HMS Unicorn


Launched in 1824, HMS Unicorn is the most original old ship in the world.

Originally constructed as a 46 gun frigate at Chatham Royal Dockyard, Unicorn arrived in Dundee in 1873 as a training ship for the Royal Naval Reserves – a role she carried out until the 1960’s

HMS Unicorn is still moored on the city’s waterfront and is now the oldest ship left in Scotland, as well as one of the six oldest ships in the world.

From her origins in the Georgian Navy to her use in the Second Wold War, HMS Unicorn has so many incredible stories to tell. 

Built as a Leda – class frigate during 

1817 23 July order placed for ship

1822 February  Keel,laid @ Chatham, built as a Leda – class frigate. during construction the vessel had a refit to become a receiving/barracks vessel. 

1824 30th March Ship Launched , 1077 by Tons, 151 ft 9in long (lower deck) 125 ft (keel), depth of hold 12ft 9in. Although never given masts she was planned as a full – rigged ship. As never rigged could not move without tow. Compliment of 315.

Armament; upper deck , 28 x 13 pounder guns, Qurter deck , 14mx 32 pounder carronades. , Forecastle 2 x 9 pounder carronades. 

1857 Lent to War Department for use as a Powder Hulk at Woolich 

1862 returned to Chatham

1873 Sailed to Dundee in two behind Salamander

1874 Commissioned as RNR Drill Ship

1906 Leant to Clyde Division RNVR 

1926 Turned over to East Scottish Division RNVR

1929 Name changed to Unicorn II

1941 Name changed to Cressy

1959 Name reverts to Unicorn 

1962 Unicorn nave to Camperdown 

1963 Unicorn made to Victoria Docks 

1968 Unicorn Preservation Society founded 

1969 MOD hands Unicorn over to the UPS

1974 Jury Mast and Foc’sle removed

1975 Unicorn opened to the public 

2019 April the Unicorn Preservation Society received a National Lottery Resilient Heritage Fund Grant,  in the amount of £28,000

2021 March, the frigate was surveyed, most of the planking was found to be in a very poor state, with even newer planking (from the 1950’s) also deteriorated. 

However, according to one of the restorers, of all,the ships of this type, “this one is probably the most original, certainly inside….Virtually all you see dates back to the day it was built and it hasn’t been largely rebuilt over that time. 

It is planned to move the ship to the nearby East G5aving Dock for conservation work  (operation safe haven), and ultimately set up a maritime heritage centre for the ship. The Unicorn Preservation Society is appealing for donations of large oaks to replace planking , intention is to have the Oaks cut into planks ready for the resortation.

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