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South East Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference 1990

"War and Peace:
Military Engineering in the 19th Century"

Saturday 10 March 1990, hosted by
Medway Industrial Archaeology Group

The Royal School of Military Engineering Study Centre
Brompton Barracks, Chatham, Kent

0900         Setting up displays
0930-1015 Registration and Coffee
1015-1030 Chairman's remarks - Jim Preston
1030-1115 Ship Sheds - James Sutherland
1115-1230 Concrete and the REs - JRE Hamilton-Baillie
1230-1330 Film: The Woolwich Arsenal
1430-1515 The RE as Architect - GWA Napier
1515-1545 Louis Brennan: Inventor - Ron Crowdy
1615-1715 The Longmoor Military Railway - Keith Catchpole
1715-1745 Question Time
1745-1800 Closing Remarks
                During the intervals we will be showing short video films in the main hall, including
                'Rochester upon Medway',       'Mulbeny Harbour',       'El Alamein'       and  'Save the Medway Queen'.
1800-1900 Visit to the Brook Pumping Station; Refreshments provided.

Sunday 11 March
                Site Visits:
                Chatham Historical Dockyard            Fort Amherst
                Sheerness Dockyard                        A 19th Century Fort in the Medway Estuary


Jim Preston is a local historian and author of numerous publications including 'Industrial Medway'.
Brigadier Hamilton-Baillie has retired from his second career as an academic with the Royal Military College of Science. This appointment followed a long and distinguished military service. He is Chairman of the Fortress Study Group and is an authority on historic concrete.
James Sutherland is a professional civil engineer and is past president of the Newcomen Society. His talk on Ship Sheds is based on his presidential address to the Newcomen Society.
Col Gerald Napier is the Director of the Royal Engineers Museum.
Ron Crowdy is a local historian who has made a life study of Louis Brennan.
Railway historian Keith Catchpole was trained at Longmoor but followed a career as a school master. He is now in retirement but gives lectures on railway topics on behalf of the Ffestiniog Railway Company.

Ship Sheds
RJM Sutherland
Between about 1814 and 1856 virtually all the ship-building slips and docks in the naval dockyards in Britain were covered with massive roofs with main spans or 25-30 metres; forty or more were built. Few private yards followed suit and only a small number of such roofs were built in other countries, during this period.
The primary reason for these covers was to prevent dry rot in timber ships which might be on the stocks for several years. The result was the establishment of long-span roofing techniques In Britain which were then exploited by the railways, rather than, as is generally thought, introduced by them.
The first wave of these roofs was constructed in timber and mainly due to Sir Robert Seppings. The second and more significant wave was based on iron and followed the passing of control of the naval dockyards to the Royal Engineers 1837. The design of these new style roofs was the result of a most constructive cooperation throughout the 1840s between far-sighted officers in charge of the dockyards and entrepreneurial contractors like, Fox Henderson & George Baker. This stage was followed after 1850 by a short period of a very advanced 'in house' design, again in iron, under Colonel Godfrey Greene.
It was the iron technology, on which these roofs were based, which was the cause of their demise. With the introduction of iron hulls for ships, mainly from 1860, the need for covers vanished. They became an encumbrance and most were removed. However, twelve of these roofs remain of which eight are in Chatham.

Concrete and the Royal Engineers in the 19th Century
Brig JRE Hamilton-Baillie
Nineteen articles on concrete in the Professional Papers of the Royal Engineers during the 19th Century, starting with advice on the experiments with lime concrete 1834. Comments on walls in Spain, and river walls at Woolwich and Chatham,
Col Pasley's book 1838, describes Smeaton's cement and Parker's "Roman Cement", Pasley's search for "Artificial Cement". Very near to making true Portland Cement. Only heard of Joseph and William Aspdin in 1851. His disapproval of cement in concrete. Casemates to be made in brickwork in cement mortar and rendered with the same. He also experimented with reinforced brick beams but reinforced concrete not considered as lime matrix gave inadequate bond. Failure of reinforced brick beam at the Great Exhibition.
Paper in 1857 by Captain HRD Scott on his "Selenitic Cement", By 1861, Scott recommends cement concrete, in Portland, but preferably his own, cement, for the first time challenging Pasley's ruling.
Newhaven fort 1866; first major work in mass concrete: materials, methods and results. Broken brick aggregate for concrete in tension.
Meeting at the Civils 1871: strength of Portland Cement improving and now recommended for mass concrete and precast blocks. Scott spoke, warning against using Portland Cement mortar stronger than the bricks it was to join.
1873: Sappers using Portland cement concrete for Portland Breakwater fort and at the Cork Harbour defences. Mechanical mixing and movable shuttering illustrated; the present good state of these works. Cavity wall construction.
Scott now a Colonel, took over the construction of the Albert Hall on the death of Captain Fowke; all plaster there is "Selenitic".
Chatham Forts start in 1870s the hesitant use of concrete, eg brick vaults on early work at Borstal, but when restarted in the 1880s high quality concrete vaults at Borstal and the Twydale Redoubts all in concrete.
By 1887 accurate batching and cube testing recommended.
Reinforced work only considered, in the last of the papers, at the very end of the century.

