Maudslay sold 5 ferries in all to the Turks
Maudslay sold 5 ferries in all to the Turks
With reference to the Maudslay Shipbuilding Yard at Greenwich. I am currently living and working in the city of Salvador, Bahia, Brasil. As a scuba diver I am taking advantage of the local warm water and diving as often as possible. One of the sites we visit, especially if we have new divers, is a wreck know locally as the Black Drr, a Norwegian steam/sail ship. Very recently a local diver has discovered that the ship is actually the Blackadder. She lies alongside the shore line at the bottom of a rock outcrop. Two of the masts lie pointing out to sea and there is very little of her hull left. The site is between 2 and 10 Metres and approximately 50 Metres off shore.
Chris Freeth 2001
THE MOLASSINE Co., Ltd., Tunnel Avenue, Greenwich, S.E.10. Telephone-Greenwich 135l.
The Molassine Co., Ltd., occupies about 5 acres of land on the Thames side at East Greenwich.
It is well-known to users of the “river and excursionists by its great steel tanks, which are capable of holding nearly 20,000 tons of Molasses, while its imposing offices in Tunnel Avenue cannot be missed.
The Company manufactures Molassine Meal, so popular with owners of live stock everywhere, also Molassirie Poultry Foods and Molassine Dog and Puppy Cakes, as well as the smaller products, such as Mollets, Stimo and Vims, which “dogs love,” the latter having become a household word. Supplies may be had from corn dealers everywhere.
Return to Molassine
The area appears to have been divided into two – the southern section, now part of Morden Wharf and ‘Bay Wharf’ the area around Horseshoe Breach (or The Great Breach).
Maudslay, Sons & Field’s Greenwich Shipyard
Dr Mary Mills
Despite the presence of the Cutty Sark in dry dock at Greenwich, it might come as a surprise to discover that big sailing ships were also built close by in the 1870s – and built by a company more usually associated with heavy engineering and the steam engine. Compared with many of the areas around it, Greenwich was never an important shipbuilding area and the name of Maudslay has never been popularly associated with sailing ships and yet they built two fast tea clippers on a site, which is now close to the Millennium Dome.
London shipbuilding had been an extremely important industry, but by the 1870s it was into its long decline. Before the 1840s there had been no important shipyard in Greenwich – although the nearby riverside areas of Rotherhithe, Deptford and Blackwall were famous for the ships they produced and, of course, there were the Royal Dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich. It was not until the mid-19th century that shipbuilding companies seem to have located in Greenwich, to the east of Deptford Creek. Of these the best known are J. & G. Rennie, although we know of no sizeable craft which were built at that yard, and William Joyce, who built some vessels in the 1850s, at Kent Wharf on Deptford Creek. I have written already, for Bygone Kent, about some of the shipbuilders who came to the Greenwich Peninsula in the 1870s – another of them was Maudslay Son and Field.1
The East Greenwich Shipyard
Henry Maudslay is rightly famous as an engineer whose family origins in Woolwich are commemorated by a stained glass window in the Public Hall in Market Street. He left Woolwich for Joseph Bramah’s Soho workshops and began a career as one of the most famous engineers this country has produced. The company that he founded was to come to Greenwich, in the 1860s, when his sons and grandsons had inherited the works.
Maudslay’s engineering works had been based in Lambeth from 1810 and had provided engines for some of the earliest steam powered vessels, as well as for many other engineering projects. Shortly after Henry Maudslay’s death, in 1831, the works built a number of small iron paddle steamers, for use on the Ganges, but as Philip Banbury rightly observed:
‘Maudslay Sons and Field were not really ship-builders until 1865 so these ships
…… must have been considered as general engineering and the sections were probably
Maudslay, Sons & Field had been formed as a partnership sometime around 1820 and included one of Maudslay’s sons and Joshua Field, and this arrangement changed over time as various partners died and new ones were added. In 1860 the partnership had consisted of two of Henry Maudslay’s sons, three of his grandsons, Joshua Field with two of sons, and Daniel Fitzpatrick. The structure of the partnership was to change radically over the next few years and, after that, a decision seems to have been taken to open a shipbuilding works at Greenwich. What happened was that the three eldest members of the partnership – Joseph Maudslay, Thomas Henry Maudslay, and Joshua Field – died. The potentially vacant places were not immediately taken up, but it seems clear that a younger generation was taking an interest in the company. As we will see, some of this younger generation had a keen interest in sailing ships.
By the 1860s, a variety of industries had been taking up sites on the west bank of the Greenwich Peninsula for some twenty years. These sites were owned by the Blackheath based charity, Morden College, which had taken a decision to develop the area for industry in the late-1830s. One of their tenants had been an American boat builder, who had leased part of the riverfront known as Horseshoe Breach in a blaze of publicity, in 1863. Horseshoe Breach was the old name for an area now known as Bay Wharf – where a break in the sea wall had caused an inlet with sloping banks ideal for shipbuilding and repair. The American was Nathan Thompson, and his company, the National Company for Boat Building by Machinery, intended to build thousands of small boats a year using a highly mechanised method. Within a year, however, Thompson was bankrupt and his lease was assigned to Maudslay, Sons & Field.
No correspondence appears to have survived in the Morden College archive, which might indicate the circumstances in which the company decided to take up this lease. The indications are, however, that it must have been a last minute decision – since the site had suddenly become vacant following Thompson’s bankruptcy. The assignment of the lease was dated September 1864 and it seems likely that they were already on site by then. The lease was for what was in fact the field behind the river wall, known as ‘Further Pitts’. Signatories to the lease were Henry, Charles and Thomas Henry Maudslay, Joshua and Telford Field and Daniel Fitzpatrick.3 Once on site they fitted up a ‘spacious yard with workshops of great size’.4 The keel of their first ship was laid the next May.
This first ship, the Lady Derby, was launched, in early October 1865, on what was described as a ‘great day for East Greenwich’.5 She was a ‘fine screw steamer’ – of 567 gross registered tons and a length of almost 175 feet – built for the General Iron Screw Collier Company, launched by Miss Maudslay, whose ‘skill as regarding the handling of the indispensable bottle of Marsala betokened some former practice’. The launch was, however, a sad one, since Daniel Fitzpatrick had died the previous day while in the midst of preparations for the event. His death had come too late to cancel the event – or even to circulate guests with the news. As it was, the customary launching flags were flown at half-mast, and at the following ‘sumptuous luncheon’ only one toast was allowed: ‘Success to the new ship’. Among the guests were some ‘Turkish gentlemen’ – and more will be heard of them in due course.
The yard’s first vessel was named after the wife of Lord Derby – leader of the Conservative Party in Parliament and a past, and future, Prime Minister. Lady Derby herself also gave her name to something rather better known – a pink hyacinth. The Derbys lived relatively near Greenwich in the grand mansion of Holwood, at Keston, near Bromley – but there could be other reasons for her naming after the wife of a leading politician. The name in any case would have been chosen by the new ship’s owners – the General Iron Screw Collier Company. She was thus to be a coal carrying ship, one of many hundreds servicing London. She was built to ‘Henwood’s patent dynamical principles’ – Charles Henwood being a leading naval architect.
Another ship – a barque for Scrutton & Campbell – was launched at the same period and the yard continued to have two ships under construction at once. In Greenwich, this was seen as the start of a new era of prosperity and there was considerable local rejoicing. The Star in the East public house – the remains of which still stand near the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel – was sold advertising increased prospects of trade as Maudslay’s nearby shipyard grew.
When the lease was finally conveyed to Maudslay, Sons & Field, in 1868, the signatories for the company had changed. Two of the company’s engineers were included – John Imray and Henry Warriner. Warriner in particular had an expertise in the sort of ship building contracts to which the company was now moving. He had been involved in some of the earliest screw propeller designs and had had considerable experience with other firms.
The signatory to the new lease on behalf of the Maudslay family was Herbert Charles Maudslay – another of Henry Maudslay’s grandsons. His name was to be associated with the Greenwich yard and works during its history. He has another, however, another claim to maritime fame. Herbert was a keen yachtsman – something which was to be important to Greenwich as time went on. In 1866, he had a yacht called the Sphinx built at the Greenwich yard. She was a 48 ton cutter, built with iron frames and teak planking.6 One of the rivals of the Sphinx was the Niobe, built the previous year. Both vessels used something new – a ‘balloon sail’ which was hoisted to the topmast head. As the Sphinx was popularly called ‘Spinx’ by yachtsmen and watermen, this new sail began to be known as a ‘Spinxer’ – and in due course this was generically corrupted to ‘spinnaker’.7
The next two vessels to be launched at Greenwich were naval tank vessels – Pelter in 1867 and Despatch in 1869. They were built for use at the Royal William Victualling Yard at Devonport and used for carrying fresh water to the fleet. Each could carry 150 tons of water at a time in tanks ‘constructed wholly independent of the ship’. With the hull divided into seven bulkheads, in eight watertight compartments, pumps were arranged to draw from each tank independently. Both were built under the direction of James Luke, naval surveyor and inspector of naval contract work. Despatch was built slightly differently following some suggestions from the naval officers who operated Pelter. She was launched by a Miss Lucas and handed over to the naval authorities at Woolwich.8 The two vessels were to remain in service at Devonport until 1905. Banbury also lists the steam yacht Star as having been built at the yard in 1867, as well as the steam yacht Sunbeam, whose launch date is uncertain.9
In 1869 the company was to build an experimental boat for one of their Greenwich Peninsula neighbours. Henry Bessemer had by then set up his small steel works on what is now Victoria Deep Water Wharf, next to the Maudslay shipyard, and his inventive mind was moving on to something else. Bessemer suffered greatly from sea sickness and, following a journey from Calais in 1868, determined to do something about it. His idea was to build a ship in which the passenger accommodation was independent of the hull. He therefore designed a vessel with a suspended cabin. He took these designs to Maudslay, Sons & Field and asked them to build him a ‘small steamer’. It was to cost £3061 and be delivered to Bessemer in Greenwich. As work proceeded, however, Bessemer began to think about the problems rather more deeply and decided that the work being undertaken by Maudslay was not suitable, with the result that work was stopped, and the vessel sold. Bessemer eventually built a model and then went on to found the Bessemer Saloon Ship Company – which was very far from being a success, as their only boat collided with the pier at Calais on two occasions and the company was wound up.10
Maudslay, Sons & Field have left no records as to the boats built at Greenwich – although there are lists of the Lambeth built engines which were fitted into vessels.11 It is sometimes a question of trying to guess from the engine lists which, if any, were boats which Maudslay, Sons & Field actually built themselves. Many of these vessels can be eliminated from contemporary records, but there are many whose builders have not yet been traced. They include a number of vessels built before 1870 and it seems likely that at least some were built in Greenwich by Maudslay themselves. In 1869 an engine was provided for the tug, Alert, built for Herbert Maudslay himself – was this also built in Greenwich – and what about a second tug, Tigress? In 1869, the ‘Greenwich Launch Manufactory’ was provided with an engine – surely, from her name, she must have been Greenwich built. A number of other launches were engined by Maudslay in this period – were they Greenwich built too? There were also a number of steam yachts, which were provided with engines – Hebe for Captain Phillimore and Dot for J. Sunley – no evidence has come forward to suggest they were not built at Greenwich. We are on more certain ground with the lighterage tugs, Grappler and Traveller, which are known to have been built by Maudslay, Sons & Field in 1866 and 1867 respectively.11
What were probably the two most important ships built at Greenwich do not appear in the engine lists at all – simply because they were sailing ships. Of all the things which happened in this Greenwich yard this is clearly the strangest – why should this company, renowned worldwide for its marine steam engines, suddenly enter the competitive market of fast sailing ships – an area in which they had no expertise at all?
The clipper ships, Blackadder and Halloween
Everyone – if they know just one thing about Greenwich – will know about the Cutty Sark, which sits in her dry dock, tramped over by thousands of visitors. They all know about her speed and her beautiful lines and, if they read the literature, will know she was built in 1869 in Dumbarton for the shipowner, John Willis. What very few of them will ever discover, however, is that within sight of where she is today were built her two sisters – Blackadder and Halloween – launched by Maudslay, Sons & Field at their Greenwich shipyard.
In the late 1860s there was considerable maritime competition, and fast sailing clippers competed to beat record times for journeys across the world – especially in the tea trade. It was important for owners to commission ships, which could match the best. The design of Cutty Sark is said to have been based on a ship called The Tweed. She was not originally a sailing ship, but a paddle steamer called the Punjaub, built in Bombay and launched in 1854. In 1862, she was sold to John Willis & Sons, who removed her new screw engines and converted her into a sailing ship, which he renamed The Tweed. John Willis was so impressed that he ordered her lines to be copied in his new ship, Cutty Sark – and hoped that she would beat the speeds of the current record holders. At the same time, he commissioned two more ships to be built in London, of iron.
The first of the two ships was Blackadder, which was 917 registered tons, and 216.6 x 35.2 x 20.5 feet in dimension. The story of both the Blackadder and Halloween was explored in some detail by Basil Lubbock.12 Convinced that the Blackadder was a very unlucky ship, Lubbock invoked the words of John Milton to state that she was ‘“Built i’ th’eclipse and rigged with curses dark”’. Indeed, most of what has been written about Blackadder seems to be gloom and doom laden. She did, however, survive for over thirty years and set many very fast times in her early days. Lubbock clearly got his information from a member of her first crew – probably the second mate, whose opinions on the ship and the rest of the crew he cited and quoted freely. He described ‘the first evil omen’ as the occasion on which this same second mate left his home in Limehouse to join Blackadder. He found that he had left his purse at home and went back for it. At the door was his mother, ‘a sailor’s daughter and a sailor’s wife’, who said that ‘You should never have turned back. That ship will never be lucky’. All of which might seem, today, to be remarkably superstitious for the rational 1870s – although it should be remembered that mariners and maritime communities were renowned for their traditional superstitions.
The contract for Blackadder had been signed in June 1869 was launched on 1st February 1870 by Miss Willis and Mrs. Alexander Scrutton. An unnamed barque was launched at the yard at the same time. Following the launch, the Maudslay and Willis party went off to the Trafalgar Tavern for a celebratory dinner, while the workforce went to the next door Yacht for something rather less grand. The Blackadder and Halloween were said by Lubbock to have had their lines taken from the Tweed, but he noted that ‘in appearance above the waterline they bore very little resemblance to Cutty Sark, and had the usual iron ship’s topgallant foc’s’le and short turtle backed poop’. David MacGregor, however, has questioned the extent to which the lines of the Cutty Sark, Blackadder and Halloween were actually based on those of The Tweed.13 Lubbock also noted that Blackadder was built to the highest requirements of Lloyds for an iron ship and had a ‘complete East India outfit for a full rigged ship’. ‘Three captains’ were said to have overseen the outfitting of the ship.
Lubbock said that loading Blackadder had begun before her masts were fitted and the mate appointed. As a result, her cargo loading and rigging were supervised by the second mate. John Willis made a visit, once the masts were up, and found fault with the rigging. Willis, ‘letting loose some of the language for which he was celebrated’, then ordered the over pressed the second mate to properly manage the riggers. A row ensued, but despite extra attention, a major fault was noticed with the fitting of the trestle tree cheeks, which prevented the proper tensioning of the stays. Although this was repaired, the mast cheeks were actually a real problem with the mast fittings, which would return to haunt the vessel. The chief rigger was a Captain Campbell, who was concerned that the makeshift repairs would support the load of her large yards and sails. He warned the two mates that ‘you are both young men, be careful’.
A further problem came when Blackadder nearly sunk in her dock in London because a pipe near the waterline was not properly set in place. This episode illustrated much of what was said about Blackadder. She was supposed to be ‘unlucky’, but this seems to be mainly on account of things which ‘nearly’ happened – in fact, she was lucky enough for them usually to be put right.
Lubbock goes on to tell the story of her disastrous first voyage. Again, this appears to be based on a narrative of the second mate. It was said that she was ‘unlucky in her captain as everything else’. The captain was described as ‘senseless’ and ‘fool headed’. It does, however, seem unlikely that command of a new ship built to set record speed would be given to anyone incompetent! Soon Blackadder was into the ‘roaring forties’ and ‘the first bit of a blow showed that the trouble aloft was very serious’ and, in addition, the steering gear went wrong. Although extra chains were added, the captain pushed the ship on decided on a ‘most foolish and risky manoeuvre’, which became compounded. Lubbock argued that ‘the old man was in a hurry to fall out of the frying pan into the fire’. Luckily, according the version in Lubbock, the young second mate paid no attention to his captain, but:
‘kept his eyes glued on the Blackadder’s maintop. Then as the wind came aft
the expected happened. There was a flash of fire aloft. The chains had parted!
In a moment the cheeks fell adrift from the mast and down fell the lower rigging
…Without its support the mainmast began to heel at every roll…’
They were halfway through the voyage –2,000 miles from the Cape and 1,500 from Rio – and with no chance of help in the situation they found themselves in.
What happened next was an extremely dramatic episode. It is described in a great deal of detail by Lubbock – and those who want the technicalities of the story are advised to read his account. What comes over to the general reader however is the coolness with which the crew dealt with an extremely difficult and dangerous situation. As the rigging fell from the mast – men ran to ‘stand clear’ and then mast began to heel over more on each roll of the ship. Not being properly secured at the deck, the mainmast began to buckle below and burst up the main deck – smashing crates of glass stowed around it. The mate called for an axe ‘to nick the mast’. The mast then hung at an angle over the port side of the ship, but before it could be cut away a roller sent it across the deck and over the starboard side, tearing up more planking of the main deck. At the same time, the mizzen mast began to sway ominously. The entire crew worked to send the damaged mainmast clear of the ship and at the same time save the mizzen mast. A man trying to belay a tackle on the mizzen stay, slipped on the wet deck and the mizzen fell while the ‘rudder began to lift in an ominous manner’. By now the foremast too was ‘sagging forward’ and the sea was pouring through the holes into the deck and into the hold.
The story continues that the captain was ‘so unnerved’ that he ‘disappeared below and was not seen again until late in the day’. In the short term the situation was saved by the mate and our friend the young second mate, while the carpenter and his team secured the hole in the deck. The two mates retired for a smoke to discuss the proceedings’ and waited for daylight. What is impressive is the efficiency with which this dangerous situation was dealt with. The next job was to try and save the foremast. While this was being done, a man called Stevens was almost involved in an accident – the nearest it appears that anyone came to real injury. This was caused when the royal yard came crashing down, and he only just managed to slide down from the ‘topgallant masthead’ to the relative safety of the topmast cap deck, before the ‘mast broke 2 feet above him and by a miracle cleared him’. It might be said that the crew of Blackadder were exceptionally lucky to get through such an episode with, apparently, no injuries and only a near accident to report!
It was then decided to head for Rio, which was nearer and because the wind direction was better. Two ‘jury masts’ were erected, but by the time that was done, the wind had changed and it was decided to head for the Cape instead. In due course, she encountered the St Mungo of Glasgow which tried an approach, ‘with the intention of speaking her’, but Blackadder was so fast, even with her makeshift masts and gear, that St. Mungo was unable to catch ‘the lame duck’.
Lubbock continued with the story of how unlucky she was and went on to describe how, while she was at the Cape under repair, she was involved in three collisions, and then – once underway to Shanghai – she was hit by a French mail streamer in the China Seas. Leaving Shanghai for Penang she was involved in yet another collision. Eventually, she returned to London after 117 days out, from Penang, and the insurance met were waiting for her.
The resultant court case went on and on and on. The underwriters would not entertain the claim because Blackadder’s masts had not been properly secured, and Willis then went on to sue the builders. The court case was to cause a problem not only for Maudslay, Sons and Field, but for Blackadder’s sister ship, Halloween, whose launching became delayed. Perhaps however, it might be better to take through the story of Blackadder to the end of her sailing life – although Blackadder, as we shall see, is far from gone.
Blackadder was handed over to Captain Moore, who took her to Shanghai and then back from, Foochow in 123 days, with only one collision on the whole voyage. She was then taken over by her ex-mate, Sam Blisset, and went to Sydney. In the Pacific, she again lost her masts in a typhoon, while carrying coal to Shanghai. After leaving Shanghai, she went to Iloilo to take cargo for Boston. In October 1873, she got into a storm near Banguey Island where she anchored and later struck an uncharted reef. The crew abandoned ship, but she came off the reef and went off ‘as if steered by some demon’. With some difficulty, the crew retrieved her. Fortunately ‘owing to the extra strength of her iron plates’ the ship ‘sustained no injury from her pounding’. The bottom of her hull, however, had become fouled, with the result that she ‘made a terribly long passage to Boston’. On her next voyage she nearly killed her new master, Captain White, when her windlass broke whilst anchored off the North Foreland.
Lubbock described Blackadder throughout these episodes as a ‘mankiller’, although there is no account of anyone having actually been injured in any of these mishaps and the ship herself survived remarkably well. What Blackadder could do was to achieve fast speeds. In 1872 she made a fast voyage between Deal and Shanghai of 95 days. She never quite, however, matched the record making speeds of her sister ship, Halloween. It has to be wondered why Blackadder had such a bad reputation – Lubbock does not mention her speed, only the accidents. Blackadder stayed afloat in some terrible disasters – all of which were dealt with efficiently by her crews – and she was very, very, fast.
In 1899 Blackadder was sold to a Norwegian company, and was still a fast ship. In November 1905, she left Barry Docks with a cargo of coal and was wrecked at Bahia when entering the port. This might seem to have been the end of Blackadder and so I thought. However, I put an earlier version of my research on the internet, through the Greenwich Industrial History Society website. I then forgot about it until I received an email from someone in Bahia. Surprisingly, they stated that:
‘As a scuba diver I am taking advantage of the local warm water and diving
as often as possible. One of the sites we visit, especially if we have new divers,
is a wreck known locally as the Black Drr, a Norwegian steam/sail ship. Very
recently, a local diver has discovered that the ship is actually the Blackadder.
She lies alongside the shore line at the bottom of a rock outcrop. Two of the masts
lie pointing out to sea and there is very little of her hull left.”
Brazilian divers are proud of Blackadder and have produced a basic plan of her wreck, together with photographs which can be found on their web site.14 So this fast clipper ship, built in Greenwich, provides sport for the leisure diving fraternity – perhaps someone someday will provide a proper archaeological record of what remains of her.
The Blackadder’s sister, Halloween, was another iron clipper built for speed. She was built to exactly the same dimensions as Blackadder, with both ships being slightly longer and slimmer than Cutty Sark. She could not be delivered to Willis until the Blackadder lawsuit was settled and so she sat at Greenwich until she finally sailed in 1871. Lubbock noted that on her maiden voyage she had to turn back because of excessive water had in her well due to rubbish having been left in her limbers. Once on her maiden voyage, however, she went to Sydney in 69 says –– and she continued with record breaking trips, in particular a journey from Shanghai to London in 89 days – Cutty Sark’s best was 110. Even Lubbock had to admit that ‘her record for the China trade was truly wonderful one’, and that ‘she was considered the only vessel which could seriously rival Thermopylae and Cutty Sark in speed’.15
The Halloween remained in the tea trade long after the Suez Canal and steamers had sealed the fate of many other clippers. Her end came on the 17th January 1887, when she was returning to London from Foochow loaded with tea. She had been slowed by bad weather, and her crew was exhausted when they saw the Eddystone Light. In huge seas, she lost her course and was driven to the shore. At 7.30pm she ran into the west end of the Hamstone and crashed at Soar Mill Cove. The crew took to the rigging, and then returned to the smashed deck to send up flares. No one saw them. In the morning three men tried to swim ashore – but only two of them made it. They reached a farmhouse for help, but the lifeboat did not reach the ship until 10.00 am. All 19 of the remaining crew were saved. Within three days the ship had broken up. The cargo of tea washed into Soar Cove where it formed a twelve feet high barrier. The storms covered the wreck of the Halloween with sand and she was forgotten. The story of the wreck is told on the web site of some Devon divers.16
In February 1990, Steve Carpenter took his dog for a walk along the beach and, to his surprise, the previously sandy beach had become all rocks. Storms made diving impossible for some months and it was some time before any of this could be investigated. Eventually a diver went out, anchored looked around, and realised that he was actually above a huge wreck which had appeared in an area they had often dived before:
‘Underneath me was a huge hatch, part of a bow and a massive mast lying out
across the sand … you could see the remains of the once proud bowsprit with
wood decking all around… and a complete porthole glinting in the sunbeams.
Now I knew what heaven was going to be like!’
Most interestingly, the porthole had been made by J. Stone & Co., Deplored – clearly one of the subcontractors to Maudslay. Therefore, Halloween too is available to the divers, and another Greenwich built ship is still there to be investigated.
The Turkish Ferries
There had been a number of ‘Turkish Gentlemen’ at the launch of the Lady Derby at Maudslay, Sons & Field’s Greenwich yard. It seems that they were there to place orders. It appears from the company’s surviving engine lists that a number of paddle steamers built for the Bosphorus ferry service had been engine by them from 1851. Three more names have been unearthed by a paddle steamer enthusiast group – Azimet, Rahat and Selamet.17 These are said to have been built by Maudslay, Sons & Field in 1870. The paddle steamer enthusiasts have spotted that one of the three met its end in 1911 and the other two in 1915 and thus speculate that they had Turkish war time uses, which perhaps led to their destruction.
Two further ferries were described on a Turkish web site – and the information given here is derived from them.18 The ferry company which provided services across the Bospherus was called the Sirket-i-Hayriye, founded in 1851 as the first Ottoman joint stock company. Their earliest steam ferries were supplied by British builders: J. Samuel White, East Cowes (1854-1860); Money Wigram & Sons, Blackwall (1863-1869); Maudslay, Sons & Field, East Greenwich (1870-1872); and R. & H. Green, Blackwall (1872-1890, 1894-1896). In the late 1860s they had found the need for a different sort of ferry. Up until then the ferries had been for passengers and freight only, but there was also a demand for the carriage of horses, carts, coaches, as well as army transports. Something was needed which could be loaded at each end. Such ferry boats are common today, but in the 1860s this was a revolutionary concept which was to be worked out by Sirket in conjunction with Maudslay, Sons & Field.
Sirket-I-Hayriye was managed by Huseyin Haki Efendi, from Crete. He made a rough sketch of the sort of craft, which he needed to resolve his problems of the carriage of vehicles across the Bosphorus. He discussed these plans with Iskender Efendi, who had previously worked for the Turkish Government as an inspector, and Mehmed Usta, the chief naval architect at the Haskoy Shipyard, used by Sirket-I-Hayriye for repair work. Usta developed the sketch into detailed designs and took them to Maudslay in Greenwich.
Maudslay built two ferries to the Mehmed Usta’s plans. The first of them cost £8000, and was 275 tons, with a length of 149 feet and a beam of 28 feet. She was equipped with a single cylinder 400 hp engine to provide seven knots. It was finished in 1872 and then had to be transported to Turkey. This was not easy since it had to travel under its own steam from London via the Atlantic, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean and was, of course, built for relatively sheltered waters. Conditions were difficult and dangerous and on several occasions the ship was in danger of being lost. In due course she arrived in Istanbul in good order and was named Suhulet which means ‘to be easy’ and this name was said to be given as a consolation for the difficulties of the journey. She was numbered 26 in the ferry fleet.
Suhulet had been designed to carry vehicles and when she was put into service the Bosphorus boatmen protested because they feared they would lose trade. They intended to stop her first voyage from Uskudar to Kabatas, but this protest was effectively stopped by the actions of Huseyin Haki Effendi who arranged that the first passengers should be an artillery battery. For this, and for her first voyage, he received a commemorative medal from Sultan Abdulaziz.
The Turkish authorities were so pleased with Suhulet that they returned to Maudslay, Sons & Field for a second double ended ferry. This was identical except for a more powerful engine. She was to be called Sahilbent, which means ‘linking two shores’ and was named by the Turkish poet, Nakik Kemal. The two ferries continued to work across the Bosphorus from Uskudar to Kabitas. They proved useful in 1911 when, in a war between Turkey and Italy, Suhulet carried four gun batteries to Canakkale taking four hours to cross the Dardanelles. Previously the journey would have taken four days.
The years went by. In 1945 Sirket-i-Hayriye was taken into state control and became part of the Turkish Maritime Lines. Suhulet had already been fitted with a diesel engine in 1930 and had lost her tall funnel. In 1952 she was given yet another new engine and some more modifications were made. Six years later, after 86 years of work, she was withdrawn from service and broken up for scrap in 1961. Sahilbent however continued.
Sahilbent was first overhauled in 1927 and was taken out of ferry service in 1959, after 87 years of work. She was still seaworthy and so was sold. In 1967 she was renamed the Kaptan Sukru. At her sale it was finally noticed that this was a very old working vessel and a magazine article appeared naming her as the ‘oldest ship still in service in the world’.19 Sahilbent, however, was far from finished and was fitted with a new engine and still appeared in the shipping registers in 1996.
It has not proved possible, as yet, to discover the current whereabouts of Sahilbent. In 1998 a news agency in Anatolia released a story which was later repeated on the Turkish Pilots service web site.20 This told how a small cargo ship had caught fire offshore in Pazar county Rize Province, and had then ran aground on the Ardasen Coast. She had left Rize Port with a load of heavy logs to take to a mine at Hopa. The seven member crew were taken off and the ship left to burn. So, is this Sahilbent and, if so, where is she now? Neither the Turkish pilot service nor the Anatolian News Agency answer email enquiries. Is she a burnt out hulk somewhere on the Ardasen coast? Has she been broken up? Might she have even been refitted and refloated and is there – somewhere in Turkey – a working vessel, which was built 130 years ago in Greenwich? Hopefully, one day, it might be possible to answer these questions.
The Greenwich Vestry and the Riverside Path
Maudslay, Sons & Field had taken formally over the lease for the Bay Wharf site in 1868, but had been building up the site since 1864. Contemporary photographs show that they had taken over the buildings use by their predecessors, the National Company for Boat Building by Machinery, but they also began to make changes themselves. As early as January 1865 they began to build new slips on site.21 Within the next few years, however, a row developed between themselves and the Greenwich Vestry which was to end in the High court.
