HMS Lizard (1757)

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Carysfort cropped.jpg
Lizard was built to the same design as HMS Carysfort, (pictured)
Royal Navy EnsignGreat Britain
Name: HMS Lizard
Ordered: 13 April 1756
Builder: Henry Bird, Globe Stairs, Rotherhithe
Laid down: 5 May 1756
Launched: 7 April 1757
Completed: 1 June 1757 at Deptford Dockyard
Commissioned: March 1757
Honours and
  • Hulked as a hospital ship, 1800
  • Sold, 1828
General characteristics
Class and type: 28-gun Coventry-class sixth-rate frigate
Tons burthen: 5948794 (bm)
  • 118 ft 8 12 in (36.2 m) (gundeck)
  • 97 ft 2 34 in (29.6 m) (keel)
Beam: 33 ft 11 in (10.3 m)
Depth of hold: 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Complement: 200
  • 28 guns comprising:
  • Upperdeck: 24 × 9-pounder guns
  • Quarterdeck: 4 × 3-pounder guns
  • 12 × ½-pdr swivel guns

HMS Lizard was a 28-gun Coventry-class sixth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy.


Lizard was an oak-built 28-gun sixth-rate, one of 18 vessels forming part of the Coventry class of frigates. As with others in her class she was loosely modeled on the design and external dimensions of HMS Tartar, launched in 1756 and responsible for capturing five French privateers in her first twelve months at sea.[1] The Admiralty Order to build the Coventry-class vessels was made after the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, and at a time in which the Royal Dockyards were fully engaged in constructing or fitting-out the Navy's ships of the line. Consequently, despite Navy Board misgivings about reliability and cost, contracts for all but one of Coventry-class vessels were issued to private shipyards with an emphasis on rapid completion of the task.[2]

Contracts for Lizard's construction were issued on 13 April 1756 to shipwright Henry Bird of Globe Stairs, Rotherhithe. It was stipulated that work should be completed within twelve months for a 28-gun vessel measuring approximately 590 tons burthen. Subject to satisfactory completion, Bird would receive a fee of £9.9s per ton to be paid through periodic imprests drawn against the Navy Board.[3][4][a] Private shipyards were not subject to rigorous naval oversight, and the Admiralty therefore granted authority for "such alterations withinboard as shall be judged necessary" in order to cater for the preferences or ability of individual shipwrights, and for experimentation with internal design.[1][2]

Lizard's keel was laid down on 5 May 1756, and work proceeded swiftly with the fully built vessel ready for launch by April 1757. In final construction her hull was slightly larger than contracted, at 594 8794 tons. As built, Lizard was 118 ft 8 in (36.2 m) long with a 97 ft 3 in (29.6 m) keel, a beam of 33 ft 11 in (10.34 m), and a hold depth of 10 ft 6 in (3.2 m).[1] Her armament comprised 24 nine-pounder cannons located along her gun deck, supported by four three-pounder cannons on the quarterdeck and twelve 12-pounder swivel guns ranged along her sides.[1] Her designated complement was 200, comprising two commissioned officers – a captain and a lieutenant – overseeing 40 warrant and petty officers, 91 naval ratings, 38 Marines and 29 servants and other ranks.[6][b] Among these other ranks were four positions reserved for widow's men – fictitious crew members whose pay was intended to be reallocated to the families of sailors who died at sea.[6]

The vessel was named after the Lizard, a peninsula in southern Cornwall that was a maritime landmark for vessels passing along the English Channel. In selecting her name the Board of Admiralty continued a tradition dating to 1644 of using geographic features for ship names; overall, ten of the nineteen Coventry-class vessels were named after well-known regions, rivers or towns.[5][7] With few exceptions the remainder of the class were named after figures from classical antiquity, following a more modern trend initiated in 1748 by John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich in his capacity as First Lord of the Admiralty.[5][7][c]

In sailing qualities Lizard was broadly comparable with French frigates of equivalent size, but with a shorter and sturdier hull and greater weight in her broadside guns. She was also comparatively broad-beamed with ample space for provisions and the ship's mess, and incorporating a large magazine for powder and round shot.[d] Taken together, these characteristics would enable Lizard to remain at sea for long periods without resupply.[9][10] She was also built with broad and heavy masts, which balanced the weight of her hull, improved stability in rough weather and made her capable of carrying a greater quantity of sail. The disadvantages of this comparatively heavy design were a decline in manoeuvrability and slower speed when sailing in light winds.[11]

