Remembering a ship that was the city’s treasure

HMS Trincomalee in Hartlepool today
HMS Trincomalee in Hartlepool today
In the first third of the last century we see a packed tram travelling east along a flooded Clarendon Road, Southsea.  (Barry Cox collection)

NOSTALGIA: Angry parkie would tell us, in no uncertain terms, to clear off!

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A quarter of a century ago today, one of Portsmouth Harbour’s landmark sailing ships left the city for what turned out to be the last time.

Twenty-five years ago the teak Training Ship Foudroyant arrived in Hartlepool to undergo a £10.5m restoration which lasted 11 years.

Foudroyant in 1987

Foudroyant in 1987

Today this 195-year-old wooden frigate is visited by about 50,000 people a year.

For decades she was a familiar sight moored in Portsmouth and was used by many children to learn seagoing skills.

But TS Foudroyant fell victim to changes in nautical training, and also a reduction in numbers of schoolchildren requiring the seagoing skills she offered.

However, as the second oldest ship afloat (only the USS Constitution, berthed in Boston, is older) it was decided, in 1986, that restoration was a fitting fate for this priceless relic from the age of sail.

She, along with the First World War monitor Minerva, were loaded on to the Dutch submersible barge Goliath Pacific in the middle of the harbour and so began a three-and-a-half day voyage to the north east.

The dream was that one day she would return to Portsmouth and the day she sailed north the chairman of the Foudroyant Trust, Capt David T Smith, announced: ‘We look forward to seeing her return to Portsmouth in three years.’

It never happened.

Launched in 1817 in Bombay, Foudroyant was certainly in need of a refit.

Craftsmen in Hartlepool, having recently completed the restoration of HMS Warrior, jumped at the opportunity to work on her.

During the restoration she reverted to her original name HMS Trincomalee and is now the proud centrepiece of the Historic Quay at Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience.