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HMS Royal Alfred (1864)

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NameRoyal AlfredExplanation
TypeCentral battery ironclad   
Launched15 October 1864
HullWooden
PropulsionScrew
Builders measure4068 tons
Displacement6707 tons
Guns18
Fate1885
Class 
Ships bookADM 135/407
Note1874 h.s.
Snippets concerning this vessels career
DateEvent
14 January 1867Commanded (from commissioning at Portsmouth) by Captain Frederick Anstruther Herbert, flagship of Vice-Admiral George Rodney Mundy, North America and West Indies
26 October 1867
- 31 August 1869
Commanded by Captain Hon. Walter Cecil Carpenter, flagship of Vice-Admiral George Rodney Mundy on the North America and West Indies station
1 September 1869
- 7 October 1870
Commanded by Captain Richard Wells, flagship of Vice-Admiral George Greville Wellesley, North America and West Indies
Extracts from the Times newspaper
DateExtract
Fr 4 April 1862No instructions have yet been received from the Admiralty for suspending the works connected with the Royal Oak, 50, armour-plated frigate, under construction at Chatham, and it is therefore probable that the plan proposed for completing the squadron of armour-plated frigates building at the several dockyards as cupola ships, on Captain Coles's principle, has been abandoned, and that the Royal Oak and the other vessels of her class will be completed simply as armour-plated ships, according to the original plan. In the meantime every effort is being made by the dockyard officials to have the Royal Oak completed and afloat during the present summer. To accomplish this every hand, with the exception of some 50 or 60 shipwrights and caulkers at work on the Racoon, 22, and the Pylades, 21, is employed on her, and from the energy which is just now being displayed little more than four months will see the first of the new description of wooden armour-covered ships afloat. By special direction of the Admiralty all the hands in the dockyard have been withdrawn from the wooden ships and placed on the two iron vessels, the Achilles and Royal Oak, which together have upwards of 1,000 shipwrights and mechanics employed on them, in addition to the hands at work in the factory and smithy preparing the materials to be used. The exterior of the Royal Oak is now completely planked in readiness to receive her armour-plates, which will be laid on a solid backing of teak and oak of 29 inches in thickness. Adjoining the slip, an extensive building is in course of erection for the reception of the machinery to be used in preparing the iron slabs in which the vessel will be encased. Unlike the Achilles, the Resistance, the Defence, and other iron vessels of that class, which are provided with projecting stems, for running down vessels, the Royal Oak and the other armour-plated ships, are almost square-built, each being constructed with what is termed a "tumble-home" stem, projecting in the slightest possible manner from the bow of the ship, thus doing away altogether with the supposition of these frigates being used as steam rams. In order to obtain additional strength for the stern-post, the screw-well usually found on board screw steamers will be partially abolished in the Royal Oak and the sister ship Royal Alfred, building at Portsmouth.
We 9 April 1862The Board of Admiralty, composed of the Duke of Somerset, Vice-Admiral the Hon. Sir F.W. Grey, K.C.B., Capt. Charles Frederick, Capt. the Hon. J.R. Drummond, C.B., and Rear-Admiral Lord Clarence Paget, C.B., the Secretary, went yesterday morning to witness some experimeats with large guns at Shoeburyness.
In addition to the iron frigate Achilles, 50, 6,079 tons, 1,250-horse power, building at Chatham dockyard, the following squadron of iron vessels are now under construction by private firms for the Admiralty, several of which are in a very advanced state - viz., the Agincourt, 50, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, building at Birkenhead; the Northumberland, 50, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, and the Valiant, 32, 4,063 tons, 800-horse power, building at Millwall; the Minotaur, 50, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, and the Orontes, 3, 2,812 tons, 500-horse power, building at Blackwall; and the Hector, 32, 4,063 tons, 800-horse power, building at Glasgow. The following iron-plated frigates are now building at the several Royal dockyards, the whole of which are intended to be afloat during the present year - viz., the Caledonia, 50, 4,045 tons, 800-horse power, at Woolwich; the Ocean, 50, 4,045 tons, 1,000-horse power, at Devonport; the Prince Consort, 50, 4,045 tons, 1,000-horse power, at Pembroke; the Royal Oak, 50, 3,716 tons, 1,000-horse power, at Chatham; and the Royal Alfred, 50, 3,716 tons, 800-horse power, at Portsmouth. in addition to the above there are no fewer than 31 line-of-battle ships and other screw steamers now on the stocks at the several dockyards, most of which are admirably adapted for conversion into shield ships, on Captain Coles's principle. Of these the Bulwark, 91 [laid down in 1859, suspended in 1861 and finally cancelled in 1873], at Chatham; the Repulse, 91, at Woolwich; the Robust, 91 [laid down in 1859, suspended in 1861 and finally cancelled in 1872], at Devonport; and the Zealous, 91, at Pembroke, are all in a very advanced state, requiring only a comparatively small outlay to plate them with iron. There are also three first-class 51-gun figates also building - viz., the Belvidera [laid down in 1860 and cancelled in 1864] at Chatham, the Tweed [laid down 1860 and cancelled in 1864] at Pembroke, and the Dryad at Portsmouth, - which are admirably adapted for conversion into armour-plated ships. They would not require the removal of any decks, as would be the case with line-of-battle ships, but would only have to be lengthened and strengthened to enable them to bear the increased weight which would be placed on them. Of the other vessels in progress several are intended to carry 22 guns and upwards. If completed as iron-cased steamers they would be larger and of greater tonnage than either the Monitor or Merrimac. The whole of the hands have been removed from the wooden ships building at the several dockyards, and are now employed on the iron-cased frigates under construction, five of which will be afloat by the end of the present year.
Ma 11 August 1862'Our Iron-Cased Fleets'.
Sa 12 November 1864The following is the list of the vessels of the Royal navy which will be armed, and are now being armed, with the new description of 300-pounder and other guns in course of issue. The figures after each vessel specify the number of guns of the description mentioned she will carry. To mount the 12-ton 300-pounders:- Bellerophon, 10; Royal Sovereign, 5; Minotaur, 4; Scorpion, 4; Wiveren, 4; Prince Albert, 4; Agincourt, 4; and Northumberland, 4. To be armed with the 6½-ton guns:- The Achilles, 20; Black Prince, 20; Warrior, 20; Lord Warden, 20; Lord Clyde, 20; Royal Oak, 20; Prince Consort, 20; Royal Alfred, 20; Caledonia, 20; Ocean, 20; Minotaur, 18 ; Agincourt, 18; Valiant, 16; Zealous, 16; Hector, 16; Defence, 10; Resistance, 10; Endymion, 6; Mersey, 4; Orlando, 4, Pallas, 4; Favourite, 4; Research, 4; Enterprise, 4; Amazon, 2; Viper, 2; and Vixen, 2. To mount the 64-pounder muzzle-loader:- The Bristol, 12; Melpomene, 12; Liverpool, 12; Severn, 12; Arethusa, 12; Phoebe, 12;. Shannon, 12; Octavia, 12; Constance, 12; Sutlej, 12; Undaunted, 12; Impérieuse, 12; Aurora, 12; Leander, 12; Bacchante, 12; Emerald, 12; Phaeton, 12: Narcissus, 12; Forte, 12; Euryalus, 12; Topaz, 12; Newcastle, 12; Liffey, 12; Immortalité, 12; Glasgow, 12; Clio, 8, North Star, 8 [laid down 1860, cancelled 1865]; Racoon, 8; Challenge[r], 8; and Menai, 8 [laid down 1860, cancelled 1864]. The following will be supplied with the 64-pounder breech-loaders:- The Scout, 8; Rattlesnake, 8; Cadmus, 8; Scylla, 8; Barossa, 8; Jason, 8; Charybdis, 8; Wolverine, 8; Pylades, 8; Orestes, 8; Pearl, 8; Pelorus, 8; Satellite, 8; Acheron, 4 [laid down 1861, cancelled 1863]; Shearwater, 4; Valorous, 4; Furious, 4; Bittern, 4 [laid down 1861, cancelled 1863]; Magicienne, 4; and Columbine, 4. A supply of the 6½-ton smooth-bore 100-pounder wrought iron guns has already been received at Chatham, and it is understood that the first supply of the 300-pounder rifled 12-ton Armstrong gun may shortly be expected at the Ordnance wharf.
Th 24 August 1865

THE VISIT OF THE FRENCH FLEET TO PORTSMOUTH.

