The Rockingham, named after Charles, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, Prime Minister in 1782, who had died the same year, was built in William Barnard's yard at Deptford and launched in 1785. Measured at 798 tons, she was 143½ feet in length with a 36 foot beam and had been ordered by Sir Richard Hotham, her first managing owner. Sailing from the Downs on 13th March 1786, her maiden passage was to Bombay and thereafter she settled into a regular schedule, mostly to India, but also including two onward trips to China in 1789-93. On her seventh voyage, she left Torbay on 27 May 1800 under the command of Captain Thomas Butler, bound for Bombay and the Red Sea. This latter destination had a commercial importance pre-dating that of passages to China in the East India Company's history, and the first reference to the Gulf was as early as 1610 when Sir Henry Middleton was charged with opening it up in trade. Normally, ships travelling to the Red Sea carried so-called 'supercargoes' of merchants to transact business in ports where the Company had no settlement or permanent agents and many of the Company's ships which journeyed to Bombay went on to the Gulf as part of their scheduled route. Rockingham arrived at Bombay on 2 April 1801 following a brief call at Madras but sailed again shortly afterwards for her foray into the Red Sea. After calling at Mokha on 16 May, she was sailing through the Red Sea on 8 June when she ran aground on a shoal but was successfully floated free the same night. Able to continue on to Jiddah, her northernmost port where she docked on 22 June, she called again at Mokha on the return trip before turning south to be back in the Downs, via St Helena, on 8 June 1802.
Rockingham disappears from record after this voyage, probably as the result of sale and renaming; it is possible however that she was sold out of the East India Company's fleet having been structurally weakened by the stranding on 8 June 1801 but there is no evidence to confirm this. As she was sailing alone at the time of the incident, this work shows her in three positions during and after the stranding.