In 1999 the London Borough of Greenwich was in the High Court to defend the public right of way along the Greenwich Peninsula riverside. The same question – and almost the same stretch of riverside – had taken their predecessor to court before. The right of way along the river has taken up a great deal of the local authorities’ time over the past 150 years – and no doubt will do so for a long time yet to come. In the mid-19th century new factories opened along the riverfront and wanted close the riverside path in order to build slipways and ships, undertake other industrial activities and load cargo – while today their successors want to close the riverside for private housing schemes.
In the 1860s the Greenwich Vestry was becoming increasingly concerned about the path. In September 1867 their Surveyor reported that Messrs. Bessemer, steel manufacturers, had stopped up the footway on the north side of their premises and that Messrs. Maudslay had erected a doorway on the public footpath. At the same time a petition was presented to the Board from ‘certain inhabitants of East Greenwich’ complaining about the obstructions on the riverbank. At a subsequent meeting, Mr. Soames, the soap manufacturer whose works was also adjacent to the East Greenwich riverside, said that ‘no one required to go along the footpath’ leading to cries of ‘Oh! Oh!’ from members of the public present at the meeting. Soames went on to say that if the footpath remained open, the factories would also have to be closed down, and that it would cost too much to build a new road. This was echoed by other speakers, who wondered what would be the use if all the waterside premises in London had a footpath running in front of them!’ It was, however, felt that the right of way was important and a sub-committee was set up under the Greenwich Board of Works. This was eventually to lead to court action.
In October 1868 the Greenwich Vestry discussed the application of Lewis and Stockwell, shipbuilders, to build a dry dock on the Greenwich Peninsula at Blackwall Point. This would have meant the diversion of the footpath. Although the Vestry was keen to promote new employment and manufacturers in the area, the view was expressed that it was not a good idea to ‘give up these old rights in a hurry’ and the Vestry set off on a tour of inspection, which, sadly, is not reported. By then, however, the Vestry was awaiting the judgement on their case against Maudslay, Sons & Field and Messrs. Bessemer.
The case, taken against Maudslay, Sons & Field by the Greenwich Vestry came before the Court of Queen’s Bench, in Maidstone, on 21st May 1867. The right of way in question was that which stretched from Ballast Quay to Lombard Wall in Charlton. It is perhaps remarkable that it was only in December 2001 – 134 years after this court case – that the path was open to be walked throughout this whole length. At the hearing, it was agreed that it could not be shown when the river wall had been built, but that it was there at the time of the Norman Conquest, that it had been under the care of the Commissioners of Sewers between the 37th year of Henry VIII’s reign and 1855 – and so as long as the memory of man could be expected to go back it had been a public footpath.22 The case of Mr. Bracegirdle, in 1843, whose fences had been broken down the parish officers, was cited.23 The opposition said that the path went along the sea wall and that this was an artificial construction, and could not, therefore, have become a public right of way. Lord Chief Justice Cockburn concluded that this was not so – the public had used the path, for all they knew, since Roman times and declared in favour of the right of way.
The Greenwich Vestry had won their point – but as more recent events have shown, vigilance is needed if the path is to remain open for the public use. Despite the gloomy predictions of Mr. Soames, Maudslay, Sons & Field did not go out of business because they were forced to open the path – in fact, they seem to have flourished for some years to come.
Later shipbuilding, engineering and boiler making
For the period after 1871, it becomes much more difficult to find out what ships exactly were built at Maudslay, Sons & Field’s Greenwich yard. We are partly in the realm of guesswork. Certainly; the days of innovative shipbuilding seem to have passed – and we are left with only a few vessel names. In 1872 the yard launched a screw steamer, SS Legislator, of 2126 gross registered tons, for the Liverpool based Harrison Line. Another tank vessel, Elizabeth, was built in 1873 for use at Devonport.24
It is also possible that Maudslay, Sons and Field built yachts. There is some suggestion that Telford Field had his own yacht, Marama, built at Greenwich. As engines were provided for a number of yachts after 1870, it is also possible that the yachts themselves were built by the company. Interestingly, Maudslay, Sons & Field was amongst the very earliest British builders of torpedo boats, in the late 1870s. Unfortunately, only one such vessel, TB 13, was built at Greenwich, in 1879, and production became dominated by market leaders J. I. Thornycroft & Co., of Chiswick, and Yarrow & Co., of Cubitt Town.25 She was recorded as having a brass hull and was described ‘a very bad seaboat with good engines’.26 It may be that this comment in fact sums up the Maudslay’s yard at Greenwich – the company made magnificent engines, but the ships never quite reached the same standard. She was broken up in 1896.
What exactly was undertaken at the yard in the 1870s is far from clear. As we have already seen, only a few ships built in the 1870s have been identified. No building has been discovered after the launch of TB 13. It known that the yard became a boiler works, although exactly when was this transition was made, and why, is still something of an unknown. Banbury stated that the boiler works was transferred there, from Lambeth, in 1872.27 Unfortunately, Banbury gave no contemporary source to support his statement. What does seem clear is that the main boiler works were actually moved to Greenwich in 1881. Writing in October of that year, of his visit to the Lambeth works, a journalist reported that:
‘The works are undergoing considerable alteration, and it may be mentioned that
Messrs. Maudslay…have decided upon removing the boilermaking department
entirely to their extensive premises at Greenwich…The old boiler shop is now being
converted into another erecting shop, which will have every modern facility for
erecting heavy machinery. Owing to the transitory state of the works, there are not
many engines or boilers being finished’.28
Whilst the need to relocate the boilermaking department was caused by the loss of a lease on part of the frontage of the Lambeth works, which had housed an erecting shop, it must have also reflected spare capacity at the East Greenwich works.
From 1881 the East Greenwich works would have been kept busy making boilers for Maudslay, Sons & Field made marine engines. Other manufacturing projects, however, were also undertaken there. In 1886 the company had a British naval contract to build ‘torpedo tubes and gear’.29 Early in 1894, the East Greenwich works made the axle and bearing for the giant wheel at Earl’s Court.30 In the same year an even more momentous event occurred, which was to secure the site’s future for the next five years, or so. This had its origins with the French Belleville boilermaking company, which had developed one of the earliest water tube boilers. Following a trial fitting of Bellville boilers to the gunboat, HMS
Sharpshooter, the Admiralty became converts and instructed that they should be fitted to all new naval ships. Here was an opportunity for Maudslay, Sons & Field and their Greenwich Yard:
‘The new cruisers Terrible and Powerful are to be fitted with boilers of the
Bellville type, which will be made in England. Messrs. Maudslay, Sons and Field
are the agents and manufacturers of the Bellville boiler in this country’.31
An extensive re-fit is said to have taken place at the yard to facilitate the building of the Bellville boilers.32 Initial contracts for these boilers must have kept the yard very busy, especially as warships were fitted with large numbers of them and the company also provided them for some foreign navies. As examples of the former, HMS Terrible (built by J. & G. Thompson, Clydebank) and HMS Powerful (built by Vickers Ltd., Barrow) each had 48 Maudslay made Bellville boilers. Unfortunately, however, Maudslay, Son & Field’s effective monopoly became a matter of strong contention and sparked the so-called ‘battle of the boilers’. Whilst some strongly supported the Bellville boiler, others criticised them and championed the water tube boilers being developed by Yarrow, Thorneycroft, Laird and Babcock & Wilcox.33 In the face of stiff opposition, the Admiralty gave way and by 1904 the navy was replacing them with Babcock & Wilcox equipment. Maudslay had clearly not backed a winner and this, as we shall see, was one of the reasons behind the final demise of the yard.
The site and the Blackwall Tunnel
In May 1896, the company wrote to Morden College, the ground landlords, saying that they wanted to extend the lease, which would otherwise expire in 1898.34 Presumably, this reflected their optimism regarding the manufacture of the Bellville boilers. They also informed Morden College that they wanted to move their Lambeth works to East Greenwich and – once again – to extinguish the right of way on the riverside path. Negotiations were with Herbert Maudslay, but he appears to have been somewhat less than keen, since he cancelled a meeting with the Morden College trustees on the grounds that he had to go to Cowes. This ‘urgent business’ might explain a lot about the way in which the family, and the company, was going. Herbert Maudslay’s main interest was in fact yachting. Thirty years previously he had been the owner of Sphinx, said to be the originator of the spinnaker sail, and in 1893 he had been a founder of the Sea View Sailing Club, near Ryde, on the Isle of Wight – a sort of sailing co-operative venture where members were encouraged to make donations into a central fund in order to purchase club boats. By 1895, it was the Sea View Yacht Club and a village had begun to grow up around it and to take its name. Herbert was Hon. Secretary of the Club for eight years, and by 1908, there were eight other Maudslay family members in the club. Herbert remained as Commodore of the Club until his death in 1926.
It is likely, however, that the imminent expiry of the lease was not the only thing which drove them to consider the yard and its future. Throughout the 1890s the Blackwall Tunnel was being built almost underneath Maudslay, Sons & Field’s Greenwich works. The Prince of Wales was down to open it and, clearly, Maudslay would have wanted the works to have look nice for the royal event. They submitted a drawing to Morden College of a proposed new gatehouse to their works. On the gate was to be written ‘Maudslay Sons and Field Ltd. Belleville Boiler Works’ – then still seen to hold the future for the site.
Meanwhile as far as the Greenwich works was concerned, the company concentrated on the upcoming visit of the Prince of Wales. In 1896, the London County Council (LCC) altered the line of the frontage of the Blackwall premises – hence the need for the new gatehouse. Agreement on this could not be reached with the LCC and correspondence between them and Maudslay, Sons & Fields’ solicitors became increasingly angry. The new line of the frontage had suddenly become a problem. The LCC erected a fence on their version of the line and the company took it down and handed the pieces to the LCC foreman. Things were beginning to deteriorate rapidly.35
In January 1898 there was a fire in Blackwall Lane and some of the yard’s structures were damaged and by March the company had been summoned by the LCC on account of a dangerous structure on their site. However, responsibility for this had now devolved to Morden College, as the ground landlord, as Maudslay had ceased to pay them any rent and Morden College’s insurers were now involved.
Closure of the yard
By the time of the problems with Morden College, plans were apparently underway to move the company’s operations – especially the Lambeth Works – to Ipswich. In October 1899, however, actions by debenture holders meant that receivers were appointed. The contents of the Lambeth marine engine works were auctioned from 23rd April to the 3rd June 1900.36 It was at this sale that the Science Museum acquired Henry Maudslay’s early machine tools and the company’s collection of marine engines.
The Greenwich yard kept going for a couple of more years, finishing work on their last Bellville boiler contracts. The auction sale of the works was held on 3rd June 1902.37 The sale catalogue makes for poignant reading. From the sale catalogue and from the advertisements for the sale of the lease we can begin to get an idea of what the works was like – at least in its final years as a boiler works. It stood on nine and half acres with a 750 ft frontage to the Thames with a substantially deep water jetty. There was a wet dock, which could take barges up to 200 tons. There was a gate with a keeper’s lodge, timekeeper’s office and urinals. There was a three bay erecting shop, a galvanising shop, store shed, boiler house engine house and chimney, as well as many other offices and outbuildings. The site also included a foundry, a machine shop and stores, offices and designing room. There was a stable, a clerks’ office, a typewriting room, and a strong room. It is to the sale catalogue that we must go for the detail – and not just for the Massey patent steam hammer and radial drilling machine by Whitworth. The catalogue, which ran to 76 pages, listed all the machinery on site. On the fourth day the auction turned to the offices with their lino, the stools covered in ‘faulty American cloth’, the square of blue Axminister carpet and a ‘japanned tin purdonium’. There were books, including ‘Bourne on the Screw Propeller’, and coloured prints of the ‘Great Western Steamship’. In addition, there were 14 photographs of machinery. The firm had always taken photographs of everything – where are those photographs now? Second on the auction list, after Henry Maudslay’s own equipment, came ‘Camera with Wray Lens’ – which was what they considered their second most valuable piece of equipment. Wray’s lens works still stands by the Ravensbourne in Ashgrove Road, Bellingham. Mary can you please confirm that this definitely all relates to the Greenwich sale
Interestingly, the sale notice advertised the fact that the site was suitable ‘for the construction of a shipbuilding yard, engineering or manufacturing premises’. This attempt to reinvent the wheel, however, was not a success. The site appears not to have been sold and it was again put up for auction sale on the 30th June 1903.38 Morden College later assigned the lease to a new occupier, Segar Emery, an American mahogany importer and Maudslay’s were largely forgotten in Greenwich, but the family continued with their engineering and business interests. In 1901, the Maudslay Motor Company was set up under W. H. Maudslay and at the same time the Standard Motor Company was opened with the intention of standardising motor parts. This is not a history of the British motor industry, but Maudslays clearly went on to play an important part in its development. Perhaps it should also be noted that Delauney- Belleville, in France, ceased to be boilermakers and too became involved with early Renault cars.
1. Mary can you please provide a full reference for this.
2. Banbury, P., Shipbuilders of the Thames and Medway (Newton Abbot), 199.
3. Morden College Archive Mary can you please provide a full reference for this.
4. Mary can you please provide a full reference for this quote
5. Kentish Mercury, 14 October 1865.
6. Ward, A. R., The Chronicles of the Royal Thames Yacht Club (Arundel, 1999), 32; Banbury, op.cit., also includes the Sphinx in his yard ship list, 205.
7. Ward, ibid., 55.
8. Kentish Mercury, 1869 Mary can you please provide a full reference for this.
9. Banbury, op.cit., 205. The Star was built for Lord Otho Fitzgerald.
10. Bessemer, Sir Henry, Sir Henry Bessemer: An Autobiography (London, 1905) Mary can you provide a page reference for this.
10. Science Museum Library, Maud: Arch 10/4;22/1;22/3.
12. Lubbock, B., The China Clippers (Glasgow, 1946, second edition), 202-213, has been the main printed source used for the Blackadder and Halloween. Useful material on the two ships can also be found in MacGregor, D. R., The Tea Clippers (London, 1972 edition).
13. MacGregor, D. R., Fast Sailing Ships – Their Design and Construction, 1775-1875 (London, 1988 edition), 254, 258.
15. Lubbock, op.cit., 240.
18. Although the story of Suhulet and Sahilbent is mentioned elsewhere, a detailed version appeared on a web site belonging to Turkish airlines. This site has now disappeared – and, in any case, did not respond to emails or any attempt at communication. It referred to an article in Time magazine as its source, but this article cannot be traced. I have been told that the author of the article, Esel Tutel, has written a book ‘History of the Sirket-I-Hayriya ferry company’ published Iletisim Yayincilik, 1994. This is in Turkish and I have not been able to trace a copy.
19. Sadly, it has not been possible to trace this article.
21. Museum of London Docklands/Port of London Authority Collection, Thames Conservators Minutes, 16 January 1865.
22. Mary do you have a reference for this.
23. Mary can you provide the full reference for your Bygone Kent piece
24. Banbury, op.cit., 205.
25. Winfield and Lyon, to come
26. Mary do you have a reference for this.
27. Banbury, op.cit., 203.
28. The Engineer, 7 October 1881, 253.
29. Hansard, 7 June 1886.
30. Survey of London – Southern Kensington: Kensington Square to Earl’s Court (London, 1986), 335.
31. Brassey, T. A., The Naval Annual 1894 (Portsmouth, 1894), p.9.
32. Graham, I., Alfred Maudslay and the Maya (London, 2002), p. 237.
33. Technical details of the Bellville boiler, and other contemporary marine boilers can be found in , Sptatt, H. P., Science Museum: Handbook of the Collections Illustrating Marine Engineering (London, n.d.), 84-88
34. Morden College Archive. Mary do you have a full reference for this.
35. Morden College Archive. Mary do you have a full reference for this.
36. Science Museum Library, Maud: Arch 14/1, auction sale notice.
37. Science Museum Library, Maud: Arch 14/2, auction sale notice.
38. The London Gazette, 17 July 1903, 4549.
NATHAN THOMPSON AND THE WOODEN NUTMEG
First published Bygone Kent.
