fifth-rate frigates 1688 to 1719[edit | edit source]

The Navy Board ordered sixteen of these vessels between 1705 and 1711 as 42-gun vessels. The remaining pair - Looe and Diamond - were not ordered but rather the Navy Board purchased them on the stocks from the shipbuilder who had commenced building them "on spec". All the vessels were armed under the 1703 Guns Establishment with a main battery of 9-pounder guns. Under the 1716 Guns Establishment, a 40-gun ship with a main battery of 12-pounder guns superseded the 42-gun ship. Hence, the last six of the ships listed below were completed as 40-gun ships.

Sixth-rate frigates 1688 to 1719[edit | edit source]

Before the "true" sail frigate come into being in the 1740s, the equivalent was the single-deck cruising vessel of the sixth rate, armed with either 20, 22 or 24 guns, which established itself in the 1690s and lasted until the arrival of the new "true" frigates. Before 1714, many small sixth rates carried fewer than 20 guns, and these have been excluded from this list. For over half a century from the 1690s, the main armament of this type was the 6-pounder gun, until it was replaced by 9-pounder guns just prior to being superseded by the 28-gun sixth-rate frigate.

Frigates from 1719 to 1750[edit | edit source]

For ships before the 1745 Establishment, the term 'class' is inappropriate as individual design was left up to the master shipwright in each Royal dockyard. For other vessels, the Surveyor of the Navy produced a common design for ships which were to be built under a commercial contract rather than in a Royal Dockyard. Consequently, the term 'group' is used as more applicable for ships built to similar specifications laid down in the Establishments but to varying designs. However, from 1739 almost all Fifth and Sixth Rates were built under contract and were thus to a common class.

Fifth-rate frigates 1719 to 1750[edit | edit source]

All thirteen were rebuilds of earlier 40-gun ships (the Torrington and Princess Louisa were renamed when rebuilt from the former Charles Galley and Launceston respectively), although the Anglesea and Adventure were authorised as 'Great Repairs' rather than as rebuildings.

Sixth-rate frigates 1719 to 1750[edit | edit source]

Two nominally 24-gun ships - the Lyme and Unicorn - were built in 1747-1749 with twenty-four 9-pounders on the upper deck but also carried four smaller guns on the quarter deck; the pair were designated as 24-gun ships (disregarding the smaller guns) until 1756, when they were re-classed as 28-gun frigates. However other 24-gun and 20-gun ships continued to be built, with twenty-two or twenty 9-pounder guns on the upper deck.

Sail frigates from 1750 – by class[edit | edit source]

Following the success of the Lyme and Unicorn in 1748, the mid-century period saw the simultaneous introduction in 1756 both of sixth-rate frigates of 28 guns (with a main battery of twenty-four 9-pounder guns, plus four lesser guns mounted on the quarterdeck and/or forecastle) and of fifth-rate frigates of 32 or 36 guns (with a main battery of twenty-six 12-pounder guns, plus six or ten lesser guns mounted on the quarterdeck and/or forecastle).

The American Revolution saw the emergence of new fifth rates of 36 or 38 guns which carried a main battery of 18-pounder guns, and were thus known as "heavy" frigates, while the French Revolutionary War brought about the introduction of a few 24-pounder gun armed frigates. In the 1830s, new types emerged with a main battery of 32-pounder guns.

9-pounder armed post ships[edit | edit source]

After 1750, the official Admiralty criteria for defining a frigate required a minimum battery of 28 carriage-mounted guns, including such guns which were mounted on the quarterdeck and forecastle. The smaller Sixth Rates, of frigate-type construction, but carrying between 20 and 26 guns, were categorised by the Admiralty as "post ships", but were often described by seagoing officers as "frigates" even though this was not officially recognised. The post ships, generally of 20 or 24 guns, were in practice the continuation of the earlier Sixth Rates. The Napoleonic War era post ships were later re-armed with (many being completed with) 32-pounder carronades instead of 9-pounder guns; after 1817 most of the survivors (except the Conway class) were re-classified as sloops.

9-pounder armed frigates[edit | edit source]

Although previously rated as 24-gun ships (when their 4 quarter-deck-mounted 3-pdrs were not included in the count, the Unicorn and Lyme were redefined as 28-gun frigates from 1756. The Lowestoffe and Coventry class frigates which followed were virtual copies of them, with slight improvements in design. Further 28-gun Sixth Rates, similarly armed with a main battery of 24 x 9-pounder guns (and with 4 smaller carriage guns on the quarterdeck) continued to be built to evolving designs until the 1780s.

12-pounder armed frigates[edit | edit source]

Almost all of the following were 32-gun type (armed with 26 x 12-pounder guns on the upper deck and 6 smaller guns on the quarter-deck and forecastle); one class (the Venus class of 1757-58) had 36 guns (with 26 x 12-pounder guns on the upper deck and 10 smaller guns on the quarter-deck and forecastle).

18-pounder armed frigates[edit | edit source]

In general, the following were either 36-gun type (armed with 26 x 18-pounder guns on the upper deck and 10 smaller guns on the quarter-deck and forecastle) or 38-gun type (with 28 x 18-pounder guns on the upper deck and 10 smaller guns on the quarter-deck and forecastle); however, one class of smaller ships had just 32 guns (with 26 x 18-pounder guns on the upper deck and just 6 smaller guns on the quarter-deck and forecastle).

24-pounder armed frigates[edit | edit source]

32-pounder armed frigates[edit | edit source]

The following three classes were begun as sailing frigates, but all were completed as screw-driven steam frigates.