The preparation for the entertainments to be given by the naval, civil, and military authorities at Portsmouth to the officers of the French fleet progresses very satisfactorily. The ballroom in course of construction, under the supervision of the superintending civil engineer of the dockyard, in the quadrangle of the Royal Naval College, is already partially floored and roofed in, and will be handed over to the upholsterers and decorators on the 26th inst. - that is, three days before the arrival of the fleets at Spithead from Brest, so that ample time will remain to complete all the details. The approaches to the Naval College are exceedingly good, with a wide semicircular drive for the arrival and departure of carriages. The entrance hall of the College is very spacious, and will, when properly decorated, form a most appropriate vestibule to the ballroom. The latter is being constructed, as we have already stated, in the quadrangle of the College, and is 107ft. in length by 55ft. in breadth, clear of all the upright timbers. Its height is 20ft. to the plates of the roof and 36ft. to its apex. Right and left of the ballroom from the entrance the supper tables will be arranged in the College rooms, access being gained to the latter from the ballroom by temporary broad flights of steps. At the opposite end of the ballroom to the entrance a temporary opening has been made into the College gymnasium, which will be elegantly decorated and fitted with refreshment buffets. The ballroom itself will be made to represent a vast tent, whose roof and walls are composed of the tricolour of France. The apex of the roof of this tent, and the plate line, will be marked with a gold cable four inches in diameter, to relieve the somewhat monotonous outline which would otherwise predominate. Banks of shrubs and flowering plants will be placed round the base of the hall and its approaches, while rich trophies of arms and flags will decorate the walls. Seven devices in gas will also occupy positions on the walls, and 40 candelabra of four wax lights each have also been provided for the same purpose. From the roof of the hall will hang massive chandeliers with wax lights. The orchestra is set back from the ballroom, and will not, therefore, detract from the space given. It will be a noble room; but still, with even its unusual size, the question remains, is it sufficiently large for the occasion? We ourselves doubt it, for accommodation should have been provided for thousands where it is now only being provided for hundreds. There is every probability of the "crush" at the Admiralty Ball at Portsmouth being greater even than that recently experienced at the ball given in honour of our flag at the Hôtel de Ville, Cherbourg.
On board Her Majesty's ships in Portsmouth Harbour all are eager to do a something, no matter how trifling, that may render any chance visit of their French brethren one of mutual and hearty good feeling, On board the Duke of Wellington there are, as yet, none of those extraordinary arrangements visible by which her decks will be transformed from their grim sternness of the present to the dazzling splendour they are intended to assume. Although not visible on board, however, all necessary provisions are made, and under the energetic direction of Capt. Seccombe, who bears a wonderful reputation for taste and general management in such matters, the final issue of the arrangements on board the Duke is certain to be successful. It has been suggested by some fastidious people that a ship bearing some other name than that of the military opponent of the Great Napoleon might have been selected by our Admiralty for the occasion. This, however, is sheer nonsense. Old rivalries in arms are now forgotten by both nations, or only remembered as so many pages in history which two peoples, formerly endeavouring to the uttermost to destroy each other, may now study together and with mutual benefit. Besides, is not the ship an old companion in arms of the Imperial navy, carrying as she did the flag of a British admiral in company with one bearing the tricolour of an admiral of France on the waters of the Baltic Sea? On board no ship here or elsewhere will the officers of the French navy receive a heartier welcome than on board the Duke of Wellington. Turning to the military portion of the coming fêtes, and which will necessarily be restricted, owing to the limited stay of the fleets at Spithead, if for no other cause, every precaution is being taken to render whatever manoeuvres may be decided upon by the authorities as effective as possible. Amid all this note of preparation and bustle in the naval and military camps, the civil element is not silent. A working committee, with the Mayor, Mr. R.W. Ford, at its head, is energetically employed in making complete the preparations of the citizens for the entertainment of our honoured guests. Nearly 1,500l. has already been sent in to the committee to meet the necessary expenses, but a total of 2,000l. is required for the purpose, which, however, will no doubt in good time be forthcoming. It is a most gratifying proof of the good feeling entertained by all classes to read in the subscription list the names of many county families and others living at a distance from Portsmouth. Their money has been handed in no doubt from a feeling that the entertainment of the officers of the French fleet at Portsmouth is a national rather than a local question, and that too great honour could not well be done to the guests of the occasion.
