The First Rate H.M.S. Trafalgar was ordered in February 1825 as the last of five 'Saint George' class three-deckers designed after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Her keel was laid in Woolwich Dockyard in December 1829 but she was not ready for launching until the summer of 1841, having spent 11½ years on the stocks. A large vessel of 2,694 tons measuring 205½ feet in length with a 53½ foot beam, she mounted 120 guns of varying calibre and carried 1,000 men to crew her as an effective fighting machine.
Built by Oliver Lang at Woolwich, she was launched by him on 21st June 1841 in the presence of Queen Victoria and a reputed 300,000 people said to have assembled to watch the spectacle. First employed as flagship to the Commander-in-Chief, Sheerness, she showed her mettle in the Crimean War when she took an active role in the twelve hour bombardment of Sevastopol on 17th October the same year. These triumphs also signalled the end of supremacy of sail however; the great three-deckers which had successfully pounded the Russian defences had often been towed into position by steam ships and it had become clear to the Admiralty that the future 'Pax Britannica' lay with steam. Consequently, Trafalgar - like most of her contemporaries docked for conversion and fitted with screw propulsion in a refit lasting a year from August 1858. At the same time, she was cut down to a two-decker although lengthened 15 feet by the stern to accomodate her new 500n.h.p. Maudslay engines; the cost of £25,000 was deemed a bargain compared to the £105,000 needed for a totally new vessel. Undocked on 14th August 1859, she served four years in the Channel Fleet and then spent a year in the Mediterranean before becoming a Coastguard vessel at Queensferry in 1864. Last at sea with the Reserve Fleet in 1869, she was then converted to a boys' training ship at Portsmouth and, when transferred to Portland in 1873, was renamed Boscawen. Finally sold out of the service in July 1906, she was broken up on the Thames after sixty-five years afloat.
H.M.S. St. Vincent, a large First Rate of 2,612 tons and designed to mount 120 guns, was laid down at Plymouth in May 1810 and launched on 11th March 1815. By that date however the Napoleonic Wars were effectively over and, with plans already in hand to reduce the activities of the fleet, she was laid up "in Ordinary" until first commissioned in February 1831 for service with the Mediterranean Fleet. Almost wrecked in February 1834 when she was driven ashore during a tremendous storm off Malta, she was eventually refloated and returned home where she was paid off. Re-commissioned for the Channel Squadron in 1841, she was frequently in Portsmouth where she was twice visited by Queen Victoria in 1842 and 1847. During the 1842 visit, she acted as flagship to the 'Experimental Squadron' at the last Royal Review of a fleet in which all the major vessels were sailing ships.
After minor alterations in 1850, she took part in the war in the Baltic in 1854 having first carried 1,300 French troops from Calais for the offensive in the Aland Islands. When Bomarsund, the principal fortress there, surrendered on 16th August, St. Vincent returned to Portsmouth with Russian prisoners-of-war aboard her, this operation marking the end of her sea service. Re-employed first as Guardship of the Ordinary and then as Reserve Depot Ship at Portsmouth, in 1862 she became a training ship for boys and was given a permanent mooring off the entrance to Haslar Creek in Portsmouth Harbour. Eventually worn out by generations of naval apprentices, she held her last passing-out parade on 18th December 1905 and, on 1st March 1906, was removed from her moorings prior to being towed to Falmouth where she was broken up that summer.