A former World War II convoy escort ship, the HQS Wellington, which is moored alongside Victoria Embankment in the River Thomas, is unusual in that for the past 75 years it has served as the headquarters of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.
Constructed in the Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth, in 1934 for the Royal Navy as a two-masted Grimsby-class sloop, the HMS Wellington served in the Pacific in the lead-up to World War II, based mainly in New Zealand (she was named for the capital of New Zealand) and patrolling the South Pacific.
Following the outbreak of war, the HMS Wellington – which featured two 4.7-inch guns and one 3-inch gun as well as carrying other anti-aircraft guns and depth charges – served mainly as a convoy escort in the North Atlantic.
During this time, the vessel was involved in the sinking of an enemy U-boat, the evacuation of Allied forces from St Valery-en-Caux, north of Le Havre, and the Allied landings in North Africa in late 1942. In 1943, the HMS Wellington was one of the first escort ships to be fitted with Hedgehog, an anti-submarine weapon, which replaced the three inch gun.
The ship ended the war having travelled almost 250,000 miles and escorting 103 convoys.
Following the war, the 265 foot long ship was initially transferred to the Reserve Fleet in Milford Haven before, in 1947, the Admiralty made the ship available to the Honourable Company of Master Mariners to serve as a floating livery hall. She was converted for that purpose – and renamed the HQS Wellington – at Chatham Dockyard using funds raised through a public appeal.
The interior features a grand wooden staircase taken from the 1906 Isle of Man ferry SS Viper which was being broken up at the time.
The HQS Wellington arrived at Victoria Embankment in 1948 for service as the livery company HQ.
The ship had a major refit in 1991, during which it was fitted out with carpet and new displays showing off the Company’s collections, and in 2005, ownership of the ship was transferred to The Wellington Trust.
In April this year it was announced that due to safety concerns the Honourable Company of Master Mariners would have to leave the vessel. The company, which has relocated to a temporary on-shore headquarters in Greenwich, are now developing plans for a new floating headquarters.