The steamship yards
|Plate cutting at the Thames Ironworks. © NMM|
Shipbuilding was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. A ship's hull, furnaces, engines, boilers and funnels would be made at the shipyard.
This meant that a shipbuilding yard had to be a large, organized, industrial area with workshops, foundries and offices where vessels were designed. The image shown here is of the plate-cutting workshop at the Thames Ironworks.
From plan to construction
Metal plates were joined together to make up the hull of a ship. The hull formed the body of a ship, including shell plating, framing, decks and bulkheads.
|Plating plan of the battleship HMS Sans Pareil. She was launched at the Thames Ironworks in May 1887. © NMM|
This plating plan of HMS Sans Pareil (1890) demonstrates just how many metal plates would be needed to construct a large ship.
|Rivetting on structural works at the Thames Ironworks. © NMM|
This picture shows a worker using a rivet gun during the construction of the hull of a merchant ship. A rivet was a short, round, heated metal connection used to fasten two or more sheets of metal together by clinching.
Propellers and shafts
|Propeller shaft of HMS Black Prince. © NMM|
As well as the hull, items such as a ship's propellers would be manufactured within the shipyard. Shown here is the propeller shaft for the armoured cruiser HMS Black Prince.
The propeller shaft was the rotating rod by means of which the engine turned the propeller of a steamship.
HMS Sans Pareil
Although the Thames Ironworks played an important role in the British shipbuilding boom, the firm tended to place too much emphasis on Admiralty contracts. One of the biggest Royal Navy ships constructed at the works was the first-class battleship, HMS Sans Pareil.
|HMS Sans Pareil ready for launching at the Thames Ironworks, Blackwall. © NMM|
The hull of the Sans Pareil (10,470 tons) was launched on 9 May 1887. She was then taken into the fitting-out basin where heavy items like turbines, condensers, boilers, armour plate and guns were fitted.
The Sans Pareil was not finished until July 1890. Once completed, the ship ran trials to ensure that she could achieve the performance agreed in the contract.
|Profile plan of HMS Sans Pareil. © NMM|
Specifications of the Sans Pareil
The Sans Pareil was 104 m (340 ft) long and had a maximum speed of 17.2 knots. She was armed with two 111-ton 16.25-inch guns; one 29-ton gun; 12 6-inch B.L. (breech-loading) guns and 12 6-pounder Q. F. (quick firing) guns.
|The 1st Class Battleship HMS Sans Pareil. © NMM|
The 16.25-inch gun of Sans Pareil was the largest calibre gun mounted in a British warship with the exception of the 18-inch guns mounted in HMS Furious during World War I (1914-18).
HMS Sans Pareil was sold to ship-breakers in 1907. Her sister ship, HMS Victoria, was lost in collision off the Syrian coast in 1893.
The Duncan and Cornwallis
Among the other ships built at the Thames ironworks for the Royal Navy were the 1st Class Battleships HMS Duncan and HMS Cornwallis.
|HMS Duncan ready for launching at the Thames Ironworks. © NMM|
The 13,745 ton HMS Duncan and HMS Cornwallis were launched in March and July 1901.
The ironworks also constructed more than 200 lifeboats for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) between 1896 and 1911.
|Lifeboat Nancy Lucy (1906) at Thames Ironworks. © NMM|
This 1899 company advertisement from the Thames Ironworks Gazette illustrates several of the lifeboats that were built in its yards.
|Lifeboats built by the Thames Ironworks. © NMM|