HMS Triconmalee, one of the few preserved early 19th century warships, can today be found at the Hartlepool Maritime Experience conveniently located in metropolitan Hartlepool, The Middle of Nowhere, in the county of Durham.
There’s something rather sordid about Hartlepool, with its empty-looking 19th century warehouses and terrible road networks which seem only to bring you from one ugly strip mall to another. If strip malls aren’t sordid, especially those in Britain, then I don’t know what is. Today Hartlepudlians (has there even been a more fitting name?) are better known as “Monkey Hangers”, a term of questionable offence. This refers to the legend that the wise people of Hartlepool hanged the pet monkey off of a shipwrecked French warship as a spy.
But one doesn’t go to Hartlepool for the flourishing arts scene, no. Rather, one goes for the Triconmalee, a ship laid down in 1810 and completed in 1811 in India. Hardwood shortages in Britain brought about by the increased naval armament of the Napoleonic wars and the blockade of Baltic ports had cut off the trade of many of the supplies crucial to shipbuilding, leading to the Triconmalee’s construction in India out of local teak-hardwood. HMS Triconmalee’s long career is almost entirely devoid of any glory with no significant actions that I know of. Still, had the Triconmalee come into combat with the King’s Enemies it’s very likely she wouldn’t be around today for us to enjoy and to stave off the boredom a trip to Hartlepool would otherwise entail.
For me the vessel has somewhat more importance: during one of her less noteworthy commissions in the 1850s she was stationed in Esquimalt, on the Pacific Station. Her presence gives the name to Tricomalee Passage between Saltspring and Galiano Islands near Victoria.
Now, I’m not one for the romantic fetishization of old stuff as “History”, but I did have a pretty cool feeling standing on the Triconmalee’s quarterdeck. Just think of it: over 160 years ago she swung gently at anchor in Esquimalt Harbour, in those early days of B.C.’s colonial history. Cool, eh?!