Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,152 pages of information and 245,599 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

HMS Terror (1856)

From Graces Guide

Terror was one of three iron-hulled armoured floating batteries ordered during the Crimean War to follow the slightly earlier wooden-hulled Aetna Class Ironclad Floating Battery. See also HMS Erebus (1856) and HMS Thunderbolt (1856).

Yesterday afternoon, the third and last of the monster floating batteries ordered by the goverinment at the beginning of the year, was launched from the flourishing and enterprising iron ship-building yard of Palmer Brothers, of Jarrow. The three firms who entered into contract with the government in January last, each to complete the work assigned them by April, were Samuda Brothers, of London ; Messrs R. Napier, of Glasgow ; and Palmer Brothers, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and since then they have all been finished end launched within a few days of each other. The Erebus was launched on Saturday, in the Clyde ; the Thunderer on Tuesday, in the Thames ; and the Terror on Thursday, in the Tyne. The intention of government, had the war continued, was to have placed these batteries among the fleet of gun boats, obviously with the hope of coming to close quarters at Cronstadt, had an attack been rendered expedient; but it is fortunately ordained otherwise for the present. One thing, however, is clear to all who had an opportunity of examining this huge and formidable Leviathan of the deep - and seeing one gives a correct idea of the three) - that a more destructive agent of war has never been devised ; and, that the launch of such a battery must form an epoch in the application of iron in naval warfare. Beauty of design and fine model, hitherto the distinguishing feature of iron vessels, were in this instance totally disregarded; and bulk, strength, durability, and resistance, bidding defiance to all assailants, have been substituted. Looking at her form externally, her appearance carries with it something like what her name indicated, viz., Terror: and, as to her internal preparations and arrangements for destructive warfare of the fiercest and deadliest nature, with due regard for the protection of the lives of her crew, she undoubtedly outrivals all in naval architecture. All that science and ingenuity could devise, combined with the untiring sinews of the men, who toiled from night to morn to complete her, has evidently been in requisition with the object once contemplated of testing the stronghold of the Autocrat, and to show him that what England could not do with the. broadside of her invincible wooden walls, in consequence of the want of depth of water, the fleet of gun-boats and floating batteries would accomplish. A timely concession, and ultimately terms of peace have, however, prevented the deadly contest; and, as to their future use, time only will determine.

'Six o'clook was appointed for the launch, but long before that time, some thousands of spectators lined the shores of the river on each side adjacent to the place: while numberless steamers, crowded with passengers, almost blocked up the channel of the river. Punctuality was the order of the day, for, after the lapse of a few minutes beyond the time fixed upon, the stupenduous piece of naval art glided peacefully and majestically into the water, amidst the cheers of the assembled multitude and the firing of guns; the ceremony of christening her "The Terror," being ably performed by Mrs George Palmer.

'It is stated, that since the commencement of the battery, on the 7th January, until the launch, upwards of 1000 men have been employed daily, in her construction. Her engine and boilers are fitted within her; by Saturday her steam will be up, and, it is expected, that she will be on her way to Portsmouth.

