H.M.S. Roebuck was the nameship of a class of twenty fifth rates even though she herself was completed before any of the others had been laid down. Roebuck's keel was laid in Chatham dockyard in October 1770 and she was launched on 28th April 1774. Measured by her builders at 886 tons, she was 140 feet in length with a 38 foot beam, and mounted 44 guns in total comprising 20-18pounders, 22-9pdrs. and 2-6 pdrs.
Shortly after completion, Roebuck was despatched to North American waters where the American War of Independence was just beginning. First in action under Hyde Parker in the Lower Hudson River, she was one of a three-ship squadron fired upon and badly damaged by the guns of Fort Washington on 9th October 1776. Although tactically defeated, the squadron's very presence in the river caused General Washington great concern and caused him to change his campaign plans in the area. Remaining on station off the eastern sea-board, Roebuck was in Lord Howe's fleet which played cat-and-mouse with the French during August 1788, and she then acted as flag-ship to Vice-Admiral Arbuthnot at the successful capitulation of Charleston, South Carolina, on 11th May 1780 where she was again badly damaged heading the line past the guns of Fort Moultrie. In her last encounter of the war on 14th April 1781, she captured, whilst in company of H.M.S. Orpheus, the 36-gun American frigate Confederacy off the Virginia Capes, the latter loaded with valuable stores for Washington's army.
After a brief period as a hospital ship (1790-91), Roebuck next saw action in the West Indies during Sir John Jervis's operations off Martinique, and her final recorded engagement was the capture of the 12-gun Dutch Bataaf off Barbados on 6th July 1796. Thereafter serving as a troopship (1799), a guardship (1803) and a floating battery (1805), she was eventually broken up at Sheerness in July 1811.