The third H.M.S. Anson - named, like her predecessors, for Admiral Lord Anson, the famous circumnavigator of the 1740's - was built at Plymouth and enjoyed a particularly colourful career prior to her loss off the Cornish coast in the winter of 1807. Ordered in April 1773, her keel was laid on the North Slip at Plymouth in January 1774 although she was not launched until 4th Septmeber 1781 due to various interruptions of building work. Constructed to a design by Surveyor Williams, she was measured by her builders at 1,369 tons and was 159 feet in length with a 44 foot beam. A two-decker mounting a total of 64 guns of varying calibre, she was commissioned in December 1781 and, under the command of Captain William Blair, attached to the squadron being formed by Admiral Sir George Rodney in readiness for a campaign in the West Indies. The American War of Independence was still in progress and once the colonists had gained the support of France for their cause, much of the naval activity immediately switched to the immensely rich sugar islands in the Caribbean. There, in the spring of 1782, Rodney received word that the French were planning to attack Jamaica and he forestalled them by bringing their fleet to action on 12th April. Known to history as the Battle of the Saintes, it proved a decisive defeat for France and one in which Anson played a prominent rle thanks to her prime position in the rear division.
In 1794, whilst at Chatham, it was decided to convert Anson into a frigate with the result that she lost her upperdeck and her armament was reduced to 38 guns. Once that work had been completed, she returned to sea under Captain [later Admiral Sir] Philip Durham and began what was to be the most hectic phase of her career. Stationed in Home Waters - off Ireland or in the English Channel - for over five years, she saw action against the French time and again beginning with the expedition to Quiberon Bay in June 1795. Thereafter, she participated in the destruction of the enemy's Andromaque, 36-guns (23rd August 1796) and their Calliope, 28-guns (27th July 1797). Later, she assisted at the capture of two large privateers and then, on her own, re-captured the ex-British corvette Daphne of 20-guns. On 8th September 1798, whilst in company with H.M.S. Phaeton, she captured the French frigate La Flore; that October she took the 46-gun frigate Loire, and on 2nd February 1799 took the 14-gun privateer Le Boulonnais. Two more captures in 1800 were followed by the capture of eight merchantmen from a Spanish convoy off Gibraltar in June 1801, all of which brought further credit to a ship which had achieved something of a reputation within the navy.
In August 1806, by which time Anson was under the command of Captain Charles Lydiard, she was cruising off Cuba in company with the Arethusa when she sighted the Spanish frigate Pomona escorting twelve small gunboats. After a spirited action, the two British ships not only captured the Pomona - which was found to be carrying a valuable cargo including plate - but also disposed of all twelve gunboats as well as a nearby coastal fort. That September, she made a rare error of judgement by taking on the French '84' Foudroyant; although Anson emerged from the action badly mauled, the incident only served to enhance the reputation of both the ship and her captain, the latter commended by public compliments from his commanding admiral. On New Year's Day 1807, Anson played a major part in the capture of Curacao, in the Dutch West Indies, but was back in Home Waters by the end of that year, leaving Falmouth for Brest on 24th December. Running into bad weather almost immediately, Captain Lydiard decided to return to England on the 28th and set course for the Lizard. Land was sighted just before dark and Lydiard anchored for the night; at 4.00am the next morning, Anson's main cable parted and she ran ashore about three miles from Helston. Pounded by tremendous seas, there was nothing left of her by 3.00pm the same afternoon and sixty men, including her captain, lost their lives.