The new organization was easily the biggest shipbuilding concern on the Thames. In 1861 the Mechanics' Magazine described its premises as 'Leviathan Workshops'.
|HMS Warrior, the world's first iron hulled armour-plated warship. © NMM|
The company could take on the largest contracts. As early as 1863, it had the capacity to build 25,000 tons of warships and 10,000 tons of mail steamers at the same time.
One of its first Admiralty contracts was for HMS Warrior. At the time it was the world's largest warship and the first iron-hulled armour-plated frigate.
HMS Minotaur followed Warrior. Launched on 12 December 1863, Minotaur was 120 metres (400 feet) long and had a displacement of 10,690 tons. Her maximum speed was 14 knots and she was armed with four 300-pounder breech-loading guns and 26 180-pounders.
|Plan of the lower deck of HMS Minotaur. |
Minotaur was extensively refitted in 1873 and her armament was changed to 17 9-inch guns and two 20-pound breech-loaders. She was fitted with a new propeller, boiler and steam steering. She also became the first Royal Navy ship to carry a searchlight!
|HMS Minotaur, c. 1863. |
For many years HMS Minotaur was the flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron. She is shown here in the Royal Victoria Dock in London next to HMS Valiant. She was sold and broken up in 1922.
|HMS Minotaur and HMS Valiant in the Royal Victoria Dock. |
The Canning Town works
Most of the work on vessels like Minotaur was carried out on the Canning Town side of the creek. This is where the Thames Ironworks expanded from just under 4 hectares (10 acres) in 1856 to 12 hectares (nearly 30 acres) by 1891.
|Façade of the General Office, Thames Ironworks. |
This image is of the 'new' office buildings facing the road on the Essex side of the creek.
|The general offices at Orchard Yard, Blackwall, 1903. |
Although Orchard Place was still the company's address until 1909, its presence there was much reduced.
By the late 1860s the company only had a 2 hectare (five acre) area on the northern part of the site, where the original general offices were located.
With the success of the Warrior and Minotaur, orders came in from navies around the world. Vessels were constructed for Denmark, Greece, Portugal, Russia, Spain and the Ottoman Empire.
|Romanian torpedo boat at the Thames Ironworks. |
The yard even built the first iron-hulled warship for the Prussian navy, the König Wilhelm, in 1869. The vessel shown here is one of several torpedo boats constructed for the Rumanian Navy.
|Block model of Alfonso de Alburquerque (1883 ). |
The ironworks also built the cruiser Alfonso de Alburquerque for the Portugese government in 1883.
An iron, wood-sheathed cruiser, Alfonso de Alburquerque was 63 m (205 ft) long and 10 m (33 ft) wide, with a depth of 5 m (16.6 ft) and a displacement of 1150 tons. Her maximum speed was 13.5 knots and she was armed with two 6-inch Armstrong guns and five 40-pounders.
Because the Thames Ironworks built ships for so many navies, foreign dignitaries were always visiting. Shown here is the King of Sweden who visited the works in 1900 after an order from his government. The managing director, Arnold Hills, is greeting him at the quayside.
|Arrival of the King of Sweden at the Thames Ironworks, 1900. |
Arnold Hills (1857-1927) joined the board of directors of the works in 1880 at the age of 23. He later became the chairman and managing director until the firm closed in 1912.
|Thames Ironworks General Office staff. |
Hills was one of the first business leaders to voluntarily introduce an eight-hour day for his workers. This was at a time when 10 and 12-hour shifts were common for industrial workers. Hills is shown here second from left in the front row.
|Launch of the Shikishima at the Thames Ironworks, November 1898. |
From the moment Hills joined the company he fought to keep shipbuilding alive on the Thames. A peak in production was reached between the late 1880s and mid-1900s with ships built for the Royal Navy as well as foreign navies and merchant fleets.
Illustrated here is the launch of the Japanese warship Shikishima in November 1898. She became a training ship in 1923 and was scrapped in 1947. Her sister ship the Fuji was also built at the Thames Ironworks.