'The following is a brief description of the floating battery:-
The Terror is 2000 tons burthen, and about 190 feet in length, in breadth 48 feet 6 inches, depth 18 feet 6 inches. Spoon bowed, framed and plated like an ordinary iron ship. Outside of the pleating, planks of teak, 6 inches in thickness, are bolted, and over these are plates of iron 4 inches thick. This sheathing of wood and iron is expected to be proof against shot or shell. The form of the vessel is very peculiar, having great breadth of beam, and being very shallow in proportion to the breadth, and this is continued uniformly almost from the bow to the stern. The sides stand out, but the bottom is nearly flat, so as to make it float on a small draught of water, to enable her to draw up close under the walls of a fortress. The beams forming the upper or weather deck are fitted close to each other, and are exceedingly strong. The deck planks are of teak, covered with thick iron plates, shot and shell proof. The beams of the lower or fighting deck are also very strong, fitted close to each other, and planked with oak; and this department of the vessel is ventilated by air tubes, supplied by fanners, driven by donkey engines in the engine-room. These fanners will be of great service in clearing away the smoke, and keeping the atmosphere in a cooling temperature for the men at the guns. As to the men appointed to keep a look-out on the weather deck, they are sheltered from shot in small round-houses, made of strong plate iron, placed on the weather deck. Gutta pereha tubes enable the look-outs to communicate from these houses to the pilot or steersman, the steering gear being placed on the fighting deck. The officers' cabins are also on the fighting deck, the fittings of which are portable, and can easily be taken down, or hooked to the beams above with the greatest facility. Underneath the fighting deck are placed the magazines, shell and store-rooms, all of which are fitted up in the same manner as in ships of war. The rudder is peculiarly shaped for steering the vessel in deep water, being made to hang downwards below the vessel's keel or bottom when necessary. A screw engine of 200-horee power, of high-pressure, by Messrs Napier, of Glasgow, supplied by steam from four strong circular boilers, will propel the Terror. The following are the mechanical particulars of the Terror:-
Draft of water forward ..... 5ft 6in
Ditto aft...... 7ft 2in
Bow port from water ..... 7ft 10in
Midship port ditto ..... 6ft 6in
Stern port ditto .....6ft 3in

'As to her armament, it is to be of the most ponderous and destructive material, and she is pricked for 30 guns.' [1]

May 1856 'Launch of another Floating Battery.—
The Terror, the last of the floating gun-batteries contracted for by the Government in January last, was launched from the building yard of Messrs. Palmer, Brothers, at Jarrow, on the Tyne, on Thursday evening, the 24th ult. She is of 2,000 tons burden, framed and plated like an ordinary iron ship; outside the plating come planks, of teak, and near the teak-wood plates of iron four inches thick. The gun-deck will mount twenty guns of the largest calibre, and the deck will be ventilated by air tubes, supplied by fanners in the engine-room, driven by a donkey-engine. The vessel will be propelled by engines of 200-horse power, high pressure. The Messrs. Napier, Glasgow, are fitting out the machinery. She was commenced in the early part of January, and contracted to be delivered to the Government on the first of May. About 900 men have been engaged building the vessel.'[2]

November 1856 'Great Gunnery Experiment.
The Terror, sixteen guns, floating battery, has been towed down from Chatham, and berthed alongside the floating coal depot in Saltpan Reach, for the purpose of being coaled, preparatory to her trial. It is ordered that the trial shall take place off the Garrison Point Battery, where she can ride her anchors afloat at a distance of 600 yards, or nearer if required. The heaviest guns on the battery (sixty-eight's) and other powerful calibre are to be brought to bear upon her to decide her powers of resistance. A considerable staff of naval and military officials have received orders be in attendance. This trial will be one of a truly interesting nature, as it regards future military aud naval operations upon stronghold batteries on shore.'[3]

In the event, the trials were cancelled.

June 1857 'The floating battery Terror, 16 guns, has been taken into No. 3 dry dock at Sheerness for the purpose of a survey being held on her. She is being rigged with all possible despatch. [4]

August 1857 'Our files from Bermuda are dated 22nd of July. Her Majesty's floating battery Terror (a powerful steam vessel with a heavy armament) had arrived from England, and was to be stationed at the islands. [5]


1857 'Captain Frederick Hutton has at length got his flagship at Bermuda, the Terror, 16, screw floating battery. This formidable vessel of war will be no mean protection to the valuable Naval Establishment of Bermuda, of whicb Captain Hutton is the Superintendent. .... The Devastation, 6, paddle, Captain Marshall, in company with the Terror, floating screw battery, arrived at Bermuda October 13th, from England, and at Halifax October 21st.'[6]

Armour Trials

Note: The following information relates to the trials of 4-inch thick wrought iron plate of the type used to armour the several floating batteries in 1855-6, not specifically HMS Terror. Improvements in the production of the 4.5-inch iron plate destined for HMS Warrior showed much better results. It was not known at the time that the impact strength of the plates could reduce markedly with reducing temperature.[7] [8]. Neither is it known whether this affected the various tests. The early tests were carried out in January (1856), while the Warrior-type material was tested in October (1861).