In the 1860s, it has been said that Thames ‘constituted the greatest shipbuilding area in the world’. There were shipyards all up and down the river. As well as the two Royal Dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich there were many many private yards. They were sited in Rotherhithe, Deptford, Woolwich, Millwall, Poplar and Blackwall and only the Greenwich peninsula stands out being shipyard free. One manufacturer, however, did come to Greenwich and he had a big idea. His site was to be on the west side of the peninsula – near the Millennium Dome but not under it.
For every shipyard turning out important and dramatic ships there must have been several boatyards building the small craft that kept the whole system running. Small boats were and are needed for all sorts of purposes – and there are as many designs as purposes. This fact seems to have escaped the subject of this article. He wanted to build boats, thousands of them, which were all the same. The idea was revolutionary – boats had been made up and down the river for millennia – but never ones like this!
On the Greenwich peninsula was an area, which must have seemed ideal for the purpose of boatbuilding. This was known as Horseshoe Breach, or the Great Breach – it is the area, which today lies beyond the point at which the riverside path runs inland. A breach of the sea wall, which took place before 1620, has formed a bay, which appears to form a natural slipway. In 1864 this area was leased from Morden College by The National Company for Boat Building by Machinery. The company had been had been set up by Nathan Thompson, with the support of his brother John. They came from New York where Nathan had worked as a marine engineer. He claimed to have begun work on his system around 1842 and it had thus taken him nineteen years to perfect.
In 1859, while Thompson was still in New York his system had been examined there by the United States Navy Department. They had asked James Snellgrove Jr, a practical boatbuilder, to make a demonstration ‘wash streak’ boat in their presence. He showed that it would take one man, working ten hours a day, eleven days and three hours to do so. Mr. Snellgrove thought, however, that the fact that the machinery was all in different rooms meant that the project had taken six days longer than it needed. He reported that if all the machines were worked at the same time by different individuals that each boat could be made in a day and a half. Thus five boats could be built in the time usually taken to make one. The Navy Board adjudicator, Mr. Webb, reported that ‘hand labour can never successfully compete with machinery propelled by steam’ so Thompson’s must ‘give him a world wide reputation for his genius’.
Within four years Thompson had come to England. It is far from clear why he did so. When Philip Banbury wrote up Thompson for his ‘Shipbuilders of the Thames and Medway’ he pointed out the similarity of Thompson’s methods to those patented by George Bousfield of Brixton. Bousfield himself died in 1859 while Thompson’s experiments were taking place. Another Bousfield, William, who was related to George, perhaps his son or nephew, was to move to America and eventually died there. Is it perhaps possible that there was some connection between Thompson and Bousfield and that Thompson came to England following Bousfield’s death?
An ambiguous comment about Thompson was made by P. Barry author of ‘Dockyard Economy and Naval Power’. Barry visited Thompson’s works and made enthusiastic comments about them. In a long, and very obscurely written paragraph he praises Thompson’s machinery as ‘practical ….expeditious and economical’ while at the same time drawing attention to the manufacture of wooden nutmegs in New England. His English readers may not have known that in America Connecticut is known the ‘Nutmeg State’ and that a wooden nutmeg refers to a native of that state whose intentions are dishonest.
For his boat-manufacturing project Thompson had a number of backers – chief of them Colonel Sykes, MP, and Chairman of the East India Company who was the Company Chairman. He produced a booklet consisting of letters of recommendation for his process. These seem to have been obtained by inviting prominent people to a demonstration and asking to write a reference. For this purpose he had first of all had opened a demonstration works near Victoria Park in Old Ford, Hackney. As a result the Company prospectus included references from an astonishing number of people including the Dukes of Cambridge and Sutherland and to an assortment of shipbuilders and industrialists. Whether any of them ordered any boats from him isn’t known.
The idea was to produce a large number of identical small boats, m ade by a series of ingenious machines. Thompson claimed that 25,000 new small boats were needed every year in Britain and he thought that he could supply a quarter of these. He had no doubt noted that ‘a quarter of all the ships’ boats built in the United Kingdom were built to sit on the chocks of Thames built ships’. So, since the shipbuilding industry was all around his works he thought that he could not fail to sell to them.
Boats made to a system would be useful for all sorts of things. Space was taken up by boats on the decks of ships – they could carry more if they could be quickly assembled and disassembled. Duplicate parts could be supplied and repairs thus done without any difficulty. Thompson’s boats, it was said, ‘go together like a bedstead’. Landing craft could be stowed into a single transporter and then put together when time for the invasion arrived. Boats could also be packed up for overland journeys. It was, in fact, likely to be extremely useful.
His system depended on a series of machines – fourteen in all and all steam driven. The boats, which had to be all the same, moved through the system from one to another and were built up round a central ‘assembling form’ which, held everything together and in the right place. Obviously the machinery meant a very large cash investment but it was however calculated that labour costs for each boat made would be less than a quarter than those made by conventional means. The cheapness of boats produced by this method would mean that new boats could be bought by fisherman and others without access to large amounts of capital. In addition boats could be made very quickly – within hours of the order and certainly in only a few days.
Once the company had been floated it was decided to set up the permanent factory in Greenwich and the site at Horseshoe Breach was leased from Morden College, Thompson set about making the Breach fit for shipbuilding by building a causeway and putting a boom across the bay itself. They then faced the river wall with stone. New buildings on site were to be proper brick built structures by agreement with Morden College.
When Barry visited the works in 1863 it seemed to have provided a breakthrough. ‘Respectable parties’ said Barry would be allowed to visit and see what was happening. He took photographs of the works which were published in his book – originals stuck in to each individual copy.
In its prospectus the company had explained that if only one fifth of the boats needed in Great Britain were made by the company at first they could still make a profit. Unfortunately this does not seem to have been the case and they went out of business in their first year.
Philip Banbury tried to analyse the reasons for this debacle. He pointed out that Thompson did not mention the ‘obvious fact; that all the boats had to be the same and that there was little hope of persuading customers to buy so many of a standard type – certainly not enough to sell 6,000 boats a year. Banbury estimated that the total number of ships’ boats needed on the Thames each year was ‘perhaps 300 of over a dozen types and sizes’ and he points out that there were also other specialist boatbuilders in business. He also pointed out that other small boats were usually very specialist and had evolved for a wide range of tasks and water conditions. Small local boatbuilders had marginal capital costs whereas Thompson’s machinery required a large investment.
I don’t know what happened to Thompson. In his report to the US Navy Department he said that he had taken out patents in: the United States, England, France, Russia Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Sardinia, Turkey and Spain. Perhaps he went off and tried to make his system of boats pay somewhere else. I have tried to trawl for him through the Internet – perhaps somewhere in the world he was successful and perhaps somewhere there is a memorial to him. Perhaps, if he really was a ‘wooden nutmeg’ some of the capital he raised went with him and who knows what he did and where he went.
In writing this article I would obviously like to pay tribute to the work done by Philip Banbury and to acknowledge quotations from Barry. I would also like to thank Wendy Schnur from the library at Mystic Seaport.
THE NATIONAL COMPANY BOAT BUILDING BY MACHINERY.
To be incorporated under the Joint Stock companies’ Acts and -Liability Limited to amount of Subscription. CAPITAL £200,000 US 20.000 SHARES OF £10 EACH. WITH POWER TO DECREASE. TEN SHILLINGS PER SHARE TO BE PAID ON APPLICATION, AS A FURTHER SUM or TEN SHILLINGS PER SHARE or ALLOTMENT.
WILLIAM BROWN, ESQ., Liverpool, late M.P. for South Lancashire.
JOHN DILLON, ESQ., (Messrs. MORRISON, DILLON & Co.) Fore Street, Vice-President, Society of Arts
COL. W. H. SYKES, F.R.S., M.P., Chairman of the Hon. The. East India Company CHAIRMAN
J. KENNEDY ARTHUR, ESQ., Somerset Street, Portman Square.
PETER GRAHAM, ESQ., (Messrs. Jackson & Gallagher) Oxford Street
HARVEY LEWIS, ESQ., M.P., Grosvenor Street, Chairman Marine Insurance Company, and Director of the National Bank.
CAPTAIN E. Q. TINKER, (Messrs. Gotel, Tinker & Moran) Fenchurch Street.
VICE-ADMIRAL WALCOTT, United Service -Club, and Wington House Ringwood.’
CHARLES WHETHAM, ESQ., (Messrs.-Whetham & Snow,] Gracechurch Street.
BOAT BUILDING BY MACHINERY.
INDEX TO TESTIMONIALS.
From His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, K.G., &c., &c.7
His Grace the Duke of Sutherland ……..7
The Earl of Caithness …………8
Lord Alfred Paget, M.P., &c. ……….8
The Right Hon. Sir John S. Pakington, G.C.B., M.P., &c. .9
E. W. Crawford, Esq., F.R.G S., M.P. …….9
W. S. Lindsay, Esq., M.P. ………..10
Colonel W.H.Sykes, F.R.S., M.P. ……..10
Robert Dalglish, Esq., M.P. ……….10
Vice-Admiral Walcott, M.P. ……….11
William Brown, Esq., late M.P. for South Lancashire . .11
Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Belcher, C.B. …….12
Rear-Admiral Camac ………….12
Rear-Admiral Elliot ………….13
Rear-Admiral Stopford …………13
Capt. the Hon. Arthur A. Cochrane, C.B., R.N. ….14
Capt. Sherard Osborn, C.B., R.N. ………14
Capt. Cowper P. Coles, R.N. ……….14
George Turner, Esq. . . . . . .15
Richard Green, Esq. . . . . . .16
J. Scott Russell, Esq., F.R.S. Ship-builders .16
T. K. Fletcher, Esq. .17
Messrs. Richardson & Duck 17
J. Russell, Esq. …………..17
C. T. Anderson, Esq. …………18
Lieut.-Col. Anderson, F.S.A., &c. ……..18
William Fairbairn, F.R.S., &c. ……..19
Thomas Fairbairn, Esq. …………19
Joshua Field, Esq., F.R.S. ………..20
John Penn, Esq., F.R.S. ………..20
Professor Wilson, F.R.S., &c. ……….20
Thomas Chapman, Esq., F.R.S. ………21
George Appold, Esq., F.R.S. ……….21
William Carpmael, Esq., C.E. ……….22
Peter Graham, Esq. ………….22
E. J. Reed, Esq. …………..22
John Trotman, Esq. ………….23
John Dillon, Esq. …………..24
George Moore, Esq. ………….24
H. A. Silver, Esq………24
Extracts from Appendix to Prospectus, containing- Testimonials in favor of Invention. Full copies thereof may be had on application to Secretary.)
From HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE,
K.G., &c., &c.
(Copy of an Autograph Letter.)
Gloucester House, Park Lane, W., April 23, 1861.
Having yesterday had the pleasure of seeing the very interesting process of Boat Building, which you have been engaged upon for some time, and which you have now brought to such great perfection, I feel called upon, at your request, to state to you the impression I have derived from witnessing the working of your system. It appears to me that you have succeeded in devising a most beautiful process, well adapted for the object in view, and that your success may therefore be considered as complete.
I must leave it to scientific men to give their opinion upon the machinery employed, in all its details.
I beg to remain, Sir, yours truly,
From HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND.
2, Hamilton Place, W., April 18th, 3861.
I have viewed with much pleasure the very beautiful Mechanism you have designed for facilitating the Building of Boats.
Having seen the machinery in actual operation, I am able to state that it accomplished, with perfect precision and in a few minutes, the preparation of timber, which heretofore has required great skill on the part of the work- man as well as great labour. I scarcely know which to admire most, the simplicity of the machinery or the rapidity and finish with which the rough material is converted.
I wish you every success in carrying out your plan commercially. I am sure you are fully entitled to it for the ingenuity and perseverance you have displayed in its mechanical development, as well as for the practical success, which has crowned your labour.
I am, yours truly,
NATHAN THOMPSON, JUN., ESQ.,
15, Abbey Gardens, N.W.
From THE EARL OF CAITHNESS.
17, Hill Street, London, April 19th, 1861.
Having had the pleasure of witnessing the performance of your beautiful Machinery for Boat Building, I send you a few lines to say of how great importance I feel it is capable of being made of.
The shortness of time in which a boat can be built and the small cost for labour, are matters that deserve the careful attention of all who are engaged in their construction.
The beauty of the work turned out, and the ease with which any one part can be produced, are admirable. I feel that your plan is a most perfect one, and I trust that success may attend you which your inventions so justly deserve.
Believe me, yours faithfully,
NATHAN THOMPSON, JUN., ESQ.
From LORD ALFRED PAGET, M.P., &c.
42, Grosvenor Place, May 2nd, 1861.
I had already heard of your extraordinary invention for the building “of Boats, and was regretting not having had the opportunity of witnessing it, when you kindly called, and offered to take myself and a few friends to see another performance. I need scarcely assure you that I was struck with wonder at what I saw. The perfection with which each separate part is turned out, and the labour you must have bestowed in bringing to perfection such beautiful, ingenious and effective machinery deserves all praise, and I sincerely hope you will meet with your reward.
Believe me, yours faithfully,
From THE RIGHT HON. SIR JOHN S. PAKINGTON,
G.C.B., M.P., &c., late First Lord of the Admiralty.
41, Eaton Square, SW., 28th March, 1861.
I have to thank you for allowing me to inspect your Machinery for Building Boats by Steam. Although my opinion can be of little value to you compared to the favorable testimony you have received from eminent practical and scientific men, I must assure you of the pleasure and admiration with which I examined your ingenious invention. There seems to be no doubt that your machinery will supply Boats of all sizes and of perfect construction, with a rapidity and cheapness hitherto unknown, and I trust you will be amply rewarded for a discovery which must be regarded as one of considerable public importance.
I beg to remain, very faithfully yours,
JOHN S. PAKINGTON.
From R. W. CRAWFORD, ESQ., F.R.G.S., M.P. for the City of London. 71, Old Broad Street, London, E.C. 22nd March, 1861.
My opinion of your Boat Building Invention cannot be of any practical value to you, but I may nevertheless assure you of the pleasure it gave me to see it in operation, and of the great interest it has awakened in my mind. It is impossible not to be struck with the combination it displays of such complete efficiency with perfect simplicity or to avoid the conclusion that it is destined to work a complete revolution in the system and expense of Boat Building. I sincerely hope you will reap an adequate reward for the labour of so many years.
E. W. CRAWFORD.
From W. S. LINDSAY, ESQ., M.P. for Sunderland.
London, 4th March, 1861.
