Class: Osprey/Doterel class sloop
HMS Gannet was built at Sheerness Dockyard on the River Medway in 1878. The ship is a composite screw sloop and is typical of the smaller gunboats built by the Victorian navy to patrol the shores of the British Empire. As the last surviving small ship of Queen Victoria’s Royal Navy HMS Gannet is a nationally important vessel. Her composite construction and transitional design reflects a key period of development in the field of ship design and marine engineering technology that culminated in wood giving way to iron and steel, and sail giving way to steam. Today HMS Gannet is preserved at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham where she forms part of the core collection of the registered museum and is open to the public. She is also listed on the core collection of Britain’s National Register of Historic Vessels.
HMS Gannet had two very different lives-operational warship and drill ship. Between 1878 and 1895 she served as an operational sloop of the Royal Navy until being converted into a drill ship in 1902. From then until 1911 she served as HMS President, the Headquarters’ ship of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and from 1914 to 1968 as the dormitory ship for a boy’s pre-sea training school, TS Mercury, moored on the River Hamble. With the closure of the TS Mercury in July 1968, Gannet’s role as a school accommodation ship ended and responsibility for her reverted back to the Royal Navy, from whom she had been on loan for nearly sixty years. In 1971 the Royal Navy transferred the ownership and the responsibility for the restoration and preservation of Gannet to The Maritime Trust.
In 1987 The Historic Dockyard at Chatham chartered Gannet from The Maritime Trust and started a restoration program. The objective of which was to return Gannet to her 1886 appearance - when she saw action for the only time in her naval career at the defense of the port of Suakin. In 1994 ownership of the vessel was passed to the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust. The restoration, completed by late 2003, has seen the ship’s largely original hull fully conserved and re-coppered, as well as the re-fitting of the original decks, cabins, masts and spars.
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