With a view of obtaining more positive confirmation of the resistance afforded by the plates of iron which form the outer casing of our newly-constructed floating batteries, a bulkhead, 14 feet by 12, has been erected in Woolwich Arsenal marshes, for the purpose of carrying out some experiments connected therewith. The bulkhead was composed of solid timber, similar to those of a ship’s hull firmly bolted together, so as to consolidate a depth of 1 ft. 8 inches, and faced with four sheets of rolled and hammered iron, full four inches thick. The butt thus constructed was well secured by a number of strong spurs, and fixed at angle of 8 degrees in the most appropriate locality, selected for the purpose, in the practising range in the vicinity of the Arsenal. Lord Panmure had expressed his intention of being present, as well as Sir B. Hawes and Mr. Peek They were not, however, in attendance. Independently of the members of the select committee of the Arsenal who were present were Rear- Admiral Sir George Sartorious, Captain Crawford Caffin, C.B., Director-General of Naval Artillery, and new-appointed Director-General of Stores; Mr. Watts, R.N., Assistant Surveyor of the Navy, Colonel Lefroy, R.A ; General Cator, R.A.; Captain Younghusband, R.A.; Captain Campbell, R.A.; Colonel Anderson, R.H.A.; Professor Wheatstone, F.R.S., &c. From the importance attached to the experiment, a thorough test was ordered to be applied. Twenty-four rounds were successively fired from one of the heaviest guns, a 68 pounder, weighing 95 cwt, and charged with powder and an 8 inch shot. The experiment at the commencement was tested over a range of 600 yards, which was subsequently reduced to 400 yards. Fifteen shot were of cast and nine of wrought-iron. The effect produced by the former on the iron coating was scarcely perceptible, except when it struck the rolled sheets, and then no further than slightly skinning the surface in the immediate spot struck. The nine wrought iron shots were each flattened by the force of the contact, and fell to the ground without making any visible impression on the surface of the target. The cast iron shots, being broken into fragments, fell harmlessly to the ground ; the last, however, penetrated the iron coating, and remained partially embedded in the woodwork. The result consequently rests thus:- Out of the 24 experimental discharges 21 effected no damage, two fell wide of the mark, and one pierced the target.'[9]

On the other hand.....

December 1856 'The Floating Batteries.—
On the 17th inst. experiments were made at the Government practice range, Woolwich, in the presence of the select committee of Royal Artillery officers, in order to test the resistance of timber encased with 4-inch iron plates, the combined substance being exactly equal to that of the floating batteries. The result proved that these vessels would not be able to endure a heavy cannonade of 68-pounders. A target composed of timber and iron plates, and weighing thirty tons, was subjected in the first place to fourteen rounds of 68-pounders, fired from a distance of 600 yards. The cannonade splintered the timber, and ten rounds were then fired at a distance of 400 yards. The result was entirely destructive to the timber-work, and the iron plates made by the new rolling process were splintered and broken. The last shot fired went completely through the target, timber and iron included. The iron plates made by hammer were found the most cohesive and enduring.[10]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Newcastle Courant - Friday 25 April 1856
  2. Westmorland Gazette - Saturday 3 May 1856
  3. Westmorland Gazette - Saturday 22 November 1856
  4. Isle of Wight Observer, 6 June 1857
  5. Liverpool Mercury, 24 August 1857
  6. Hampshire Advertiser, 7 November 1857
  7. 'Warrior' by Andrew Lambert, Conway Maritime Press, 1987, pp.67-71
  8. 'Before the Ironclad' by David K. Brown, Seaforth Publishing, 1990
  9. North Devon Journal - Thursday 25 December 1856
  10. Essex Standard - Wednesday 31 December 1856