Previous names

  • 1955 - 1979 Treleague
Certificate no 40
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Fighting Vessel
Subfunction Pinnace
Location Portsmouth
Vessel type Naval Pinnace
Current use Museum based
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No
Web address


Builder White, J Samuel & Co Ltd, Cowes, Isle of Wight
Built in 1911
Hull material Wood
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Steam
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Steam compound
Boiler type Unknown
Boilermaker Maritime Workshop, Gosport
Boiler year 1994
Boiler fuel oil


Breadth: Beam
9.09 feet (2.97 m)
3.74 feet (1.14 m)
Length: Overall
50.00 feet (15.24 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed



1.      What is the vessel’s ability to demonstrate history in her physical fabric?

Evidence for designs, functions, techniques, processes, styles, customs and habits or uses and associations in relation to events and people.  How early, intact or rare these features are may impact on significance.

The history of STEAM PINNACE 199 is strongly expressed through the physical changes she has undergone. Built in 1911 and adapted to become an Admiral’s barge in 1918, her hull was first subject to conservation work in 1975. Between 1979 (when she was acquired by the Royal Naval Museum) and 1983, she was fitted with a boiler and compound engine from a similar steam pinnace, the original steam machinery not having survived. During that time, her original steam auxiliaries were also restored to her, having been recovered from a yard in Belgium. The main engine was subsequently rebuilt and the boiler refurbished with a new burner. In 2003, the original propeller (which had previously been reduced in diameter to accommodate a petrol engine) was replaced with a new propeller of the correct size to match the steam plant, funded by a grant awarded by the Transport Trust. Mirroring the original which had been lost, STEAM PINNACE 199 boasts a Hotchkiss 3-pounder gun built in 1887 and salvaged from the sea by a trawler in 1980. Although the inside of the barrel is corroded, it has been restored to a good external appearance. Overall, the hull and superstructure are mainly original, as are the auxiliary engines. Replacement features such as the propeller, main engines and Hotchkiss gun are in keeping with the origins of the vessel, making this vessel highly authentic whilst displaying changes in structure which reflect the history of the ship.

2.      What are the vessel’s associational links for which there is no physical evidence?

Associations with people or places.  Off-ship research.

STEAM PINNACE 199 was built by J. Samuel White of Cowes for the Royal Navy as one of the two duty boats usually carried by capital ships. Pinnaces armed with Hotchkiss guns were often used as picket boats patrolling capital ship anchorages. Their ability to move and fire at speed made them an excellent defence against the torpedo boat threat at the turn of the nineteenth century. In 1914, the Navy List indicated 634 of these craft afloat. There is evidence to suggest that STEAM PINNACE 199 was associated with the ‘super-dreadnought’ HMS MONARCH. Today STEAM PINNACE 199 is the last surviving naval steam pinnace and remains in operational use.

During the Second World War she served in Portsmouth Dockyard, often with a WRNS crew. In 1952, she was taken from Portsmouth to the Thames (when her steam engines were removed) for conversion to a houseboat, being skippered on the voyage by Lieutenant Hugh Roskill. Details of this voyage were later published in Commander Stapleton’s book on steam pinnaces. Since 2001 STEAM PINNACE 199 has been used as an operational exhibit taking part in numerous festivals and rallies including the International Festival of the Sea, the Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival and Southampton Boat Show.

3.      How does the vessel’s shape or form combine and contribute to her function?

Overall aesthetic impact of the vessel, her lines, material she was built from and her setting.  Does she remain in her working environment?

STEAM PINNACE 199’s brass funnel represents the change in her function when in 1918 she was converted from a duty boat to an admiral’s barge. The notably large shelter accommodation reflects her use as an official barge and the needs of the relatively large crew for a vessel of this size during her time operating as a pinnace and picket boat. With a narrow hull, sleek lines, powerful steam engine and impressive ordnance, STEAM PINNACE 199 was designed as an effective fighting vessel to operate in shallow waters with the capability of moving at speeds of up to 12 knots. She remains an aesthetically pleasing steam powered vessel, and continues to be based  as an operational vessel in the Portsmouth area.

Source: NHS-UK team, 26 August 2015. 

This statement was developed as part of the Heritage Lottery funded First World War project.

199 was delivered new to the Admiralty and was converted to an Admiral's barge in 1916. In 1930 she became the duty boat at Netley Hospital. Circa 1946, she was sold out of service and in 1955 was known to have steamed to the Thames under the name TRELEAGUE. She was then converted to a motor engine and had a period of various different owners. The hull restoration was carried out in 1975 by Tough Bros. of Teddington.

Further information was reported to us in 2009 noting that Capital ships each carried two of these vessels for use as guard boats and for offensive use in shallow waters. Each boat being armed with a 3pdr QG gun, a Maxim gun and rifles, plus 14" diameter torpedoes. As 'picket boats', they were fighting vessels capable of 12 knots. S.P. 199 is now the last of these vessels still in operational use.


Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson
Steamboat Register: An illustrated Register of surviving steam vessels in the British Isles, Steam Boat Association of Great Britain, Edition 6, May 1994  
The Funnel: Update on 199, pp13, Edition 165, 2015   

Key dates

  • 1911

    Laid down at Cowes

  • 1912 Launched
  • 1916 Converted for use as an Admiral’s Steam Barge
  • 1920s Duty boat for the Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley
  • 1939-1945 At Portsmouth Dockyard on war service
  • 1950 Sold out of service to Fred Watts of Gosport
  • 1979 Purchased by the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth
  • 1984 Re-Commissioned as ceremonial boat for the Naval Base
  • 1999-2001 Engine rebuilt
  • 2013

     Volunteers of Group 199 have been granted the Restoration Award 2012, awarded by HRH Prince Michael of Kent at Brooklands Museum Weybridge. Source: Group 199, Jun 2013


  • June 2013

    Volunteers of Group 199 have been granted the Restoration Award 2012, awarded by HRH Prince Michael of Kent at Brooklands Museum Weybridge. Source: Group 199, Jun 2013

  • January 2013

    A Sustainability Award of £1000 towards the costs of restoration was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships UK

  • February 2012

    National Museum of the Royal Navy has been awarded a £50,000 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund for conservation work on 199. The work will be carried out at the Maritime Workshop in Gosport and is likely to last for up to nine months

  • April 2008 - March 2

    A Sustainability Grant of £1,400 towards the costs of a survey were made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships

  • April 2008 - March 2

    A Conference & Training Bursary of £100 for the costs of attending the UK Maritime Heritage conference was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships

  • January 2007 - March

    A Sustainability Grant of £1,137 for new descriptive literature and portable display panels was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships UK

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