The Woolwich Arsenal
Wesley Harry
Woolwich Dockyard was founded by Henry VIII and became the most important shipbuilding Centre in England In Tudor times; the origins of the nearby Royal Arsenal can also be traced back to the 16th century. Woolwich Arsenal was the country's greatest centre of arnements manufactured up to the last war, and as such was perhaps the biggest single industrial site in the country for three centuries. During the first world war over 90,000 people were employed at the Arsenal; the film we shall see dates from that time. The film, which is in two parts, is introduced by Wesley Harry who is Official Historian of the Royal Arsenal.

Royal Engineer Architects IN THE 19th Century
Col GWA Napier MA
The education and training of Royal Engineers at Woolwich and Chatham enabled them to play a leading part in the professional circles of the nineteenth century. Not only were they enabled to keep up with the hectic pace of scientific discovery but in many Instances they themselves led the field. Their skills were particularly in demand in the developing world when Britain was establishing her Empire.
A recent study has identified thirty Royal Engineers who made particularly significant contributions in this field, singling out eight for particular mention. Their work covered experiments in new materials, the application of materials to building technology, and the development of designs both for military purposes and for other government departments. Their legacy includes many outstanding buildings overseas and, at home the Royal Albert Hall symbolizes the involvement of the Corps in the South Kensington complex developed by the Department of Science and Act in the third quarter of the century.
Thus they made a significant contribution as individuals. As a Corps they increased the general knowledge of new materials and they greatly advanced the work of a number of government departments.

Louis Brennan: Inventor
Ron Crowdy
Louis Phillip Brennan CB, was born in County Mayo in 1852 and emigrated to Australia at the age of 9. He conceived the idea of a dirigible torpedo in 1874 and was given assistance and encouragement to develop the weapon by the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Government. In 1880 he came to England to set up and run the Brennan Torpedo Company; further development was carried out by the Royal Engineers and the weapons manufactured at Gillingham. Exclusive rights to the torpedo were sold to the British Government in 1887 for the remarkable sum of £110,000 thus ensuring a sizeable personal fortune to Louis Brennan who remained in his post as Superintendent of the Torpedo Company. The Brennan Torpedo was installed at numerous coastal defence fortifications around the British Empire; Brennan himself lived at Gillingham and devoted his time and diminishing fortune to other more-or-less successful inventions. He was fascinated by the gyroscope and spent considerable time and money in promoting gyroscopically stabilised monorail systems. There was a large demonstration monorail system at Gillingham; he later built and drove a two-wheeled motor car which an ungrateful motor industry, by that time heavily committed to the four wheel variety, refused to adopt. His helicopter, conceived during the first World War, was taken up by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough with the encouragement of WS Churchill. Some short hops, including stationary, hovering flight were made but the experiment was abandoned in 1926. Louis Brennan continued to work on other inventions right up to his death at the age of 80 in 1932.
Ron Crowdy.s talk will follow the story of the design and manufacture of the Brennan Torpedo, the world's first practical guided weapon. He will also give a brief insight into the extraordinary ingenuity and variety of Brennan's other inventions.

The Longmoor Military Railway
K Catchpole, Lecturer to the Ffestinlog Railway Company
The presenter served as a railway sapper throughout the second World War and trained at Longrnoor in 1940 and again in 1943. The lecture contains slides of almost all the official pictures to come out of Longmoor and a personal narrative links the story together. Details are shown of the original choice of site in Hampshire, the early constructional details at Hogmoor, the formation of the WIMR, right through two world wars to the formation of the LMR.
Great details of the locomotive stud over the entire period are shown as well as full constructional views illustrating the development of this huge training railway.