HMS Northumberland. Original antique print published in the ‘Illustrated Times’ of the launch of HMS Northumberland above the caption “The Northumberland Afloat, with the Launching Camels Attached.”
A pencil wielding anonymous Victorian wag below the official caption wrote, “another useless monster to be lost at sea.”
However, the Northumberland was to prove the cynic’s prediction wrong, surviving until 1937 in various roles.
Built at Millwall Iron Works on the Isle of Dogs, she was laid down in October 1861 and completed in October 1868.
Subject to delays caused by the financial crisis of 1866, her launch was further delayed by the ships refusal to leave the slipway at her initial ‘launch’ and the bankruptcy of the builder, with the creditors seizing the hull until the Admiralty had settled their account!
The vessel was the fifth Royal Navy battleship to bear the name, her immediate namesake having served with distinction during the Napoleonic Wars, her final act during that conflict being to transport Napoleon Bonaparte to exile in St. Helena.
For her part, the ship launched in 1868 fired not a single shell in anger.
A five-masted, steam-powered ‘armoured frigate,’ Northumberland carried twenty-four heavy guns, with twelve on each of her four hundred feet long broadsides.
She served with the Channel Fleet from 1868 until 1890, followed by a period in reserve at Devonport from 1891 until 1898.
Towed to Chapham, in 1904 she was renamed HMS Acheron, her masts were reduced to three, and she undertook the role of a stoker’s training and depot ship.
In 1909 her remaining masts were removed and she was converted for use as a coal hulk before being sold in 1927 and removed to Dakar, where she was eventually scrapped.
On September 29th. 1994 HMS Northumberland, a Type 23 Frigate was commission into Royal Navy service.
She served in the successful campaign to liberate the Falkland Islands.
Mooring alongside HMS Belfast in April 2007, she celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Slave Trade Act 1807 and the creation of the West Africa Squadron’s role in suppressing the Atlantic Slave Trade with a display on modern anti-slavery operations of the Royal Navy.
In December 2020 the Royal Navy reported that HMS Northumberland “has been part of the UK Carrier Strike Group during landmark operations in the North Sea and monitored Russian activity close to UK waters during her relentless patrols around Britain.”