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 163,365 pages of information and 245,906 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.

Royal Gun Factory

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Part of the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich

Originally the Royal Brass Foundry.

1855 The Government decided to bring iron-gun manufacturing in-house. Administrative reform then created the Royal Gun Factory. Col. Frederick Marow Eardley-Wilmot, who had proven himself an effective administrator at the Royal Military Academy, was its first Superintendent

1855–7 Steam-driven machine shops were introduced to the Royal Gun Factory.

1856-7 A large new cannon foundry was built to make the Arsenal's first iron guns. Henry Bessemer was allowed to use the rolling mills for experiments in steelmaking. The Secretary for War, Sidney Herbert, on Armstrong's advice, rejected steel as being unsuitable for guns[1]; Bessemer believed this reflected Armstrong's protection of his company's interests in manufacturing coiled hoop guns[2]. Armstrong's design of a combined rifled barrel with breech loading and the use of coils of wrought-iron, made tubular and then heat-shrunk together under a steam hammer, was adopted.

1859 Armstrong agreed to give his patents to the Government and to move to Woolwich as Engineer of Rifled Ordnance, to act part-time as Eardley-Wilmot’s successor as Superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory, with John Anderson as resident Assistant Superintendent.

The gun foundry was remodelled to accommodate the later stages of Armstrong’s manufacturing process (it has sometimes been described as the "Armstrong Gun Factory").

1863 Armstrong resigned; the Government decided to carry on making guns at the Arsenal based on refinements by Anderson and others of Armstrong’s original invention, presented as cheaper than buying from Elswick or other contractors. Armstrong’s successor as Superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory was an artillery officer, Col. Sir F. A. Campbell. The Deputy Assistant Superintendent, Robert S. Fraser, a civilian engineer, modified Armstrong’s coil construction resulting in a design that was standardized in 1868 as the Fraser or Woolwich gun, which did prove to be cheaper.

1875 Lieut-General Younghusband was appointed superintendent

1880 Captain Eardley Maitland became superintendent

Later Captain Frank Campbell Younghusband became superintendent

By 1891 "wire coiling" had been introduced in the centre range of the foundry – gun barrels were strengthened by encircling steel wire (better understood as tape) while being turned in a huge lathe.

1899 Henry Capel Holden was appointed Superintendent.

1902 Wrought-iron gunmaking was finally discontinued in favour of steel.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Apr 16, 1879
  2. The Times, Apr 25, 1879
  • [1] The Royal Arsenal