HMS Trincomalee is a Royal Navy Leda-class sailing frigate built shortly after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
Trincomalee is one of two surviving British frigates of her era—her near-sister HMS Unicorn (of the modified Leda class) is now a museum ship in Dundee. After being ordered on 30 October 1812, Trincomalee was built in Bombay, India by the Wadia family of shipwrights in teak, due to oak shortages in Britain as a result of shipbuilding drives for the Napoleonic Wars. The ship was named Trincomalee after the 1782 Battle of Trincomalee off the Ceylon (Sri Lanka) port of that name.
With a construction cost of £23,000, Trincomalee was launched on 12 October 1817. Captain Philip Henry sailed her to Portsmouth Dockyard where she arrived on 30 April 1819, with a journey costing £6,600. During the maiden voyage the ship arrived at Saint Helena on 24 January 1819 where she stayed for 6 days, leaving with an additional passenger, a surgeon who had attended Napoleon at Longwood House on the island, Mr John Stokoe.
After being fitted out at a further cost of £2,400, Trincomalee was placed in reserve until 1845, when she was re-armed with fewer guns giving greater firepower, had her stern reshaped and was reclassified as a sixth-rate spar-decked corvette.
Trincomalee departed from Portsmouth in 1847 and remained in service for ten years, serving on the North American and West Indies station. During her time, she was to help quell riots in Haiti and stop a threatened invasion of Cuba, and serve on anti-slavery patrol. In 1849, she was despatched to Newfoundland and Labrador before being recalled to Britain in 1850. In 1852 she sailed to join the Pacific Squadron on the west coast of America.
Trincomalee finished her Royal Navy service as a training ship, but was placed in reserve again in 1895 and sold for scrap two years later on 19 May 1897. She was then purchased by entrepreneur George Wheatley Cobb, restored, and renamed Foudroyant in honour of HMS Foudroyant, his earlier ship that had been wrecked in 1897.
She was used in conjunction with HMS Implacable as an accommodation ship, a training ship, and a holiday ship based in Falmouth then Portsmouth. She remained in service until 1986, after which she was again restored and renamed back to Trincomalee in 1992.
Now listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, following her recent restoration Trincomalee has become the centrepiece of the historic dockyard museum in Hartlepool.
Trincomalee holds the distinction of being the oldest British warship still afloat as HMS Victory, although 52 years her senior, is in dry dock.
She has won numerous awards including the World Ship Trust International Maritime Heritage Award, the North East England Large Visitor Attraction of the Year 2009 and a Business Award for Tourism & Leisure in 2010.
Such is the importance of HMS Trincomalee to the maritime history of this country, she has been identified as meriting inclusion within the Core Collection of the National Register of Historic Vessels of the United Kingdom. In 2010, she became the first affiliate to the National Museum of the Royal Navy. In 2014, she became part of the heritage fleet of that organisation alongside HMS Victory, HMS Alliance and HMS Caroline.