HMS Beagle – the journey begins… 12 May, 2020

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


On May 11th, 1820 HMS Beagle was launched at Woolwich naval dockyard on the River Thames. She was originally commissioned as a warship but spent the first five years of her life in dock because there was no war for her to fight in. She was “laid in ordinary” which means she was moored in water but with no masts or rigging.

 It wasn’t until 1825 that she was refitted by the Royal Navy to be one of a number of ships whose job it was to sail around the globe and chart the coastlines of the new and exciting worlds that had been discovered. HMS Beagle was only 90 feet long and relatively shallow bottomed, so it meant that she could sail close to shore in the shallows, but it must have been very cramped for the 70 or so crew members aboard.

The schematics of HMS Beagle’s class of ship are held at the National Maritime Museum, part of the Royal Museums Greenwich, one of our partners in Discover 2020. Check out their website,  for some wonderful digital content from the museum and interactive learning experiences for maritime enthusiasts of all ages.

These detailed drawings have been the source materials for the creation of a computer generated virtual tour of HMS Beagle which has been commissioned by Rochford District Council with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund which uses money raised by the National Lottery, to inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. You can find out more about their work at or on social media by following @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund 

"Our talented digital creator Grant Cox from Art As Media is creating the virtual tour on a panorama of the Paglesham coastline and you can see examples of his fabulous work on his website Working with our friends at RSPB Wallasea Island the council is installing an observation point overlooking the estuary where HMS Beagle was originally moored and from there by holding your tablet or smartphone up to the horizon you will be able to see HMS Beagle as she would have looked in the 19th century. There will be new historic interpretation boards and signage as well as a new walk, the Beagle Trail which will take visitors around the nature reserve, ending up on the sea wall. Unfortunately, the reserve is closed at present but as soon as we can we will be recommencing work on the preparations for this new attraction at Wallasea Island. Until then, the digital tour will be web-based so you won’t have to leave home to view it and we will launch it as soon as we can. Watch this space!"

Check out this ‘Rig Test’ video