Seven Years' War

North Atlantic, 1757–1758

Lizard was commissioned by Captain Vincent Pearce in March 1757, while still under construction at Rotherhithe. She was launched on 7 April and sailed to Deptford Dockyard for fitting-out and to take on armament and crew. This was completed by 1 June and she put immediately to sea to hunt French privateers during these early months of the Seven Years' War between Britain and France. On 12 July she encountered and overwhelmed the privateer L'Hiver and returned her to England as a prize vessel. By November Lizard had joined a small squadron under the command of Admiral Samuel Cornish, and was transferred to the main British fleet stationed off the southwest coast of Cornwall. She remained with this fleet throughout 1758, conveying messages between the ships of the line and scouting for any sign of the French fleet in the open seas.[1]

Captain Pearce had left the vessel by September 1758, to be replaced by James Doake. Before Doake's arrival, Lizard was assigned to an expedition to engage anchored French vessels near Audierne; under the temporary command of Lieutenant Broderick Harwell she entered the bay accompanied by the 74-gun HMS Shrewsbury and the 28-gun HMS Unicorn to destroy the French ship Le Calypso. While returning to the fleet on 2 October, Lizard also encountered the 14-gun privateer Le Hanovre, which had been cruising off the coast of Brest. The French vessel was captured after a short engagement and sent to England as a prize.[1]

The Americas, 1759–1763

Captain Doake took command in mid-October, bringing Admiralty orders reassigning Lizard to North American waters as part of a fleet supporting a planned invasion of Québec in 1759. The winter idled by as the invasion force was assembled, and it was not until 17 February 1759 that Lizard finally departed Spithead for Halifax, Nova Scotia, in company with other Royal Navy vessels. On arrival in Nova Scotia, she joined the combined British fleet of 52 naval vessels and 140 transports, under the overall command of Vice-Admiral Charles Saunders. On 23 June the fleet passed L'Isle-aux-Coudres on the St Lawrence River, and three days later had anchored before the French stronghold of Quebec City. French naval defences were poor and there was little useful work for frigates such as Lizard, though her sister vessel Trent was able to bombard and destroy an artillery battery on the shoreline.[12] Lizard remained beneath Quebec throughout July and August, while other parts of Saunders' fleet reconnoitred and captured the river above the town. On 12 September Lizard's marines were part of a landing below the town as a feint to distract from the real British landing by forces under General James Wolfe, on the Plains of Abraham upstream.[13] Wolfe's assault was successful, and Quebec City was surrendered on 17 September. Lizard then returned to England with the majority of the fleet. The expedition had been her first substantial military engagement but one in which she had played little role.[1][13]

The British campaign in Québec continued in early 1760 with plans for an assault on Montreal. After wintering at Portsmouth, Lizard was back in North American waters by February as reinforcement for a British squadron on the St Lawrence River.[1][14] After the fall of Montreal in September she was reassigned to Britain's Leeward Islands Station as a privateer hunter and as protection for merchant convoys.[15] The British had set their sights on the French Caribbean stronghold of Martinique, with Secretary of State for the Southern Department, Sir William Pitt, directing that all available resources be committed to its invasion. An army of 13,000 troops was assembled, supported by a fleet under Admiral George Rodney.[16] Lizard's armament was increased to 32 guns, and she was added to Rodney's sizeable command which sailed as part of the expedition in January 1762.[1][17] She was present when the British landings commenced but is not recorded as having engaged with enemy forces either there or in the subsequent French defeat at Fort Royal between 25 January and 3 February.[1]

Lizard returned to the Leeward Islands, where she was made ready to accompany an expected British assault on Havana, Spain's Caribbean capital. In May 1762 a British fleet of around 200 vessels was assembled under Admiral George Pocock to begin the siege. Lizard joined Pocock's fleet in June, and was designated as the flagship of Commodore James Douglas. At around this time her captain, James Doake, resigned Lizard's command and was replaced aboard by Captain Francis Banks.[18] Havana fell to the British at the end of July, and by August Lizard had been released to her former duties.[1]

Britain's war with France and Spain concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in March 1763. Lizard was declared surplus to Navy requirements, and returned to Portsmouth Dockyard in June to be paid off.[1]

Peacetime service

The frigate was left at anchor for the next six years. A naval survey in 1769 found her to be in poor repair and she was hauled out of the water for structural work on her hull and fittings. The works took 16 months to complete, at a cost of £8,211.16 – significantly more than the original construction cost of the entire frigate.[1]

