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Within the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth is a 50 foot long
steam vessel known as Pinnace 199. She is believed to be the last
remaining naval steam pinnace. She was built for the Royal
Navy at Samuel White’s Yard at Cowes in 1911. On acceptance into
the Royal Navy, she would have been allocated to one of the
battleships of the time – probably HMS Monarch, as one of the two
steam pinnaces carried aboard as picket boats that would protect
her when at anchor and carry officers and men ashore. Pinnace 199
was later converted to an admiral’s barge by adding a counter stern
and a brass funnel.
Little is known of her movements subsequent to
HMS Monarch in 1925 but she is believed to have been used as a
dockyard launch and possibly as a tender to the Military Hospital
at Netley on Southampton Water. In 1949 she was sold and stored in
Weevil Lake in Portsmouth Harbour.
In 1952, she was bought by a private owner for
conversion to a houseboat on the Thames. Renamed
Treleague she remained on the Thames in an increasingly
poor condition for some years. Her steam machinery was removed and
replaced by a petrol engine and she was finally sold for £5 and her
new owner commenced her restoration.
However, funding was inadequate and the bare hull was acquired
by the Royal Naval Museum in 1979 for restoration by the Steam
Launch Restoration Group in Gosport. A pinnace boiler and a
compound engine from a similar steam pinnace were provided from HMS
Sultan. The Restoration Group developed into the Maritime Workshop
which remains responsible for the pinnace’s maintenance, manning
Today she is moored in Fort Blockhouse
(formerly HMS Dolphin) and operated by a group of volunteer, Group
199, as a working exhibit. She has been seen at Navy Days,
Steam Days and The Old Gaffers Festival at Yarmouth on the Isle of
Wight, for example. A search online of “Pinnace 199” will produce a
host of colour photographs and more detailed information.