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British Industrial History

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Admiralty Experiment Works

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at Torquay, and later Haslar, Gosport

Edward James Reed, Chief of the Constructive Staff of the Navy, encouraged William Froude to propose to the Admiralty a series of experiments on the resistance of ship models.

1870 The offer was accepted, and from that time, except when occupied on other work for the Admiralty, Mr. Froude devoted his energies to the conduct of experiments for the Government on the resistance of ships, and on their propulsion.

1872 The Admiralty Experiment Works (AEW) was established adjoining Mr Froude's residence at Chelston Cross, Torquay to work on Hydrodynamics.

The Admiralty establishment at Torquay, erected by Mr. Froude for carrying out these experiments, contained a covered tank 250 feet long, 33 feet wide, and 10 feet deep. Above this tank was a suspended railway, on which ran a truck drawn at any given speed, and beneath this truck the model was drawn through the water, and its resistance measured by a self-acting dynamometer on the truck. There was also means of testing the effect of screw propellers behind the models. The machinery for manufacturing models, and the various governors for regulating and recording speed, were indicative of Mr. Froude’s scientific skill.

The establishment has also been used for other inquiries allied to its original purpose. An exhaustive series of experiments on the forms of ships was conducted by Froude; all of the Navy's ships' proportions and forms were subjected to the investigation given by the experimental apparatus at Torquay.

1887 AEW moved to its permanent home at Haslar.

Initially concerned with ship power prediction, AEW's developmental work on the hydrodynamics of ship and submarine design extended to propeller design, manoeuvrability and sea-keeping behaviour of marine vehicles.

The addition of further testing facilities between 1930-1972 enabled the works to extend their tests on models in a ship tank to all classes of battleship, cruiser, destroyer, submarine and miscellaneous vessels. Reports of these experiments were used by Naval Construction Department in the improvement of ship design and performance.

1977 Became part of the Admiralty Marine Technology Establishment

See Also


Sources of Information

  • History of MOD Innovation [1]
  • Obituary of William Froude
  • [2] National Archives