The first Worcester was a 50 gun frigate of 1471 tons loaned from the Admiralty in 1862 to the Association of London Shipowners for training apprentice navigation officers. Initially moored off Folly Rouse, Blackwall, HMS Worcester was towed down river in 1863 to her new moorings close to Erith Gardens Pier because of river congestion in Blackwall Reach.
Remaining at Erith for a little over 5 years, she was moved again, this time because of river pollution, to a remote and more exposed anchorage off Southend where according to contemporary reports, ‘she rolled her guts out.’
Even the chronic seasickness of many of the cadets failed to convince the Worcester committee of the unsuitability of the mooring but being unable to load stores in consistently bad weather eventually persuaded them to consider a more favourable position. Finally, after two years at the anchorage, Worcester was towed up river to a mooring off Ingress Abbey, Greenhithe, Kent.
The success of the schoolship at Greenhithe soon required its replacement by a larger vessel so the Admiralty was approached with a request to exchange Worcester with HMS Frederick William, then lying in reserve at Portsmouth.
The request was grated, but only after lengthy consideration. The new vessel, a 4725 ton, 86 gun steam/sailing ship of the line , had her boilers and engine removed and was converted to a cadet training ship, the former engine room becoming a large gymnasium. Over 5000 cadets were trained on her which, following a naval tradition, received her predecessor’s name.
In 1922 The Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College, HMS Worcester, bought the Ingress Abbey Estate. Playing fields were laid out and Ingress Abbey used as offices, accommodation, laundry, chapel, etc. A swimming pool was constructed in 1929 and in 1938 the beautiful Cutty Sark was presented to the college. Moored close by HMS Worcester, the Cutty Sark’s upper yards and masts were taken ashore in 1940 in case of damage by enemy aircraft. They were never fully replaced during her remaining years at Greenhithe.
During the war Worcester was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for use as an area HQ base for river patrol boats but by 1945 the old woodenwall was leaking badly and had become totally unfit for further cadet accommodation and training use. She was replaced by TS Exmouth the former Metropolitan Asylum Board ship which in turn had replaced the Goliath, lost by fire in 1875. The Exmouth was renamed Worcester in July 1945 and after an extensive refit took moorings at Greenhithe.
The third HMS Worcester was 5480 tons, constructed of iron below the waterline and mild steel above. She was 346 ft long, had a beam of 53 ft and an 18 ft draft.The Cutty Sark left for restoration in February 1954 before going to Greenwich. Today few people are aware that she would probably not been saved had not the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College taken care of her.
In 1959 Worcester III was fitted with bunks and naval pattern kit lockers, thus dispensing with the sea chests and hammocks used by cadets since the days of Worcester 1. Three years later, during the college’s centenary year of 1962, the prizes and annual gold medal award were presented by the Queen accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Merchant Navy College was formed in 1968 by merging the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College and part of King Edward V11 Nautical College. The new establishment, operating in two departments, had facilities in London for junior navigation officers while Worcester, now administered by the ILEA, continued to train deck cadets. During the late summer of 1975 the cadets were transferred to the as yet uncompleted college buildings in Ingress Park where they were joined by the junior officers department. Staff and students of the newly formed Electronic Engineering Department, formerly part of Norwood Technical College, also joined at the same time. A Marine Engineering Department operated briefly but closed due to changes in the industry.
In 1976 the new MNC was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh. The ILEA closed it less than 13 years later.
** The Worcester, boarded up and ready for sea, left Greenhithe in July 1978 under tow for a shipbreakers yard in Zeebrugge. She was the last UK vessel to train nautical cadets entirely on board a ship.
Allatsea and his compadres on Sandettie course were amongst them.