HMS Boscawen was a boys’ training ship anchored off the Town Quay in Southampton between March 1862 and November 1865. A 70-gun, 2212-ton wooden sail ship, she was launched at Woolwich on 3 April 1844, nearly 27 years after she had been ordered and over 18 years after her hull had been laid down. She served in the Baltic during the Crimean War and, on anti-slave trade duty, on the West African coast in the late 1850s. She was last in commission as the flagship on the Coast of Good Hope station. Returning to English waters in the 1860s, the Boscawen was hulked and in August 1861 was fitted at Devonport dockyard as a training ship to replace the smaller HMS Eagle off Southampton. Reduced to 20 guns, she took over the Eagle’s moorings on 5 March 1862. Local Liberals claimed that William Digby Seymour, one of the town’s MPs, was influential in the government’s decision to send the Boscawen as a replacement (Hampshire Telegraph, 6 October 1866: Frederick Perkins, Southampton Town Council, 3 October). The Boscawen could accommodate 500 boys, aged between 141/2 and 16 years, of average weight and of good character. Some of the boys came from Southampton poorhouse. Their duties “consist chiefly of drills in the use of both small arms and great guns, as well as in the ordinary routine work of a seaman, such as knitting, splicing, reefing, & etc; and, after a certain period of this training, the youths are draughted on board of seagoing ships…. While on board of the training-ship, the boys obtain the advantages of instruction in the ordinary branches of education, besides acquiring some knowledge of navigation” (Illustrated Times, 15 March 1862).

The Boscawen left Southampton in November 1865 for re-caulking at Portsmouth, arriving there on 21 November (Hampshire Advertiser, 25 November 1865). There had been rumours that she was to be relocated to Fareham Creek – an unwholesome, mud-bound spot to many in Southampton – and it was hoped that her removal was not permanent (Hampshire Advertiser, 11 November 1865). It was later estimated that the Boscawen had been worth “something like £2000 or £3000” to the town’s economy (Hampshire Advertiser, 12 May 1894: Edward Gayton, Southampton Town Council, 9 May). In the event the Boscawen was sent as a training ship to Portland, arriving in Portland Roads in February 1862, a successor to HMS Britannia which moved to Dartmouth. A Town Council motion on 5 February 1868 that the government be asked to return the Boscawen to Southampton was unavailing. In 1874 she replaced HMS Wellesley on the Tyne at North Shields as a training ship for the Royal Navy and the merchant fleet. Renamed TS Wellesley, she saw out her life here until broken up after a fire in 1914.


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