On 10 June 1770, a Spanish expedition expelled the British colony at Port Egmont in the Falkland Islands, giving Spain in control of the entire British colony. Admiralty ordered a mobilisation of available Navy vessels to escort a British relief expedition to the Falklands. Lizard was one vessel available for this purpose, and she was recommissioned in October 1770 under Captain Charles Inglis, with orders to proceed at once to the British fleet. However, her repairs continued for another two months and it was not until December 1770 that the frigate was considered seaworthy.[1] She was still fitting out at Portsmouth in January 1771 when a treaty between Britain and Spain brought the Falklands dispute to a close.[19]

No longer required for Falklands duty, Lizard remained at Portsmouth until September 1771 when she was assigned to patrol and privateer-hunting along the North American coastline. She performed these duties for the next three years, returning to England in January 1774 to again be paid off and her crew dispersed.[1]

American Revolutionary War

Lizard returned to active service in 1775 following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. An extensive round of repairs was conducted between June and August 1775, costing £3,444.13 and the frigate was recommissioned under Captain John Hamilton and sent back to the St Lawrence River, where she had served in 1759.[1]

On 24 January 1782 she captured the French 16-gun cutter Espion.


  1. ^ Bird's £9.9s fee per ton compared unfavourably with an average £9.0s per ton sought by Thames River shipwrights to build 24-gun Royal Navy vessels over the previous decade,[4] but was exactly equal to the average for all Coventry-class vessels built in private shipyards between 1756 and 1765.[5]
  2. ^ The 29 servants and other ranks provided for in the ship's complement consisted of 20 personal servants and clerical staff, four assistant carpenters an assistant sailmaker and four widow's men. Unlike naval ratings, servants and other ranks took no part in the sailing or handling of the ship.[6]
  3. ^ The exceptions to these naming conventions were Hussar, Active and the final vessel in the class, Hind[5][8]
  4. ^ Lizard's dimensional ratios 3.57:1 in length to breadth, and 3.3:1 in breadth to depth, compare with standard French equivalents of up to 3.8:1 and 3:1 respectively. Royal Navy vessels of equivalent size and design to Lizard were capable of carrying up to 20 tons of powder and shot, compared with a standard French capacity of around 10 tons. They also carried greater stores of rigging, spars, sails and cables, but had fewer ship's boats and less space for the possessions of the crew.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Winfield 2007, p. 227
  2. ^ a b Rosier, Barrington (2010). "The Construction Costs of Eighteenth-Century Warships". The Mariner's Mirror. 92 (2): 164. doi:10.1080/00253359.2010.10657134. 
  3. ^ Winfield 2007, pp. 229–230
  4. ^ a b Baugh 1965, pp.255–256
  5. ^ a b c d Winfield 2007, pp. 227–231
  6. ^ a b c Rodger 1986, pp.348–351
  7. ^ a b Manning, T. Davys (1957). "Ship Names". The Mariner's Mirror. Portsmouth, United Kingdom: Society for Nautical Research. 43 (2): 93–96. doi:10.1080/00253359.1957.10658334. 
  8. ^ Winfield 2007, p. 240
  9. ^ a b Gardiner 1992, pp. 115–116
  10. ^ Gardiner 1992, pp. 107–108
  11. ^ Gardiner 1992, pp. 111–112
  12. ^ Clowes 1898, p. 207
  13. ^ a b Clowes 1898, pp. 205–209
  14. ^ Clowes 1898, pp. 226–227
  15. ^ Clowes 1898, p. 233
  16. ^ Robson 2016, pp. 174–175
  17. ^ "Extract of a Letter from Guadeloupe, December 7". The Derby Mercury. Derby, United Kingdom: S. Drewry. 5 February 1762. p. 1. Retrieved 7 October 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  18. ^ Clowes 1898, pp. 245–246
  19. ^ Clowes 1899, p. 3


  • Baugh, Daniel A. (1965). British Naval Administration in the Age of Walpole. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691624297. 
  • Clowes, William Laird (1898). The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present. 3. London: Sampson, Low, Marston and Company. OCLC 645627800. 
  • Clowes, William Laird (1899). The Royal Navy: A History From the Earliest Times to the Present. 4. London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company. OCLC 940253201. 
  • Rodger, N. A. M. (1986). The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0870219871. 
  • Winfield, Rif (2007). British Warships of the Age of Sail 1714–1792: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 9781844157006. 
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