I inspected, with peculiar interest, the operation of your remarkable Machinery for the construction of Boats, and so far as I am competent to judge, it appears to me to be an invention of great commercial, and also of national importance. The perfection of the different parts of the Boat turned out by your Machinery was far beyond my expectation; and when the saving of time and money is considered, and the strength and lightness of the-Boat which your Machinery produces, I am led to feel that your invention must be brought into general use.
I am, yours faithfully,
W. S. LINDSAY.
From COLONEL W. H. SYKES, F.R.S., M.P., Chairman of the Hon. East India Company.
47, Albion Street, Hyde Park, March 27th, 1861.
I am obliged by your having given me the opportunity of witnessing in action, on Friday the 22nd inst., the cutting out from timber by singularly simple but efficient machinery, driven by steam, the component parts of Ships Boats. The celerity and mathematical accuracy, with which duplicate parts were produced, must necessarily abridge time and labour in Boat-Building, and greatly reduce cost. .
I trust the general use of your Patents will give you that pecuniary reward to which your remarkable inventions give you so great a claim.
W. H. SYKES.
From ROBERT DALGLISH, ESQ., M.P. for Glasgow.
18, Eaton Terrace, April 20th, 1861.
Your Invention appears to me likely to produce an entire revolution in Boat Building.
I trust you may soon be in a position to offer licences to the public—or to utilize your invention in some way— and that you may have all the success which so much ability and perseverance merit.
I am, yours very truly,
From VICE-ADMIRAL WALCOTT, M.P. for Christchurch.
House of Commons, March 18th, 1861.
The testimony borne by Mr. Scott Russell in favour of your Invention for the construction of Ships Boats Is so perfect that I cannot call to my command any words capable of enhancing the sense he has bespoken of the great ingenuity and successful labour with which it has been accomplished.
I therefore find my content in responding to a testimony which naturally must prove so extremely gratifying to your feelings; and I very sincerely hope your every expectation may be realized.
Very faithfully yours,
J. E. WALCOTT.
From “WILLIAM BROWN, ESQ., (BROWN, SHIPLEY & Co., Liverpool) late M.P. for South Lancashire.
Fenton’s Hotel, 28th May, 1861.
MY DEAR SIR,
I was greatly pleased and gratified at having an opportunity of inspecting your Steam Machinery for Building Boats. It does not require much knowledge of machinery to see that it will cause an immense saving of labour, and I cannot for a moment doubt that it will prove of great national importance.
Permit me therefore to congratulate you on the science, talent, and mechanical skill which has given to the world a most valuable invention.
From REAR-ADMIRAL SIR EDWARD BELCHER, C.B.
London, April 17, 1861.
I have to thank you for the very kind invitation to inspect your Boat preparation Machinery as well as for the lucid exposition of its performance. Having considerable experience in this department of construction, I am enabled to state that the special machinery for the rabbetting and bevels of stem, transom and thwart knees, &c., are perfect, and these works could not be so truly effected by the most expert mechanic by hand; indeed, being the result of computed curves, could only be approximated. As an important aid, not only in the preparation of the parts of a boat, but also in many other matters relating to ship building, I feel fully satisfied that your machinery must soon be imported into our Naval yards. The saving in time and expense, as well as the perfection ensured, must command its advance.
Wishing you every success,
I am, yours very truly,
15, Abbey Gardens, N.W.
From REAR-ADMIRAL CARMAC.
46, Devonshire Street, W., April 12th, 1861.
All who have had the good fortune to witness the extraordinary effect of your mechanical application for the rapid and economical construction of Boats, must acknowledge the ingenuity and superiority of invention pervading the whole process. I am one of those thus impressed; and have to thank you for the opportunity afforded me.
Heartily do I trust that you may reap all the advantages of your skill and labour, an event which must be equally beneficial to the Mercantile, and I may say Imperial interests of the country, by a recognition and adoption of the system introduced by you.
I am, dear Sir, truly yours,
From REAR-ADMIRAL ELLIOT.
London, Friday, April llth, i860.
I have no hesitation in stating that I consider your Boat Building Machinery to be a most valuable invention and a wonderful application of mechanical skill and ingenuity to a practical purpose.
The perfection of the work performed, and the great saying of time and labour and money, is sufficient to establish the invention as a great commercial benefit, but for purposes of warfare at a distance from the resources of the Naval Dockyards, your invention will prove of the greatest importance. With many thanks for your kindness in allowing me to inspect your machinery and witness its performance, and hoping that you will soon succeed in obtaining the reward you so justly deserve,
I beg to remain, yours faithfully,
From REAR-ADMIRAL STOPFORD.
26, Eaton Square, S. FT., March 27th, 1861.
I beg to return you my thanks for affording me an opportunity of seeing your Machinery for Building Boats. It appeared to me a most ingenious invention; while every machine connected therewith struck me as being equally simple and beautiful.
Believe me, yours faithfully,
K. F. STOPFORD.
From CAPT. THE HON. ARTHUR A. COCHRANE, C.B, R.N.
Junior United Service Club, April 6th, 1861.
Allow me to offer my congratulations on the success of your most ingenious Invention for the construction of Boats, and to thank you for your courtesy in showing the machinery in operation.
As far as my knowledge will allow of my forming a judgment on such a subject, I fully believe that your invention will be of eminent service to the Navy and Mercantile Marine.
ARTHUR A. COCHRANE.
From CAPTAIN SHERARD OSBORN, C.B., R.N.
Junior United Service Club, London, 3rd March, 1861.
Amongst all the wonderful inventions of the present day for the economising of human labour, I have not seen one that excels your Boat Building Machines, and the mechanical skill and ingenuity appears to me almost to excel Brunel’s famous block-making machinery. As a sailor, and naval officer, I think I may say that the beautiful manner in which your Machinery is capable of producing •perfect duplicates of boats, or of giving us any number of parts of a boat which shall be perfect facsimiles one of the other, will be the greatest boon imaginable, and save on board of a ship on foreign stations endless labour and expense in the constant repairs necessary for the boats of a man-of-war.
Believe me, Sir, yours faithfully,
15, Abbey Gardens, St. John’s Wood.
From CAPTAIN COWPER P. COLES, R.N.
United Service Club, Pall Mall, February 27th, 1861.
Allow me to express to you my thanks for your kindness in allowing me to witness your method of Boat Building. Although I cannot aspire to being a shipwright or boat builder, during twenty-four years’ actual service at sea I have had great opportunities of becoming acquainted with boat-building and repairing, to which I have always given much attention. I therefore beg to assure you how fully I appreciate your wonderful yet simple invention, which as far as I am able to judge, turns out a most perfect boat, embracing a great saving of material, time, labour, and consequently economy.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
COWPER P. COLES.
GEORGE TURNER, ESQ., Master Shipwright of Woolwich Dockyard, who was appointed by the Lords of the Admiralty to examine and report on the method of constructing Boats by Machinery (invented by NATHAN THOMPSON, Jun. Marine Engineer of New York), makes the following remarks in his “Report to the English Government,” November ’21st, 1860.
” Having given my best consideration to the method of Building boats by Machinery, invented by Mr. Thompson after seeing the various component parts of a Boat accurately and expeditiously prepared, ensuring at the same time, a perfect fit throughout; I am of opinion that both the work and strength of Boats built by his process would be superior to that of the ordinary method, and also ensure a great saving of time and expense. The division of labor, consequent on the machinery going on rapidly, and without interruption, while every part of a Boat is simultaneously manufactured, must necessarily reduce the cost of labor. And the despatch at command would be greatly increased when pressing orders require executing.”
The following is an extract from a letter subsequently received by the Inventor from the same gentleman: —
Your cutter compared in cost of labor with one built by contract, would be a difference in your favor as 7 is to 32. I cannot speak too much in favor of your method of Building Boats, and have not failed in doing so even in head quarters
Letter of RICHARD GREEN, ESQ., the eminent Ship-builder and Ship-owner, after the Invention had been practically examined by himself and two of the most efficient men in his employ
Blackwall, January 24th, 1861.
Having visited your Establishment, I pronounce your Machinery for Building Boats, to be a very clever Invention, and have no doubt it will accomplish all you profess.
I am, dear Sir, yours faithfully,
From J. SCOTT RUSSELL, ESQ., F.R.S., &c.
20, Great George Street, Westminster, S. W.,
March 8th, 1861.
Allow me to express the great pleasure and instruction I have received from the examination of your excellent Machinery for the construction of Ships Boats. There can be no doubt that your boats could be sold considerably cheaper than boats built by hand, and still leave a hand- some profit on construction. There is no question of the superior workmanship and exact fitting of the parts of boats built by your method, nor can I doubt that a Company formed for the construction of boats on your principle, would, if well managed, confer a great boon on shipowners, consistently with a profitable investment, and that. It would have little to fear from competition.
In conclusion, I earnestly hope that the issue of your undertaking may reward the originality of your invention, and the great ingenuity and labour with which you have brought it to a practical issue.
I remain, yours faithfully,
J SCOTT RUSSELL.
From T. K. FLETCHER, ESQ., Ship-Builder, etc. –
Union Dock, Limehouse, March 8th, 1861.
I have had much pleasure in examining your Machinery for Building Boats of all sizes and descriptions. It appears to me that the machines are very novel, strong and simple I doubt not that a great saving of labour may be effected by them.
I am, dear Sir, yours sincerely,
T. K. FLETCHER.
From RICHARDSON & DUCK, Shipbuilders.
South Stockton Iron Ship Yard, Stockton-on-Tees, 29th April, 1861.
We were much pleased with the exhibition of your Patent Machinery for making Boats. It is not only very ingenious, but makes better work than hand-labour. We have no doubt that, if properly introduced, it will entirely supersede the present method.
Wishing you every success,
We are, dear Sir, yours truly,
RICHARDSON & DUCK.
From J. RUSSELL, ESQ., Chief Surveyor, Lloyds.
Association, Lloyds’, March 26th, 1861.
I hasten to assure you that the inspection of your ingenious Machinery for simplifying and Expediting the construction of Ships Boats, has afforded me both pleasure and instruction, and I think that the merits of your inventions and adaptations only require to be known to secure for your perseverance a profitable result.
I am, Sir, your obedient Servant
From C. T. ANDERSON, ESQ., Superintendent of Agents,
Lloyds’, March 20th, 1861.
I have great pleasure in expressing my approval of your admirable Machinery for the construction of Ships’
Boats, by the aid of which a great saying of time and expense will be effected.
I trust the merits of your excellent invention, may soon be publicly recognized, and that your ingenuity and perseverance may be profitably rewarded.
I remain, yours truly,
C. T. ANDERSON.
From LIEUT. COLONEL ANDERSON, F.S.A., &c., Chief
Superintendent for the Manufacture of Fire Arms.
Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, April I0th, 1861.
I beg to thank you very much for the kind permission to visit your Works at Victoria Park, and there to have an opportunity of minutely examining your very interesting and most ingenious combination of Machinery for Boat Manufacture.
After having gone through the application of machinery to the manufacture of Small Arms, and the production of the other Stores required by the War Department, I was, in some measure, prepared for appreciating your ingenuity in the matter of Boats.
I consider the system of machines which you have organized, to be eminently fitted for the object in view, both as regards quality of structure and economy; and which, if carried out under proper management and intelligence, will not only benefit those who use the machines, but at the same time will also be a public boon.
Yours very sincerely,
From WILLIAM FAIRBAIRN, ESQ., F.R.S., &c., &c.
(FAIRBAIRN & SONS, the eminent Engineers.)
Manchester, April 16th, 1861.
I was highly gratified by the examination of your ingenious and effective Machinery designed for the construction of Boats.
Looking at the economy and facility which this system is calculated to afford, and the rapidity with which it enables you to construct vessels, I am of opinion that your arrangements are of the highest value to the Public Service. Irrespective of the tools for cutting out the parts, I observed that your tabulated system of numbers enables you to make those parts facsimiles of one another, so that when put together they combine perfectly into a finished whole.
This ensures certainty and cheapness of construction, and from what I have seen I entertain hopes that a well-organized establishment will enable you to realize your expectation of making by this new process, a boat in five hours.
I am, Sir, yours faithfully,
From THOMAS FAlRBAIRN, ESQ., one of Her Majesty’s Commissioners for the Great Exhibition 1862.
17, Park Lane, London, 23rd of April, 1861.
I gladly assure you of the pleasure and instruction I received from the visit to witness your Patent Boat-making Machinery.
In addition to the remarkable ingenuity displayed in the design and construction of several of the machines, I was especially pleased with the combination of mechanical appliances which you have effected. It is -when viewed as a system that I consider your inventions most important, and I hope for your own sake, as well as for science and sound industrial development, that your machinery may be appreciated by the authorities, and be adopted by the proper departments of the Public Service in this country.
I am, dear Sir, very faithfully yours,
From JOSHUA FIELD, ESQ., F.R.S., (of the Firm of MAUDSLAY, SONS, AND FIELD, the eminent Engineers.)
Lambeth, March 27th, 1861.
Having been permitted to inspect your Machinery, and to witness its operation for making Boats, I feel confident in pronouncing it a very clever combination of ingeniously contrived machines, applied to a very useful and important object. I shall be much pleased to learn that it has been fully brought into practical use, with the profitable result its merits deserve.
From JOHN PENN”, ESQ., F.R.S., (JOHN PENN & Son, the eminent Engineers.)
The Cedars, Lee, Kent, S.E, 28th April, 1861.
There is no doubt in my mind that boats can be made better, and at a less cost, by your Patent Machinery than by the ordinary system, with the advantage of making any number exactly alike when required. I was much pleased with the beauty and simplicity of the mechanical contrivances and the machinery you used to carry out the important object you have in view, and which must have cost you much time and thought, and for which I hope you will receive due reward.
From PROFESSOR WILSON, F.R.S., Engineer, &tc. &tc.
London, April 18, 1861.
MY DEAR SIR,
I need hardly say how greatly I was pleased with my visit last week to your temporary establishment, when you were good enough to show me your newly-invented Machinery for constructing Boats, in operation. The whole arrangement of the machinery appears to be admirably adapted for the purpose, and must effect a very great saving in the cost of construction, and at the same time turn out the work in a far superior manner to the old system by hand. Some of your mechanical adaptations were entirely new to me, and could, I think, be employed very advantageously in many other ways and for other purposes of construction than that for which they were specially invented.
I am, dear Sir, yours faithfully,
15, Abbey Gardens, N.W.
From THOMAS CHAPMAN, ESQ., F.R.S., Chairman of Lloyds’ Register of British and Foreign Shipping.
2, Leadenhall Street, London, 15th April, 1861.
I beg to thank you for the opportunity afforded me this day of witnessing the gratifying exhibition of your Machinery for converting the materials used in the construction of Ships Boats.
The ingenuity and mechanical skill evinced in the adaptation of the various machines for the purposes required, cannot fail to excite the admiration of all who have the opportunity of examining your invention. I very sincerely wish you every success in your enterprise. If your anticipation of being able to effect a large diminution in the cost of ships boats is realized, you will confer a great boon on the ship-owners of all nations.
I am, Sir, your very obedient servant,
From GEORGE APPOLD, ESQ., F.R.S.
23, Wilson Street, Finsbury Square, E.C., March 23, 1861.
