HMS Trincomalee was one of 47 Leda class frigates built for the British Navy between 1800 and 1830, at the time of the Napoleonic wars with France. One of the problems faced by the British at that time was a severe shortage of available timber and, attempting to overcome this difficulty the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord St Vincent, directed the construction of many ships to the yards of the East India Company in Bombay. With supplies of readily available Teak, timber could be used in their construction and work commenced in 1816 under the direction of the company's master shipbuilder, Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia. HMS Trincomalee was launched on 12th October the following year.
Fitted with temporary masts, yards and rigging HMS Trincomalee, escorted by HMS Fowey, commenced the long journey back to England. Pausing en route at her namesake port in Sri Lanka, where she took on armament and further supplies, she eventually arrived in Portsmouth on 30th April 1819. By this time the Napoleonic war with France was over, and HMS Trincomalee was immediately surplus to normal peacetime requirements. As customary in these circumstances, HMS Trincomalee was placed 'in ordinary' (in reserve), her armament, masts, yards and rigging removed, and her decks carefully roofed over. She was then towed to a berth where she could be regularly maintained until such time as naval requirements changed.
For the next 25 years HMS Trincomalee was to remain 'off duty'. In 1845 she was modified to allow for increased firepower, was given permanent masts and rigging, and was ready for work. On 21st September 1847 HMS Trincomalee sailed to North America and the West Indies to begin a three year commission patrolling the Caribbean and northern coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. Having returned to England in 1850, HMS Trincomalee was given a further re-fit and sailed again in 1852 to protect British interests off the American Pacific coast. Two years later, when Britain and France declared war on Russia, HMS Trincomalee joined a small squadron tasked with destroying Russian frigates, as well as assisting in some land operations. Once hostilities ceased HMS Trincomalee continued with her Pacific duties until being recalled to England. She returned to Chatham Dockyard in Kent on 5th September 1857, and just one week later her masts and rigging were removed, and she was again placed 'in ordinary'.
In 1861 it was decided that HMS Trincomalee would be deployed in a training role and, after another re-fit, she was towed to Sunderland where she became a tender to the drill ship HMS Castor. Over some thirty years she continued in a training role, firstly at Hartlepool and then later at Southampton Water, each time receiving modifications to accommodate the various types of training armament. By 1895 she had been replaced by a newer ship and put in reserve. Two years later HMS Trincomalee was sold for breaking. Fortunately she was saved by Mr Wheatley Cobb, who owned and ran a private training ship for young cadets. When his ship, HMS Foudroyant, was destroyed in a storm whilst moored at Blackpool North Pier, he bought HMS Trincomalee.
Having undergone various repairs at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and renamed TS Foudroyant, she was towed to Falmouth for fitting out. She remained at Falmouth until 1927 when she was moved to Milford Haven for a short time until Mr Cobb's death. Presented by his widow to the Society for Nautical Research, she was moved back to Portsmouth in 1932 to serve alongside HMS Implacable, providing additional accommodation for trainee's. During the war years she was used as a storage hulk, once again returning to her training role when hostilities had ceased. This role lasted for the best part of 90 years, but in 1986 her days as TS Foudroyant finally came to an end.
The immediate problem for the Foudroyant Trust was how best to preserve this important vessel. It was eventually decided that Hartlepool offered the best opportunity for full restoration and permanent berth. In July 1987 HMS Trincomalee (still named TS Foudroyant) was transported by ocean-going barge to the Tees estuary, where she was re-floated and towed to a temporary berth in Hartlepool. Restoration began in 1990 and HMS Trincomalee is now the proud, and rightful, centrepiece of Hartlepool's beautifully renovated Historic Quay, providing a fitting testament to the skill of the workers and volunteers of this North East maritime town.