History of His Majesty's Ship Richmond

March, 1780, Vice Admiral Arbuthnot aboard the 44-gun fifth-rate Roebuck (not shown), sails into Charles Town harbour, South Carolina, after battling past Fort Moultrie (seen in the lower left). In the left foreground is the frigate Richmond (always in the van), with her crew struggling to clear away the wreckage of her foretopmast after it was shot away by Moultie's deadly fire. Behind Richmond is the damaged transport Aeolus. In the right foreground are Romulus and at the extreme right is Renown in the after guard. This painting is courtesy of the marine artist Mark Myers, PPRSMA, F/ASMA, of Cornwall, England. The artist went to great lengths to ensure accuracy by obtaining plans of the original ships from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. The Richmond's Ship's Company is indebted to the artist for this, the only known picture of HM Frigate Richmond.

For a full breath-taking view of the entire painting that includes the Flagship Roebuck, click here.

There have been 5 British war ships named Richmond. The frigate Richmond (32) we portray was built by Buxton in Deptford, England.All wooden warships differed slightly from their design when completed, and the Richmond was somewhat larger as actually built, amounting to over 18 measurement tons in size. The vessel's "as built" dimensions were:

127ft 1∏in, 107ft 1-1/8in x 34ft. 1≤in x 11ft, 10in.  664 16/94 bm.

The Richmond was 127', 105'1" by 34' by 11'9" and displaced 646 12/94 tons. She carried 220 men. The Richmond was armed with twenty six 12-pounders on the upper deck, four 6-pounders on the quarterdeck, two 6-pounders on the forecastle and 12 swivels.

A brief history of our Richmond, and her captains:
1759: Capt. Thomas Hankerson. Sailed in Vice Admiral Charles Saunders' Quebec Expedition.
1760: Capt. John Elphinstone (I). Sailed with Commodore Lord Colville's fleet to the St Lawrence.
1761: Capt. John Elphinstone (I). Engaged the French Frigate Felicite ,32, off Cherbourg on January 24th. Both contestants took the ground off Scheveningen. Richmond was re floated first and carried off by the tide, The Felicite was later destroyed where she lay.
1762 (Elpinstone) Arrived Martinique March 26th from England with orders for Admiral.Rodney. Later attached to Sir George Pocock's fleet sent for the reduction of Havana.
1778: Capt. John Lewis Gidoin. In Howe's fleet in the action against D'estaing off Rhode Island.
1779 - 81 Capt. Charles Hudson. With Admiral Graves' fleet in the action against deGrasse off the Chesapeake, Sept. 5th. Taken by the French Frigate L'Aigrette, September 11, 1781 along with HM Frigate Iris [late the Continental frigate Hancock, (32)]. The Richmond remained under her old name while under French colours.
1793: Captured and burned by the Spanish (Or English?) February 19th at Cagliari, Sardinia.(One French source gives 1795 as the date for this)

This information has been drawn from Clowes' "History of the Royal Navy," David Lyon's "The Sailing Navy List," Rob Gardiner's "The First Frigates," and three sources published by the Musee de la Marine, Paris: "Repertoire des naivres de guerre Francais," "Liste de la Flotte de Guerre Francais" and "Pertes de la Flotte de Guerre Francais."

After leaving Charles Town, the Richmond was part of the British fleet bringing aid to General Cornwallis at York Town and encountered the larger French fleet that had been standing off York Town in the York River. The Richmond performed duties of a frigate during engagement with the larger French fleet. Later, after this engagement was broken off at a draw, the Richmond and H.M.Frigate Iris were dispatched back to where the French fleet had been anchored in the York River. Since the French fleet did not have time to raise their anchors, they still lay on the river bottom connected by their heavy cable to floating buoys on the surface where they could be retrieved upon returning. The assignment of the Richmond and the Iris was to cut the buoys away depriving the large French Ships Of The Line from these anchors. In a river current having a rip tide, this could cause them problems depending on the size and number of spare anchors each still had on board. While cutting the buoys loose, both the Richmond and the Iris were trapped in the narrow river by the returning French fleet, resulting in the Richmond and the Iris being captured by de Grasse's fleet on 11 September, 1781. For a detailed account of the action off York Town, click here.

Today, the latest frigate to bear the name Richmond continues to show that the fires of valour kindled by these prior frigates named Richmond still burn undiminished. The current HMS Richmond is a Type 23 Duke Class Frigate, entering service in 1995. Click here to view the current HMS Richmond.

Survey reports on the above action may be viewed from this collection taken from the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Virginia State Library. These survey reports are typed summaries of the actual documents still on file in England.

You are listening to the theme song of our Ship's Company, titled Royal Oak.

View below the Royal Navy Crest of 1775, along with the present HMS Richmond's Admiralty Badge and our Ship's Company's Admiralty Badge. No known Admiralty Badge is thought to exist for the Richmond of the period we portray.

Crest of the Royal Navy, 1775

Admiralty Badge of the HMS Richmond's living history Ship's Company

Admiralty Badge of the present HMS Richmond

Many thanks to Rif Winfield for his review of some of the Richmond's details.

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