Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Real Deal - H.M. Cutter Sherbourne

"A Trinity House Yacht and a Revenue Cutter Off Ramsgate," Thomas Whitcombe, ca. 1810.

Cutters evolved during the second quarter of the eighteenth century in southeast England as swift channel vessels. They soon gained a deserved reputation for their speed, which was not unnoticed by smugglers who soon adopted the cutter as their preferred smuggling craft. In turn, cutters were employed by the British Customs Service to counter the smugglers. Cutters carried a large disproportional area of sail for their size and also served as advice yachts, packet boats and, during wartime, privateers.

The Sherbourne was built as a revenue vessel for the Customs Service. She was designed by Sir Thomas Slade, the designer of the famous H.M.S. Victory, and was built at Woolwich Dockyard under the supervision of Master Shipwright Joseph Harris and launched on December 3, 1763. She cost
£1,581.8.9d to build and fit. After over twenty years of service, Sherbourne was sold in 1784—a remarkably long career for such a small vessel.

Sherbourne was 54' 6" long, 19' wide and had a draught of 8' 11". She carried a compliment of thirty men and was 85 tonnes. Armament consisted of eight 3-pounder carriage guns and ten swivel guns.
Sherbourne was commissioned under Lieutenant John Cartwright, later to become a prominent parliamentary reformer, and was assigned to support the work of the Board of Customs by operating against smugglers in the English Channel. Cartwright commanded Sherbourne from December 7, 1763 until May 14, 1766. His area of responsibility was the south coast of England, including Dorsetshire and Devon.

Lieutenant Christopher Raper succeeded Cartwright in 1766 as Sherbourne's commander for the next three years. Between 1769 and 1777 the cutter was commanded successively by Lieutenants Stephen Rains, Thomas Rayment, and Thomas Gaborian, all the while remaining based in the Channel. Her final commanders were Lieutenant Arthur Twyman, from September 1777 until May 1778, and then Lieutenant Arthur Hayne until September 1779. She was then laid up.

In 1783 Sherbourne participated in William Tracey's unsuccessful attempt to raise HMS Royal George, which had sunk in Spithead in 1782. Although the dockyard rated Sherbourne as unfit for service, Tracey conducted some repairs and she was of some use.

Sherbourne was finally sold at Portsmouth on July 1, 1784.

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