When I saw your Machinery at work for Boat Building, it very much surprised me at the simplicity and expedition with which you could build a Boat. It appears to me just the machinery to suit the purpose for which it was designed, and I hope it will be adopted.
I remain, yours truly,
From WILLIAM CARPMAEL, ESQ., C.E.
24, Southampton Buildings, March 20th, 1861.
Having very carefully examined the system of Machinery invented and employed by you. in the construction of Boats, I have much pleasure in stating it as my opinion, that you are not only the first to devise a series of machines with a view to improve every stage of boat-building, but that you have perfectly succeeded in practically carrying out your object. Yours faithfully,
From PETER GRAHAM, ESQ. (Jackson and Graham),
Treasurer of the Society of Arts.
35, 37, & 38, Oxford Street, London, W.,
19th January, 1861.
I have to thank you for permitting me to see the operations of the various Machines you have invented and applied to the purpose of building Boats. From practical experience in applying machinery to working wood, in order to save the cost of labour in my own manufactory, I have no hesitation in saying that I am fully convinced, if established upon a large scale under good management, your system of Boat Building by Machinery must prove a great commercial success.
I am, dear Sir, yours faithfully,
From E. J. REED, ESQ., Secretary to the Institution of Naval Architects.
7, Adelphi Terrace, Strand, W.C.,
March 20, 1861.
I have to thank you for the opportunity of inspecting your Boat Building Machinery in operation a short time since, and in doing so I desire to express my sense of the perfect efficiency and completeness with which it performs its work. It cannot be doubted, I think, that such machinery may at once be applied on a large scale with great profit; and it can be as little doubted that—like other labour-saving machinery—when once fairly at work, it will enormously stimulate the demand for the articles which it produces, and thus exceed all present anticipations of its value. In addition to its more obvious advantages, your machinery will greatly facilitate the export of boats, and parts of boats, for construction and for repair, to distant parts of the world—a matter of great importance, in my opinion. I will only add that it is a great satisfaction to see your mechanical skill and inventive powers applied in a direction which is likely to lead to great pecuniary advantage — an important consideration, which too many inventors neglect.
I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
E. J. REED.
From JOHN TROTMAN, ESQ., (Patentee Trotman’s Anchor).
42, Cornhill, April 10th, 1861.
Excellence and cheapness in a commercial point of view, are the great characteristics of your most valuable invention. The celerity and mathematical precision by which duplicate parts are produced, for subsequent repairs, facility of transport, &c., is not without its importance.
Indeed, I felt momentarily the same emotions—seeing those extraordinary machines of yours—as when I witnessed for the first time at work, “Brunel’s” very wonderful block-machinery, the admiration of all beholders. Besides the production and reproduction-of every description and size of boat, the applicability of your machinery to ship building purposes, fittings, &c., has its intrinsic value.
Heartily wishing my brother patentee every success,
Believe me, most sincerely,
From JOHN DILLON, ESQ., (Morrison, Dillon & Go.) Vice-President of the Society of Arts.
Fore Street, April 10th, 1861.
I am so entirely unconnected and unacquainted with the subject of boat building, that my opinion can be of little weight or value; but I was certainly struck with your wonderful application of the power of machinery to a practical and useful object, and wish you every success in the plan you have undertaken,
I am, dear Sir, yours faithfully,
From GEORGE MOORE, ESQ. (Copestake, Moore, Crampton & Co.)
5, Paul’s Church Yard, 13th April, 1861.
I am glad to find that eminent scientific men have pronounced your invention for Building Boats by Machinery to be a decided success.
Having myself witnessed the power and practical character of the machinery, I may be permitted to add that in my humble opinion its application to the purpose for which it was designed would insure for the inventor commercial as well as scientific success.
From H. A. SILVER, ESQ. (S. W. Silver & Co.)
3 and 4, Bishopsgate Within, and at 66 and 67, Cornhill,
London, KC., April 12th, 1861.
I have to thank you for affording me an opportunity of witnessing the operation of your most valuable invention. Your system of Building Boats by Machinery is simple, sure, and perfect, and consequently eminently practical.
It would be idle ceremony to wish you success when success is so certain and so well deserved.
I am, Sir, yours faithfully,
HUGH A. SILVER.
OPINIONS OF THE PRESS.
From Money Article o/”THE TIMES ” of 15th June, 1861,
A company is about to be introduced for the application of the patents of Mr. Nathan Thompson, an American engineer, for boat building by steam machinery. This machinery is suitable for the construction of boats of every size and mould, and durability j and safety are attained from the uniformity and perfection of the ‘ various fittings, while the saving in time and labour is extraordinary. The inventor has published testimonials from a large number of the principal persons in the United Kingdom connected with navigation; and the working of elaborate constructive establishments, and these are all of the most unequivocal character as regards the value of the system both in a national and commercial sense. (A cutter 30 feet in length can,’ it is said, ‘ be constructed and delivered perfect in every respect within a few hours after the order is received for it,’ and the Master Shipwright of Woolwich Dockyard, who was appointed by the Admiralty to examine and report on the method, has fully corroborated the opinions expressed by other authorities. The -revolution which it is likely to create will, it is believed, be analogous to that effected in other departments of labour by the sewing machine, and the contrivances which have of late years multiplied the production of clocks and watches. In our colonies and distant territories, where so much of the progress of each settlement depends upon the facilities for river and coast navigation, its advantages are likely also to be of especial importance.”
From “MORNING HERALD” of 17th June, 1861.
“BOAT-BUILDING BY MACHINERY. —Mr. Nathan Thompson marine engineer of New York, has just introduced to the British public a new process for the building of boats by machinery.” It” is no new thing for the old world to receive a quickening impulse from the new, and if only half the good effects that Mr. Thompson and his coadjutors—among whom may be named Mr. Puseley, who has laboured zealously in the cause—anticipate from the application of machinery to boat-building be realized, it will become the boat-builders of the United Kingdom to look to their laurels. I Indeed, there can hardly be any ground for doubt that this new application of machinery must revolutionise the whole system of boat-building, for Mr. Thompson boldly affirms that the amount of labour which, performed annually in a government dock-yard would be requited by £16, can under his system be accomplished for £1 15s. or £2; and so rapid and almost illimitable is his facility of construction that it is calculated that by extended application of this machinery 2500 boats could, on an emergency, be turned out in 30 days. Several distinguished men in this country, many of them persons practically acquainted with the subject, who have seen the system in operation, have also borne testimony more or less favourable to it, among whom may be mentioned—Sir John Pakington; Sir Francis Baring; Admiral Walcott, M.P.; Admiral Elliot, Captain Coleman; Captain Sherard Osborn; Mr. Lindsay, M.P.; Mr. Richard Green; Mr. Scott Russell; Mr. Trotman; Mr. Fairbairn; Mr. John Penn, F.R.S., and Mr. T. Chapman, F.R.S.; Mr. G. Turner, master shipwright of Woolwich Dockyard, has also reported favourably to the English government on Mr. Thompson’s invention, by which he declares that both the work and strength of the boats built would be superior to what would be obtained by the ordinary method.”
From “DAILY NEWS,” 17th June, 1861.
THOMPSON’S BOAT-BUILDING MACHINES.—On Saturday an opportunity was afforded to a limited number of gentlemen of inspecting the apparatus invented by Mr. Nathan Thompson, of New York, for the building of boats by machinery, and erected by him at Old Ford, Bow^ In no department of human activity has the talent of the Americans been more conspicuous than in the construction of machinery and its adaptation to the ordinary arts of life. Hitherto it was considered that the curvilinear form of a boat’s timbers, and the great variety of angular shaped pieces required in the construction presented insurmountable obstacles to the application of machinery to boat-building. These obstacles seem, however to have been completely overcome by Mr. Thompson, who, after many years’ study and labour, has invented thirteen machines for forming and fashioning gunwales, floor timbers, cants, keels, sterns, stern posts, knees, transoms, and all the variety of forms and angles, and bevelling of every width and taper that are required, in order to build up boats and yachts of every variety and description. The machines invented by Mr. Thompson are of the most ingenious description, and appear to be endowed with almost intelligence, so marvellously and so accurately do they manipulate the timber required for boat building. There are in the Royal Navy and mercantile marine about 40 descriptions of boats, and there is not one of them but may be produced by these machines, so that the scope of their usefulness is not merely confined to any one pattern or design. When all the machines are at work together—and the processes can be carried on in a consecutive manner, so that every part of the boat is being simultaneously manufactured—the saving in the cost of labour as calculated by the master shipwright at Woolwich, -will be in the proportion of 7 to 32, while the good character and accuracy of the workmanship are secured by this employment of machinery. The advantage which must result from building boats where every portion may be made in duplicate, and where repairs may be readily effected in a time of emergency, must strike every person as being scarcely less important than the economy of production and the excellence of the workmanship by these means. The machinery for bending the timber in order to form the ribs is so constructed as to give every possible curvature that may be required in any part of a boat, whether for a small lugger or a yacht of £150 tons, and of the finest possible lines. By the aid of all these mechanical applications, a cutter, 32 feet in length, 7ft. 3in. in beam, was, and may again be completed easily in five hours. It appears that there are some 25,000 boats built every year in this country, and it may readily be imagined that there is ample scope for building boats by machinery.
From “DAILY TELEGRAPH,” 17th June, 1861.
“Boat-Building BY MACHINERY.—Nothing short of an entire revolution in the process of boat-building is promised by the invention of Mr. Nathan Thompson, junior, naval engineer, of New York. We use the term “revolution” advisedly, and with application to all those facts, which we have been enabled closely to examine. Not only is every idea of human skill and intelligence, in this kind of work, shaken or entirely subverted, but the very operation is carried on by an inverse process; for, instead of first laying down a keel and constructing a vessel upon that basis, the work is begun by Mr. Thompson’s machinery from the gunwale. It. may, then, be fairly said that the boat-builder’s occupation, as hitherto constituted, is either going or gone. He must yield, as other manufacturers have done, to scientific improvement. There is no setting a bound, in these days, to the province of mechanism. We have heard that one .,of the Lords of the Admiralty, after seeing Mr. Thompson’s machines in action, declared that he had been previously sceptical as to the power of any machinery to make a boat; but that he was so struck by what had been shown him, that he believed machinery capable of everything except diplomacy. It may be urged that there is somewhat of the mechanical element even in that department of human labour; although, to be sure, the diplomatic machinery is not, like Mr. Thompson’s, driven by steam. (< On Saturday we witnessed a series of experiments, or rather demonstrations, at Mr. Thompson's factory, near the Victoria Park. When we premise that, in less than an hour and a half, we saw all the principal parts of a boat cut and shaped from the rough material with as much ease as if they had been so many pieces of cloth to form a garment, our readers will be prepared for some rather incredible statements in detail. They have never, probably, dreamt of giving an order for a yacht, with strict injunctions that it should be ready by the end of the week, supposing it to be about Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning when their requirement was first mentioned to the builder. Still less likely are they to have imagined that respectable and veracious person promising to furnish the little article—say a thirty-feet cutter of strong build-in the course of the same afternoon. What appears ludicrous, when thus put, is mere matter of fact, rather understated. Such a boat as could only be built in ten days by all the skilled artisans who could be set to work at once upon her, is turned out by Mr. Thompson's machinery in five hours. We cannot, indeed, conceive any doubt of such success. Assuming that the operations will be extended to the general supply of boats to the navy and the mercantile marine, we have additional gratification in the promise that this great triumph of inventive genius will redound to the benefit of the British fisherman, who may soon become the owner of a boat for less than £30, the price of which, under the old system, would have placed that object far beyond his reach."
From "THE OBSERVER," June, 1861.
"BOAT-BUILDING BY MACHINERY.—There is no branch of mechanical industry in which the Americans have shewn greater ingenuity than in the construction of machines for working in wood. With the exception of some small machines for mortising, we have hitherto had none suitable for that description of work. We have manufactured iron in every possible way by machines, but for timber it had strangely enough been considered that manual labour was sufficient. It is only within the last four years that a change has taken place in this respect, and now the most complete system of machinery, perhaps, ever constructed, is that which is now in use in the dockyards and workshops at Woolwich, where wheels, gun-carriages, ammunition boxes, and a variety of articles are constructed by machine, the greater portion of which are automatic. At Enfield ?; we have machines for working in wood the stocks of the rifles ; and 'some of our largest brewers and cooperages have their casks made by machinery. The chief part of these machines are due to the ingenuity of American machinists. We have now to add to the catalogue a collection of thirteen machines, constructed for forming and fashioning gunwales, floor timbers, cants, keels, sterns, stern posts, knees, transoms, and all the variety of forms and angles, and bevelling of every width and taper that are required, in order to build up boats and yachts of every variety and description.
From "SHIPPING AND MERCANTILE GAZETTE,"
17th June, 1861.
BOAT-BUILDING BY MACHINERY.—We were called upon on Saturday to inspect the inventions of Mr. Nathan Thompson, of New York, for boat-building by machinery, and were highly gratified -with the extraordinary results of the working of the several machines, erected for the purpose on some extensive premises at Old Ford, Bow. One of Mr. Thompson's most ingenious machines is the ' drunken saw,' so called, no doubt, from its eccentric motion. It is a circular cutter, hut so adjusted on a screw axis as to have, when in action, what may be called a " wabbling" movement. In the course of its eccentricities it cuts laterally as well as longitudinally, and the effect is to form what is known as a groove or "rabbit" in the timber with extraordinary accuracy. The use to which this machine is applied in connection with the boats is for making the gratings, and the saving of time and of manual labour in this part of the work is very great. The ' drunken saw' can easily do the work of 40 men. A scarcely less useful and clever machine is one for giving the required bend and curve of the planking for the ship's side, which is done to the most perfect nicety by a combination of knives or cutters fixed on two rollers, the upper being concave, and the lower one convex.
From Money Article of" MORNING HERALD," 18^ June, 1861.
"Already the advantages to be derived from the adoption of Nathan Thompson's machinery for boat-building have been described in the account of the visit which took place on Saturday to the factory in the neighbourhood of Victoria Park. The National Company for Boat-building by Machinery (Limited) have now issued their prospectus, and the promoters intend to raise the requisite capital for carrying the plans of this eminent marine engineer into effect. The amount is £200,000, in 20,000 of £10 each, and the names of the directors, together with the executive, will lead to the conclusion that the endeavour is to be made to organise a successful undertaking. The patents and works of the inventor have been tested in every conceivable way, and if testimonials from high authorities are of any value in recommending a principle to the notice of the public, then those presented by Mr. Thompson should ensure him every consideration. The report of the United States Naval Commission is also of the most gratifying character, and, weighed "in connection with the opinions so universally given, assists to prove the great utility of the system which is to be introduced. Among the features of the invention are the greater strength and uniformity of construction, the dispatch with which the work can be completed, and the economy exercised by the application of machinery. The arrangements entered into for Mr. Thompson's patent seem to be of an unobjectionable nature, the shareholders being entitled to the receipt of a minimum dividend of 7 per cent before he is permitted full participation to the extent of his interest. As in all similar undertakings a great deal will depend upon management it may be as well to slate that this department has been committed to Captain John Vine Hall." ______________
From Money Article of " MORNING-CHRONICLE,"
15th June, 1861.
