Naval Heritage Centenary

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History of the Museum's Pinnace

Steam Pinnace 199 was built for the Royal Navy at Samuel White’s Yard at Cowes in 1911. On acceptance into the Royal Navy, she would have been allocated to one of the capital ships of the time – probably HMS Monarch as one of the two steam pinnaces carried aboard as guard ships. She was one of a large number of such vessels – the Navy List of 1914 showed 634 of these vessels in service. In 1918, Pinnace 199 was converted to an admiral’s barge by adding a counter stern and a brass funnel.

Little is known of her movements subsequent to HMS Monarch being decommissioned in 1925 but she is believed to have been used as a dockyard launch and possibly as a tender to the Military Hospital at Netley on Southampton Water. In 1949 she was sold and stored in Weevil Lake in Portsmouth Harbour.

In 1952, she was bought by a private owner for conversion to a houseboat on the Thames. Lieutenant Hugh Roskill, a friend of the new owner, acted as the skipper for the journey from Portsmouth to the Thames in 1952. This voyage is well documented in Commander Stapleton’s book on the steam pinnaces. Hugh Roskill visited us in 2002 and sailed again in Pinnace 199 after a break of 50 years.

Renamed Treleague she remained on the Thames in an increasingly poor condition for some years. Her steam machinery was removed and replaced by a petrol engine and she was finally sold for £5 to an antique dealer who commenced her restoration. However, funding was inadequate and the bare hull was acquired by the Royal Naval Museum in 1979 for restoration by the Steam Launch Restoration Group in Gosport. A pinnace boiler and a compound engine from a similar steam pinnace were provided from the Royal Navy’s engineering establishment at HMS Sultan. The Restoration Group developed into the Maritime Workshop which remains responsible for the pinnace’s maintenance, manning and management.

In 1984, she was recommissioned and used for VIP transport and exhibited in the Mast Pond of the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth. The vessel remained in the Mast Pond until 1998 when it was transferred to the Maritime Workshop in Gosport in need of a complete refit.

A major machinery restoration programme was undertaken between 1999 and 2001, the engine was totally rebuilt and the boiler refurbished with a new burner. The vessel finally emerged in her present shape in time to take part in the Festival of the Sea at Portsmouth in 2001.

Steam Pinnace 199 is believed to be the last remaining naval steamboat and is listed in the National Historic Ships Register as a designated vessel.

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