19th century steam frigates[edit | edit source]

During the 1840s, the introduction of steam propulsion was to radically change the nature of the frigate. Initial trials were with paddle-driven vessels, but these had numerous disadvantages, not least that the paddle wheels restricted the numbers of guns that could be mounted on the broadside. So the application of the screw propellor meant that a full broadside could still be carried, and a number of sail frigates were adapted, while during the 1850s the first frigates designed from the start to have screw propulsion were ordered. It is important to remember that all these early steam vessels still carried a full rig of masts and sails, and that steam power remained a means of assistance to these vessels.

In 1887 all frigates and corvettes in the British Navy were re-categorised as 'cruisers', and the term 'frigate' was abolished, not to re-emerge until the Second World War, at which time it was resurrected to describe a totally different type of escort vessel.

Paddle-driven frigates[edit | edit source]

Although iron hulls were used for some warships in the 1840s, almost all the paddle frigates were wooden-hulled. The exception was the ill-fated Birkenhead.

Screw-driven frigates[edit | edit source]

In the mid-1840s, the Admiralty ordered four iron-hulled, screw-driven frigates from specialist shipbuilders; however, the Admiralty then rapidly lost faith in the ability of iron hulls to stand up to combat conditions, and all four (Greenock, Vulcan, Megaera and Simoom) were converted while under construction into troop transports, although the Greenock was promptly sold for commercial use.

Following this unsuccessful experiment, though iron hulls were used for some warships in the 1840s, almost all the screw frigates below were wooden-hulled. The exceptions were the final three below - Inconstant, Shah and Raleigh - which had iron hulls.

Modern frigates – by class[edit | edit source]

Note that, unlike the previous sections, no lists of the individual ships comprising each class are shown below; they are to be found in the articles on the separate classes.

Sail frigates - alphabetically[edit | edit source]

Note that frigate names were routinely re-used, so that there were often many vessels which re-used the same names over the course of nearly two centuries. To distinguish between vessels bearing the same name, the following list affixes the launch year (in parenthesis) of the frigate to the name; however, for vessels captured or purchased by the Royal Navy, the year of acquisition is shown instead of the launch date.

  • Actaeon - sold 1766
  • Africaine 38 - captured by France
  • Aigle (ex-French Aigle, captured 1782)
  • Amphitrite 38 (1816)
  • Andromache (1829)
  • Arethusa (1781)
  • Boadicea (1797) 38
  • Bombay 40 (c.1793) - renamed Ceylon
  • Bon-Acquis (ex-French Bon-Acquis, captured 1757)
  • Boreas - sold 1770
  • Brilliant 36
  • Caroline (ex-French Caroline, captured September 1809)
  • Constant Warwick 26 (c.1646)
  • Cornwallis 54 (1801) - renamed Akbar in 1811
  • Coventry 28 1757
  • Danae (ex-French Danae, captured 1759)
  • Diamond 32 (1774)
  • Diana (1757) - sold 1793
  • Endymion 40 (1797) - (captured USS President in 1815) - broken up 1868.
  • Flora 36 (1780) - wrecked in 1809
  • Freya (ex-Danish Freya, captured 25 July 1800)
  • Hebe 40 (ex-French Hebe, captured 1782) - broken up 1811
  • Hussar - name used by several ships in this period
  • Indefatigable 44 (build 1784 as a 64 gun ship of the line, razeed)
  • Iphigenia - captured by France in 1810
  • Java 38 (launched 1808, captured from French 1811) - captured by USS Constitution in 1813
  • Latona 38 (1779), sold in 1816
  • Laurel 38 (ex-French La Fidèle, captured 16 August 1809 at the surrender of Flushing)
  • Lively 38 (1804), wrecked off Malta in 1810
  • Lutine 38 (launched in 1779, transferred from French Navy in 1793) - wrecked in 1799 off Holland
  • Lyme 18 (1748), wrecked 1760
  • Macedonian 38 (1810), captured by USS United States in 1812, broken up 1828
  • Madagascar 46 (1822)
  • Melampe (ex-French Melampe, captured 1758)
  • Minerva 38 (1780) - broken up in 1803
  • Nereide 38, captured 1797, sold 1816.
  • Newcastle - name used by several ships in this period
  • Orpheus 32 (1773)
  • Pallas - name used by several ships in this period
  • Phaeton 38 (1782)
  • Pitt 36 (1805)
  • Pomone 44 (ex-French Pomone, captured 1794) - broken up in 1802
  • Rainbow 44 (1747) - sold in 1802
  • Resistance 44, sank 24 July 1798
  • Saldanha - shipwrecked in Lough Swilly, Donegal, 4 December 1811
  • Salsette 36 (1807)
  • Santa Leocadia 34 (ex-Spanish Santa Leocadia, captured 1781)
  • Santa Margarita 34 (ex-Spanish Santa Margarita, captured 1779)
  • Shannon 28 (1757) - broken up in 1765
  • Shannon 38 (1806) - broken up 1859
  • Sirius 36 (1797) - scuttled during the Mauritius campaign of 1810
  • Southampton 32 (1757) - wrecked off the Bahamas in 1812
  • Surprise 28 (1796) - ex-French L'Unité captured 1796, sold in 1802
  • Thetis 38 (1782)
  • Trent 28 (1757) - sold in 1764
  • Trent 36 (1796) - broken up in 1823
  • Trincomalee 38 (1817) - preserved afloat in Hartlepool, UK
  • Unicorn 28 (1748) - broken up 1771
  • Unicorn 46 (1824) - preserved in Scotland
  • Venus (ex-French Venus, captured 17 September 1809)
  • Venus 36

Reference sources[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

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