" Machinery and steam are fast revolutionising commerce and manufactures. Steam, if it does not annihilate time and space economises both marvellously, and improved machinery is working the same wonders for handicraft operations. The latest novelty introduced to the British public from America bids fair to supersede all the old methods of boat building. When we are told that a cutter, thirty feet in length, can be constructed in ten or a dozen hours, by the application of ingenious machinery, we may be allowed to suspect a mistake, but when we are invited to see the thing done, and when we have the opportunity of making our own eyesight a •witness, there can be no longer room for doubt. Mr. Nathan Thompson, an American marine engineer, has been long known for his mechanical skill, and for his remarkable and scientific improvements in machinery. His attention has of late been turned to boat construction by the aid of machinery, and he has succeeded in perfecting a simple and effective system of boat building, the main elements of which he has wisely secured by patents. A joint-stock company of the highest respectability has been organised here for the purchase and working of Mr. Thompson's patents, and after testing the efficiency of the machinery in every possible way, and satisfying themselves of its advantages by a personal inspection at the temporary factory erected here, they come with confidence to the public for the requisite capital, and put before them calculations to show that the profits on outlay must, under proper management, be very large indeed. The patentee has offered liberal terms, and this will no doubt strengthen confidence in the enterprise." From Money Article of
"SHIPPING AND MERCANTILE
GAZETTE, 11th June, 1861.
" The object of the Company for (Boat-building by Machinery,' •whose prospectus is issued to-day, is to purchase and work several patents secured in this country by Mr. Nathan Thompson, of New ,A York. The machinery, which we had an opportunity of seeing in operation on Saturday, is at once simple, efficient, and beautiful; and the advantages possessed by it, in the shape of strength, uniformity of construction, dispatch, and economy, are unquestionable. The capital is £200,000, in shares of £10 each. Accompanying the prospectus is a pamphlet filled with testimonials from practical men and persons of standing who have visited and examined the temporary •works at Old Ford, Bow, where the invention is in operation."
From Money Article, of" DAILY NEWS," 17th June, 1861.
" The prospectus of an interesting undertaking bearing the title of ' The National Company for Boat-building by Machinery, Limited is issued. This company is very respectably constituted. Its object is to purchase and work several patents secured in this country by Mr. Nathan Thompson, of New York, for his process of building boats by machinery. By the concurrent testimony of a great number of eminent scientific and other authorities, the merits of the invention are of a very important character, and the machinery 31 is at once simple, efficient, and beautiful. It is contended that boat- building by the ordinary methods cannot compete for a moment with the new process, and that the advantages possessed in the shape of greater strength, and uniformity of construction, despatch, and economy, will cause large profits to be realised. As illustrating the system it is mentioned that a cutter, 30 feet in length, can be de- livered, perfect in every respect, within a few hours. The remuneration to the inventor is rightly made partly contingent on the company's success, as only one-third of the purchase-money will be paid in cash, the remainder being in the company's shares, upon one-half of which no benefit is to accrue until a dividend at the rate of 7 per cent. per annum has been paid to the other shareholders. A royalty on each boat made is also to be withheld until 7 per cent. dividend is secured. The capital is £200,000, in shares of £10 each. Accompanying the prospectus is a pamphlet filled with testimonials from persons of standing who have visited and examined the temporary works at Victoria Park, where the invention is in operation."
From "MORNING CHRONICLE," 20th June, 1861.
BOAT BUILDING BY MACHINERY.—It says something more for machinery than the mind is apt to imagine when we hear of a process of building boats by steam. Of the wonders of this great power nobody in these days need be told, and the reader will very soon perceive that it may be brought to bear on boat-building, and with extraordinary advantage. From enquiries we have made, and from personal investigation of the application of machinery to the purpose in question, we have no doubt that before long an enormous amount of hand-labour will be saved in boat-building, and more perfectly constructed boats will come into use than have ever before been seen upon the water. The testimony of some of the best judges of naval architecture to be found among us confirms this statement, for we see letters in favour, of the invention from some of the highest '• men in rank and science to be found in Great Britain; and many of these are practical and experienced master builders. "Thus a fleet of boats could be supplied, packed, and conveyed to any distance, and then be fitted for immediate use with but little trouble. In short, the most experienced men in this country, as well as in the United States, unite in certifying to the capability of the machinery to turn out ten times the quantity of work (of a superior quality as to finish and fit) in the same time, as is now done by hand-labour. "This is dispatch of which the value will be at once appreciated. If we build 25,000 medium sized boats annually, and, in addition to these, there are barges, fishing-boats, lighters, and small yachts to be turned out, here is work for the company, into whose profits it is not our province to enquire, but which assuredly promise to be great, as the Government alone must have need of many boats, and it will be impossible for hand-labour to compete with the machinery which this particular company secures to itself."
From Money Article of "MORNING STAR," 19^ June, 1861.
"The Prospectus appears in another column of the National Company for Boat Building by Machinery—a name which at once expresses the object in view. It is proposed to raise a capital of .£200,000 in £10 shares, and to purchase and work the patents secured in this country by Mr. Nathan Thompson, marine engineer of New York, for building boats by machinery. The system has been inspected in actual operation by numbers of practical men, whose testimony is uniformly to the effect that it is simple and effective, and that it must supersede, to a great extent, the present mode of building boats by hand-labour. The advantages claimed are greater strength and uniformity of construction, dispatch, economy, and large profits. The undertaking is introduced under most respectable auspices, and it seems likely to prove a great success."
From Money Article of " MORNING POST," 20th June, 1861.
The prospectus has been issued of the National Company for Boat Building by Machinery, with a capital of £200,000, in shares of £10 each. The company, which comes out under the auspices of a. very strong direction, has been formed for the purpose of purchasing and working the several patents secured in this country by Mr. Nathan Thompson, marine engineer of New York, for his process of building boats by machinery. The inventor has received numerous testimonials from practical and scientific authorities as to the value of his invention."
From Money Article of "MORNING ADVERTISER,"
20th June, 1861.
" An important undertaking, entitled the ( National Company for Boat-building by Machinery,' has been brought forward for the purpose of working certain patents secured by Mr. Nathan Thompson, a marine engineer, of New York. The most satisfactory testimonials have been obtained from eminent authorities in this country in support of his system for the construction of boats, which, of course, will supersede the present mode of building them by hand- labour, and result in a considerable saving of time and expense. The invention has been approved by a considerable number of gentlemen especially qualified to form an opinion upon the subject, and the project has naturally attracted much-attention. The capital required is £200,000, in shares of £10 each, upon which 10s. will have to be paid on application, and 10s. on allotment."
From Money Article "NORTHERN COUNTIES ADVERTISER,"
18th June, 1861.
"A limited liability company is being formed to work the patents of Mr. N. Thompson, of New York, for the construction of . boats by machinery.- The merits of the invention are set forth in seventy testimonials from high authorities, and it is said that by this process a cutter, 30 feet in length, can be delivered, perfect in every respect, in a few hours. The capital is £200,000, in £10 shares, and remuneration to the inventor is made dependent upon the success of the company.
From "THE ATLAS," 22nd June, 1861.
" We almost immediately ceased to think of our friend in the delight we experienced in beholding the operation of a neighbouring machine. How shall we attempt to describe it? A rough piece of thick plank was placed under the influence of this machine. In less than two minutes it came forth planed, concave on one side, convex on the other, and with the curves exactly fitting to the model boat for which the plank is prepared. There is some- thing beautiful, poetical, in this triumph of mechanism. It was good to glance at the inventor, standing quietly by, knowing that the creature he had made would not fail him, and could not disobey him. We have always thought one of the greatest achievements ox" science was when Franklin went out into the fields with his kite and showed that the lightning was also subject to man; but we felt on Saturday that Mr. Thomson's invention of this marvellous machine was not a less eminent demonstration of mental power. " Having, in an hour and a quarter, seen all parts of a boat made, we left the factory. On our way back to town, Mr. Thompson told us that he had been nineteen years inventing his machinery. He began it in 1842, nine years before the Great Exhibition. He was working it when Mr. Q,.C. was eating his terms, when that eminent M.D. was walking the hospitals, before Charles Dickens was famous, when the Prince of Wales was in his cradle, when Louis Napoleon was a prisoner at Ham. Nineteen years deducting the years of childhood and youth, it is half a lifetime, and more. But the invention is worthy of Mr. Thompson's genius, and the time and study and pains he has bestowed upon it. "It is impossible to sum up all its advantages, but we may just allude to two or three of them. What a boon to the Government, in the time of war, to be able to get a fleet of gunboats in a few weeks or days ! What a boon to those who travel by sea ! Often vessels are obliged to start with an insufficient number of boats, because they are expensive and take long to manufacture. Now they may have them at a reasonable price, and supplied-as quickly as any other stores. What an impetus the invention will give to fishing! Truly the harvest of the sea is great, and the poor need it, but we only reap it sparingly. Boats are so expensive to buy and keep in repair. By Mr. Thompson's invention fishermen can have boats at a far less cost, and repair them without much expense or difficulty. Mechanical inventors are indeed the best philanthropists of the age, and in the foremost rank of mechanical inventors, is Mr. Nathan Thompson, jun. "J. B. H.
From "STEAM SHIPPING CHRONICLE," 21st June, 1861.
" To the Navy the invention can hardly fail to prove invaluable. Boats sufficient to land an army may now be stowed away in a single transport, without, as heretofore, inconveniently encumbering the decks of the transports or the ships of the covering fleet; and boats which may be taken down and packed up will be available for interior transport when ordinary boats would be of no use whatever. Africa, India, China, and even North America, Mr. Thompson's own country, are suggestive fields for the employment of boats which might be carried overland before being launched upon their proper element And rifled cannon, it is scarcely necessary to observe, threaten to be most destructive to the old-fashioned boats of our ships of war. An action, now-a-days, at close quarters, will, if it does not lead to the annihilation of the ships engaged, render every old-fashioned boat that is exposed entirely useless, while Mr. Thompson's boats would come out of action all but scathe less. Half-a- dozen round shot passing through them would only lead to the unshipping of the shattered fragments, and to the fitting in of duplicates, or to the repairing of one boat in an hour or two with the vestiges of another. So long as we were without an invention of this kind, the seamen in our ships of war we.-e, in fact, unsafe, and now that this is admitted, we trust that Mr. Thompson will not be treated by the Admiralty as Mr. Trotman has been. We hope to see the new machinery in operation in all our dockyards before the year is out, that the service may profit by increased efficiency, and the votes of next year be reduced by the economy which is sure to follow. Boat-building by manual labour is about to be numbered among the things that were ; boats will be produced cheaper than they yet have been ; will be wanted for purposes to which hitherto they have not been applied; and although a considerable present displacement of labour will unquestionably be occasioned, all experience shows that eventually a greater number will earn their bread by building boats than do just now. For one who made a living a hundred years ago by the spinning wheel ten thousand, if not ten times ten thousand, are now constantly and remuneratively employed.
From" NAVAL AND MILITARY GAZETTE," 22nd June, 1861.
" THOMPSON'S BOAT-BUILDING Machinery.—On Saturday last we were highly gratified in witnessing the practical operations of the several parts of the machinery for boat-building invented by Mr. Thompson, Naval Engineer, of New York, a gentleman of great mechanical skill and scientific genius. This invaluable machinery to our naval and mercantile nation has been erected in its ' metropolis, that the British public 'may receive the first offer of its manifold advantages, viz., military and naval. Not only can I our ships of war be immediately supplied with any number of war boats in emergency—as 2,500 boats can be completed in thirty days —but all the variously-formed boats employed in the Merchant Service and the fisheries of the "United Kingdom supplied, when required, on the shortest notice. "Advantages to Merchant Shipping.—Vessels employed in -whale fisheries can carry duplicate parts of their boats, and set them up on their arrival in the fishing waters, and have a supply on hand, to replace casualties during their protracted voyage, which have so frequently proved unprofitable from the want of appropriate boats. The sugar ships can also carry their large drogers in frame, and set them up at the port where they collect their cargoes coastwise by these boats. " .Economy will be immediately proved, as 'the future manufacturer boats by machinery will entirely supersede the old plan, by making the operation of any other than the new one impossible, either with regard to price, perfection, or rapidity of execution.' In the price of workmanship alone there will be a great saving. The cost of building a boat such as we saw partially constructed—32 feet long, 7 feet beam, and 3 feet depth—to our Government is £16, and the lowest cost is £13 to our ship-owners; but the cost by Mr. Thompson's machinery is £1 less. only. " Thus the enterprising naval warrior, the noble yachtsman, the amateur boat-sailor, the adventurous seaman, the hardy fisherman, or the industrious waterman—all and each will benefit by following their duty or pleasure, pursuits or business, in boats adapted to their various uses, and perfectly built at a greatly reduced price and ' at the shortest notice.' " British Statesmen, Admirals, and Captains, ship-builders, ship- owners, and merchants certify, by testimonials, to the super-excellence of Mr. Thompson's machinery for boat-building, and to the engineering abilities of his eminently-gifted genius in perfecting so extraordinary and so useful an invention for this maritime kingdom at large, but more especially to the humble and honest fishermen of its coasts, who can now cast their nets for the providential produce of the deep with many pounds less expense, saved towards the maintenance of their wives and families."
From "RAILWAY TIMES," 22nd June, 1861.
" BOAT-BUILDING BY MACHINERY.—It has hitherto been a reproach, alike to enterprise and capital, that the wondrous inventions of Mr. Nathan Thompson have not hitherto been brought into profitable operation. For some time has the machinery been at work, turning out boats by the hour; spectators have been amused, ship – builders alarmed, and merchants thinking of the period when all the marvels indicated would really begin to come to pass. A company has at length been formed, with Colonel Sykes for its chairman, and some half-a-dozen men of talent and energy for directors. Their first effort in the way of testimonials carried the whole commercial world by storm. There has not been such a success in joint-stock enterprise. for many years back, and we sincerely trust that the confidence of to- day will be sustained with equal approbation throughout the whole of its operations. It will be seen by the prospectus that the remuneration to the inventor is made contingent on the company's actual prosperity, one-third of the purchase-money being paid in cash, and the remainder in shares, upon one-half of which no benefit accrues •until a dividend of 7 per cent. has been received by the other shareholders. The capital is limited at present to £200,000, in shares of £10 each ; but we should imagine, in event of certain warlike appearances being realised, that operations on a much larger scale will be called for, additional capital required, and further series of machinery be set in motion. In these events, which are not deemed distant by shrewd observers of the signs of the times, applicants only partially supplied by the forthcoming allotment will of course receive pre-consideration."
From "ARMY AND NAVY GAZETTE," 22nd June, 1861.
