HMVS (ex HMS) Nelson (1814)


Below are listed significant dates for HMVS (ex HMS) Nelson. Anyone able to add events to those listed is asked to e-mail the details to the webmaster. We are also keen to know of images that illustrate events or simply photos that we do not know about.
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1805, 23 November

Ordered just a month after the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson's bow was the first change in bow design for 200 years. The raised bow of the three Nelson class ships protected the men against raking fire from ahead and was a direct result of Admiral Nelson's tactic of crossing the T at Trafalgar.


1809, 14 November

Keel laid down.


Nelson on the stocks building with Sir Robert Sepping’s newly invented round bow, replacing the old square beak-head bulkhead. The round bow gave additional strength allowing the guns to be mounted further forward & the raised bulwalks provided protection to raking fire from ahead.

Bow comparison —

1814, 4 July

Nelson was the largest Line-of-Battleship built up to that date in England and was launched in front of 20,000 spectators at the King's Yard in Woolwich.

Launching Handbill —


1814, 10 August

  • Commissioned at Woolwich with command given to Captain Thomas Burlton
  • Fitted for:-
          32 x 32 pounder guns
          34 x 24 pounder guns
          34 x 18 pounder guns
          6 x 12 pounder guns
          10 x 32 pounder carronades
          2 x 12 pounder guns
          2 x 12 pounder carronades
          6 x 24 pounder Carronades in the roundhouse (not counted in total of 120)


1814, 31 August

Arrived in Portsmouth harbour under tow.


  • Reported as being brownish yellow as opposed to black & white for ships in commission.
  • Large roof to protect deck & equipment from weather.
  • Gun carriages on board.
  • Repairs undertaken.


Beautifully ornamented square stern replaced by a round one.



  • Fitted out as an Advanced Ship. ie Ready for service.
  • Gun carriages on board.
  • Fitted for:-
          108 x 32 pounder guns and
          12 x 68 pounder guns (Monck's) on the lower deck.



  • Hull coppered with one side of the copper covered with chloride of zinc and cold lime to test whether this preserved the copper.
  • Fitted with full masts.
  • Moored in harbour among advance line of battleships.


Although there is no evidence that Nelson every went to sea under sail, this painting was obviously inspired by the full masts fitted the previous year now allowing her to do so.


1848, January

Masts removed and fitted to HMS Powerful.



Returned to Ordinary Mooring.



Copper hull inspected and found to have been eaten away. Impure metal.



Listed as a first rate at Portsmouth with a crew of 970 men.


Placed in dock for conversion to a 91 gun screw ship. Nelson was cut down by one deck, lengthened by 29 feet and had a 500 hp engine fitted. As the sides fell in towards the top, Nelson measured as being wider after the conversion, but was not actually widened.



  • 10¼ knots at half boiler power with maximum of 56 rpm.
  • Described as being in the steam reserve at Portsmouth.



Fitted out as a 48 gun Block and Training Ship for the Colony of Victoria.


1867, 20 October

Left Portsmouth via the Cape of Good Hope for Victoria.

1868, 4 February

Arrived in Victoria for use as a Naval Training Ship for boys.

1870, 10 October

Men of the Sandridge Corps of the Victorian Volunteer Naval Brigade, during the Brigade's first practise on board Nelson. Here seen with the 64 pounders on the Gun Deck.

1874, 2 March

Nelson was the fist ship to enter the recently completed Alfred Graving Dock.

1875, February

Cruised to Dromana under sail & then to Point Nepean under steam.

1878, February

Nelson with a single gun deck after having been cut down in 1878. The ship was then rated as a frigate & carried 30 guns. The funnel is in the lowered position. Details

1898, 28 April

After being sold Nelson, was towed to Sydney by the tug Eagle. On being cut down a third time the lower part of the ship was turned into a lighter & used as a coal hulk, Still named Nelson it was used on the river Tamar for the Beaconfield gold mine in Tasmania. The upper sections were sliced off one at a time & converted into at least four coal barges.


The lower section of Nelson was used as a coal lighter for the Beaconsfield mine.


Nelson taken apart at Shag Bay on the Derwent River, Tasmania.

Did Nelson Go to Sea as a Line-of-Battleship?

From the Newspapers.

29 December 1838 - " *New ships, never at sea. The following could be got ready in a few weeks. *Nelson 120"

7 February 1839 - "we have the Neptune, and Nelson, 120 guns each, new ships that have never been to sea...."

16 August 1845 - "The Nelson 120.....She is nearly three (sic) years old, has been twice throughly repaired, yet has never been at sea, except under jurymasts, to be brought here from the river."

14 April 1846 - "which has never been in commission, nor more at sea than in coming from Woolwich to this port, where, during her 32 years of idleness, she has undergone nearly a reconstruction. She is now completing her third thorough refit!"

13 March 1849 - "although the Nelson, 120, and the Neptune, 120 are lying all the while in this very harbour without ever having been once put to sea."

28 October 1853 - "Nelson 120 - This old three-decker, that has never been to sea (although nearly 40 years old)..."

17 September 1858 - "We hope that he will add to them the Nelson 120. She has never been to sea, and, although she was built upward of thirty years ago, her timbers ought to be sound."

12 March 1859 - "The Nelson built at Woolwich, and brought into Portsmouth harbour on the 31st of August, 1814, and her longest voyage during that time has been from her moorings up the harbour to the dockyard, and back to her moorings again, never has she been outside the mouth of the harbour during her 45 years."

21 September 1867 - "after her launch she went round to Portsmouth. Her only trip outside the latter port since that time was her trial of speed over the measured mile in Stokes' bay, on being fitted, after alterations and conversion to a steamship, with screw machinery."

The above, plus the frequent references to Nelson lying in ordinary, are convincing evidence that, in spite of at least two paintings suggesting otherwise, the first time that Nelson went to sea was for her speed trial under steam in 1860.

Nelson's Guns SlideShow         HMVS Nelson SlideShow
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