Iron Shipbuilding, by John Grantham, fifth edition, 1868, Virtue & Co. London [ebook]


Book, embossed card covers, pp. 322 Note: this does not include the “Atlas” of engravings published separately, which if you can find a copy, will cost as much as a railway season ticket from Brighton to London…  also omitted in interests of speed and economy, 32 pages of adverts.


John Grantham (1808-1874), on leaving school assisted his father (also called John) who was employed by John Rennie on various civil engineering projects in Ireland. While there, Grantham senior introduced steam navigation to the country, with vessels operating on the Shannon.

On returning to England, the son was employed by Mather, Dixon & Co. of Liverpool, eventually becoming a partner. When that firm closed in 1843, Grantham junior began practice as a Naval Architect, being involved with the design of several iron sailing and steam ships, including Antelope, Empress Eugenie and Pacific. Grantham moved to London in 1859, and soon after, published the first edition of this work. It begins with a good concise history of early iron vessels, goes on to describe the construction of iron ships, the process of building and the tools and machines employed.

A large part of the book is taken up with detailed specifications for some 30 vessels, paddle and screw steamers, and iron sailing ships. (Some of these last were built at Bank Quay, Warrington – not a town usually associated with shipbuilding!) The specs include the thickness and dimensions of every piece of iron in each part of the hull. There is a large section dealing with Warrior and Hercules. A handful of the later vessels described were constructed in steel, indicating that wrought iron was already falling out favour, so Grantham’s book can justly be described as “the last word” on the subject of iron shipbuilding .


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