"BOAT-BUILDING BY MACHINERY.—Some months since a paragraph was copied from this journal into the columns of the principal papers of the country, in. which we announced that Mr. Nathan Thompson, a marine engineer of New York, had submitted a plan to the Admiralty+ for building boats by machinery. We are essentially a maritime country. We use boats for sea-going purposes; we are prodigal in their employment upon our rivers and canals. Every urchin on our extensive sea-board must have his punt, his cockle- shell, his tub; in short, what cry along shore is more popular than ' I'm afloat ?' A company on the limited liability principle has been established for the purpose of working Mr. Thompson's invention. The board of direction is sound and good, the trustees who countenance the undertaking are millionaires, and the general manager is Captain John Vine Hall, a name familiar to all. It is stated that by careful inquiry it has been ascertained that the number of boats of a medium size annually built in the United Kingdom is about 25,000. In addition to these the large number of barges, canal and fishing boats, lighters, and small yachts, constantly required, and which would be more economically and rapidly produced by machinery, must materially extend the field of the Company's operations, and in the event of one fifth only of the boat-building trade of the "' United Kingdom being at first secured, the directors have satisfied themselves that large profits will be made, independently of such Government work as may be obtained. " By the conditional arrangement proposed to be entered into with Mr. Thompson for the purchase of his patents and inventions for the United Kingdom, it has been agreed that one-third only of the price be paid to him in cash, the remainder thereof being paid in the Company's shared—upon one half of which no benefit is to accrue until a dividend, at the rate of seven per cent. per annum, has been paid to the other shareholders,—and by a small royalty on each boat manufactured, the payment of which will be also deferred 37. ' until the shareholders shall have received a minimum dividend of seven per cent per annum. By this arrangement the interests of the inventor and shareholders are rendered identical. " We should add that Mr. Thompson's invention has received the approbation of the Lords of the Admiralty, naval officers, officers of the commercial marine, and a host of gentlemen whose names stand high in the scientific world; and so much importance do the Company attach to this circumstance, that with the permission of the writers they have published a long list of the testimonials, which we understand were readily and cheerfully given."
From "RAILWAY JOURNAL," 22nd June, 1861.
" THE NATIONAL COMPANY For Boat-Building BY MACHINERY, (LIMITED).—Boat-building by machinery ! The thing is novel. Yet when one thinks of it, he asks himself why not ? Why should not boats be constructed by machinery ? Of course there are many things which cannot be accomplished by machinery. It cannot make a thin man stout, nor convert a mouse into a cat. But within the province of the application of machinery we do not know any- thing more natural, and which bids fair to be more profitable to the public and the parties working the patent, than making boats by machinery. If it can be done, and we told in the prospectus of the above company that it can be most completely and economically, it must be most useful. Boats, almost innumerable, are in constant use, and continually wearing out. We, the tight and right little islanders of the world, want boats as much as we want houses. Therefore there is plenty of demand for the material the new Company intends to supply, and consequently under good management there is every probability of great success attending their operations."
From "THE NEWS," 22nd June, 1861.
" The special merits of Mr. Thompson's machinery it is not our province to discuss; it is sufficient to know it has obtained the the approval of the highest authorities known to this country, official, naval, and scientific. He offers the means of producing ships'-boats with a facility greater than hand labour as thirty-two is to seven, and he appeals to capitalists to aid him in utilizing the scheme. He has already erected temporary premises where his machinery is at work, and which has been inspected and approved by men competent to form an opinion. It does not, therefore, admit of a doubt that his project is a feasible undertaking, and if Mr. Thompson's business habits be equal to his inventive ability, we think we may hazard the opinion that his reputation is safe and his fortune virtually made. Whether Mr. Thompson's drunken saw, with its 'wabbling' movement, cutting laterally and longitudinally, grooving with extraordinary accuracy, and doing easily the work of forty men, will be accepted as a boon by the shipwrights of Liverpool, Sunderland, and Aberdeen, or those who breathe the air of the Thames, is a problem which time and experience alone will solve. No doubt the introduction of machinery into the yards of English and Scottish ship-builders will be met by much the same class of feelings as has uniformly characterised the introduction of machinery into every other department of English manufacture, for shipwrights are proverbially a stupid race. But happily the fate of Mr. Thompson's project will not be influenced by the prejudices of shipwrights on the banks of the Thames or elsewhere, but by its ability to do what he affirms it will do, namely, economise labour and cheapen production."
From "RAILWAY RECORD," 22nd June, 1861.
"Boat Building by MACHINERY.—In another part of our paper we have given a detailed account of the vast mechanical triumph achieved by Mr. Nathan Thompson, the celebrated marine engineer of New York, in the remarkable machinery which he has invented and patented, by which rough timber is perfected and finished in all the varied forms demanded in the construction of boats of every size and mould. Mr. Thompson's machines have been set up and put in action at Bow, and the most ample opportunities have been afforded to the highest practical engineering and scientific authorities in this country to examine and test the efficiency and value of these most extraordinary examples of mechanical skill and ability. The power, simplicity and efficiency of the machinery are acknowledged by our first engineering authorities, no less cordially and frankly than they have previously been by the United States Naval Commission. " Of the commercial prospects of the Company which is now in course of formation, for the purpose of purchasing the machinery and patents of Mr. Nathan Thompson, for a given amount, of which one-third only is to be paid in cash, and the remaining two-thirds upon favourable terms, we entertain very sanguine expectations, for not only will the Company enter the open market upon conditions •which must leave all the boat-building trade, upon the existing system, at a great disadvantage, but when we call to mind the long array of testimonials, furnished to the Company from officers of H.M. Dockyards, and from our most eminent Shipbuilders, we can entertain no doubt of the complete success of the Company as a commercial speculation. A very wide area of operations is before them, for not alone is ordinary boat-building the object, but barges, lighters, canal and fishing boats, and even small yachts are practicable, and must come within their grasp. It is said that the number of boats built in the United Kingdom annually is about 25,000, five hundred a week! " The Board of Directors is of the highest character."
-From "MONEY MARKET REVIEW," 22nd June, 1861.
A National Company For BOAT BUILDING- BY MACHINERY. —A good deal of attention has been attracted by the announcement – 39 of (The National Company for Boat-building by Machinery (Li- mited).' The objects of this undertaking may not inaptly be said to possess a national importance, for, if only one-half of the results expected from the Company's patent be realized, great advantages will be conferred. The patents are those of Mr. Nathan Thompson, of New York. The directors tested in every way the statements put forward on behalf of this gentleman's inventions, and, having satisfied themselves of their accuracy, have placed the present undertaking before the public. They are supported in their opinion of their value by a remarkable series of testimony from a host of gentlemen eminent in science or by social rank. It is contended that the marvellous advantages of the Company's machinery will enable it to distance all competitors. The capital is £200,000, in shares of £10 each.
From TRUSTEE GAZETTE," 29th June, 1861.
" Boat Building BY MACHINERY.—What next? When on a recent visit in the vicinity of London, we were invited to see a boat built by machinery, an involuntary appeal to our understanding was made by the foregoing question. The query was not only pregnant with wonder concerning the next startling novelty that might be announced to the world, but it implied a doubt on the reality, or at least on the perfection in all its parts of the offspring we were then summoned to behold. " Two hours sufficed to dispel every doubt on the subject. With our own eyes, we not only examined a first-class cutter, 32 feet in length, which had just been made by machinery, but actually witnessed in operation the entire system by which another cutter was partially constructed on the same model during our brief stay at the factory of the inventor. " Mr. Nathan Thompson, an eminent engineer of New York, is the gentleman to whom the community at large, and the naval and mercantile marine in particular, are indebted for an invention which, ere long, will not only effect a complete revolution in the art of Boat-building by hand-labour, but at the same time confer a lasting boon on the entire shipping- interests of the country, " As a commercial undertaking in a great maritime nation, the success of this system for boat-building by machinery cannot for a moment be questioned. When it has been declared by the Master Shipwright of Woolwich dockyard, who was appointed by the Lords of the Admiralty to examine and report on Mr. Thompson's method of building boats, that the saving in labour alone would be a ' difference in favour of the new process as 7 is to 32,' all doubt with regard to the economy of the system is at once set at rest.
From "MORNING- STAR AND DIAL," 27th June, 1861.
"Mr. Nathan Thompson, of New York, is the first who has attempted the building of boats by machinery. Now that the thing has been done, we must all feel amazed that no one ever went about it before. A boat, we need hardly say, is made of a great variety of pieces of wood, separately sawn and shaped, and then put together. Even the most rural of our feminine readers does not suppose that it is chiselled out like a font, or burned out as certain tribes hollow their canoes, or sown up together like the Greek ships at the siege of Troy. The whole secret, therefore, of Mr. Thompson's invention is the perfection of so many separate machines, each of which will form, with all the instantaneous rapidity of steam- impelled mechanism, some one of the parts which, when screwed, hammered and bolted together, make a pinnance, a yacht, or a man- of-war. All the machines are at work together, and thus the construction is a simultaneous operation.
From "RAILWAY GAZETTE," 22nd June, 1861.
" THE NATIONAL COMPANY FOR BOAT-BUILDING B!" MACHINERY.—— A Company is now in course of formation, introduced to public sup- port by a highly influential and practical Board of Directors, for the purpose of purchasing and working the several patents secured in this country by Nathan Thompson, marine engineer, of New York, for his process of building boats by machinery. "The first announcement of this Company appeared in the morning papers of Monday last, together with a formidable array of testimonials of the most satisfactory character from the highest engineering and scientific authorities in this country, bearing personal evidence to the power, simplicity and efficiency of Mr. Thompson's machinery; thus fully confirming the judgment previously pronounced upon the merits of the invention by the United States Naval Commission. Of the commercial value of the process with a view to the remunerative prospects of the Company upon -.: the capital proposed to be invested (£200,000) the most eminent merchants and ship-owners have also borne the most unequivocal testimony, and upon grounds, the soundness of which are unquestionable. The rapidity with which the timbers are turned out, the accuracy of cut and dimensions, together with the most perfect uniformity of all the different parts, not only conduce to an increase of strength, put together upon this principle, but ensure the greatest rapidity in the execution of orders; a perfect fleet of boats, as the prospectus states, being capable of being got ready, and packed, for conveyance to any part of the world, within a -few hours of the order being given. All who are in any way acquainted with the delays which continually take place in getting boats ready for ships whose stay in dock is limited, will readily appreciate the great advantage which this facility of despatch must give to the present Company over the present system of boat-building. In all contract •work, of course, this advantage must be especially valued, for a certainty of delivery will be secured, unattainable at present. 'From. the numerous testimonials of officers in Her Majesty's dockyards, included in the long list to which we have before referred, we anti- V^. we anticipate that the Government will unhesitatingly give a powerful support to the Company. " We should state that the Company is formed with a capital of £200,000, which it is proposed to raise in £10 shares, with a deposit of 10s. a share. With this capital the patents will be purchased upon a principle of part payment in cash, and part payment in shares of the Company, which are not to take dividend until after 7 per cent. has been declared upon the general capital stock of the Company. " The practical working out of these patents will no doubt effect. a complete revolution in the system of Boat-building, and will apply to lighters, barges, canal boats, small yachts, and other craft of moderate dimensions. " There is ample room for profitable work, and we are happy to hear that up to the time at which we write, the application for shares have been very numerous indeed." "
Warren Hall & Co., Printers, 42 Cornhill, E.G., and Camden Town, N.W.
NAVY Department, WASHINGTON, D C.
Agreeably to the request contained in your letter of the 3d inst., I send you inclosed, a copy of the "Report of the Board" appointed to examine your system of Boat building after of the Order" by which the Board was appointed.
I am, respectfully,
Your obedt Servt,
(transcript from damaged copy)
NEW YORK, Oct. 19,1859.
This is to certify that I, James Snellgrove, Jr.. a practical Boat-builder, (having served an apprenticeship under John B. Webb,) was called upon to help put together a Wash-streak boat 25 ft. 9 in. long, 6 ft. beam, 2 ft. 4 in. deep. the parts for which were got out by machinery invented by Mr. Nathan Thompson, Jr. This boat was built in presence of a Committee appointed by Secretary of the US Navy, and was the first ever constructed under the process.
The entire completion of the boat … for one. man working ten hours. .. In consequence of having to make a change for one man came to another owing to lack of room for the complement of machinery .. this employed ..,boat at least…that would …Boat ..was-engaging .. could see alone, ………when I came to see …of getting out .. from ..be rough .. them complete by machinery, I was perfectly astonished, and acknowledged that I saw that which I had never expected to look at. It was to me evident that by Mr. Thompson’s … required boats … finished by machinery to set patterns.. and then … be put together without the .. or even .. as by the process every piece is held relatively on a Form just as designed in the finished boat. Thus the gunwale, ribs, floor-timbers, cants, keel, stern, and stern-post .. placed on the form and fastened, the planking (which has been … planed on both sides of, one ..the machine) is put on; the boat is caulked; she is now lifted off the Form, and all that is needed to complete her is to put in the keelson, bottom, boards, risings, thwarts, thwart-knees, stern-sheets &c these having all been previously got out by machinery, fit exactly to their place.
Mr. Thompson's system is so arranged that twenty or more distinct … on the same boat can 'be going on, by machinery without interference. It is by the perfect system of division of labor, (each workman being constantly employed at certain machine, or in a particular department of construction,) that such great economy .. as compared with the present system of manual labor, which does not admit of any such division of labor. Another great advantage over the present system, lies in the rapidity with which orders may be executed. A .. or a day and a .., would allow time enough for the manufacturer employing Mr. Thompson's machinery to turn put from his shop boat of almost any dimensions finished complete. I have no hesitation in saving, as practical Boat-builder of thirteen years' experience, that, by the use of Mr. Thompson’s Patent Machinery, five boats can be built in the best possible manner in the same space of time as consumed in constructing one boat by hand labor, and that Mr. Thompson's process will cause an entire revolution in construction of boats.
JAMES SNELLGROVE .
City and County of New York, :
On the 19th day of October, 1859, before me personally came James Snellgrove, Jr., known to me to be the individual whose name is attached to the foregoing certificate, and made solemn oath that the contents of said certificate are true.
JAMES G. COOPER, Comr. of Deeds.
Return to Bay Wharf
The Chicago Ferris Wheel sparked a series of imitations: first, at Earl’s Court in London (1895 for the India Empire Exhibition), then at Blackpool, a major tourist centre in northern England (1896), then Vienna (1897, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Austrian Emperor Franz Josef), and finally Paris (1899, in anticipation of the 1900 Exposition). And all these gigantic wheels were the creation of one man: Walter B. Basset, former British naval officer and hero, and managing director of the prestigious British engineering firm of Maudslay, Sons & Field. Much of the original engineering design was the work of a young engineer by the name of H. Cecil Booth
SEGAR EMERY MAHOGANY IMPORTERS
In 1904 the Maudslay site was assigned, in whole or part, to Segar Emery from the state of Maine in the United States. The assignment was in respect of George D. Emery who, it is assumed, was part of the Emery Lumber Company of Maine. The other signatgory was Samuel Segar, timber merchant, with an office at Ethelburga House, Bishopsgate
They appear to have been involved in the importation of tropical hardwoods. The following letter on this has been received from a Canadian researcher:
30 August 1998
I am doing some research on a mahogany business active in the 1890s and early 1900s. It was based in Boston in the US, importing logs from Nicaragua. However, as you see in the following quotation
“it was also active in East Greenwich for a time. in January 1904 in connection with Samuel Segar. Mr. Emery’s house established a foreign branch at East Greenwich. London, where it had a mahogany saw mill plant, six acres of yard room and a fine dock on the bank of the Thames known as the Emery Company and distributes its products to the English and continental trade.
American Lumbermen: The Personal Profit and Public and Business Achievements of One Hundred Eminent Lumbermen Of the United states; The America” Lumberman, 1905 Vol 1, p. 21 (entry on George D. Emery)
Associate Professor, History J. Mouat”