The "Governor's Green" where the civic entertainments will be given, is, as its name implies, a large and nearly square plot of green sward, and is admirably situate for the purpose. It is in close contiguity to the main street of the town, and has unusually wide approaches for entrance and exit. On two sides it is bounded by the sea face of the town ramparts, and on the others by the garrison church, monastery wall, railways, &c. The entrance to the Green from the Grand Parade will be under a triumphal arch, which, if only executed as designed, will produce a striking effect and be a credit to all concerned. Triumphal arches are, however, generally speaking, very ticklish matters to deal with. They may turn out exceedingly well, or they may prove to be excessively ridiculous, and it would therefore be unwise to venture on any prophecy relative to the one at Portsmouth. The triumphal arch passed through, the Governor's Green is fairly entered upon, and in the immediate front and on the right of the visitor, under the elm trees, on the fortifications, and by the line of railings alluded to, will be lofty poles, with bannerets, connected with festoons of evergreens and lit up by night with gas in opaque shades. On the left of the entrance are the buildings and marquees in which the entertainments, consisting of a déjeuner, promenade concert, and ball, will take place. A decorated porch of entrance leads into the first hall or apartment, circular in form, and 80ft. in diameter. From this an ante-room leads to another apartment, 140ft. in length by 40ft. in breadth. This latter is but a continuation of the main apartment in which the déjeuner will be given, a permanent building 100ft. in length by 50ft in breadth, presenting a broad vista of 240ft. in length. All will be brilliantly illuminated with gas, and decorated with choice flowering plants, evergreens, arms, and flag trophies, &c. The committee have ample space to work upon, even for the display of all the art enthusiasm available in or around Portsmouth, and there can be no doubt that all the ornamentation will be effective, in good taste, and to the entire satisfaction of both friends and guests.
The programme, so far as it has been settled at present between Admirals Drummond and Eden at the Admiralty — the two official lords on duty in town — and Admiral Sir Michael Seymour at Portsmouth, has been somewhat modified since Tuesday last, and until the Duke of Somerset and the lords now at Brest return to Portsmouth the programme will remain subject to still further modifications. At present the intentions of the Admiralty, so far as they can be ascertained, are to give a dinner on board the Duke of Wellington on the evening of the 29th, the night of the arrival of the fleet. On the following day a dinner to about 100 will be given in the ball-room of the Royal Naval College. On the next day, the 31st, a review of the troops will take place on Southsea-common in the morning, and in the afternoon and evening the civic authorities and inhabitants will entertain the French Minister of Marine and officers of the French fleet in the Governor's Green. On the 1st of September Sir Michael Seymour gives a private dinner at the Admiralty-house, and the ball and supper take place afterwards at the Naval College. Beyond this nothing definitive is known. With the Duke of Somerset and Lord Clarence Paget at the end of one set of telegraphic wires at Brest, the two lords at the Admiralty who are supposed to have the sole arrangement of the coming festivities, and with Sir Michael Seymour as the target for both parties to fire their messages at, it is impossible to say what may be the precise length or breadth of the ultimate official programme. The dockyard, arsenal, and other public establishments will, as is usual with us, be open to the inspection of the French officers every day of their stay at the port, and some return in this respect will, therefore, be made for the extraordinary courtesy and kindness shown to English officers and civilians when going over Cherbourg dockyard during the recent visit of the fleets there. The dockyard of Portsmouth could almost be stowed away in one of the basins of Cherbourg yard, and therefore, if judged by its area only, must appear contemptibly small in the eyes of Frenchmen. The stores and workshops of Portsmouth yard are all pigmies, also, compared with those of Cherbourg; but the machinery in the factory of Portsmouth yard is immeasurably superior in every respect to that in Cherbourg yard, as are also the steamhammer and forges of the smithery. The new foundry, also, is worthy of our reputation as a people that are "workers in metal;" and the pattern shop is unrivalled in any country for its collection of engineering patterns. Of iron ships there are a few that may well pass muster — the ironcased frigate Royal Alfred, fitting for carrying, 12-ton guns on her broadside; the Valiant, iron frigate, in No. 10 dock, completing for commission; the Wivern and Scorpion, Captains H. Burgoyne, V.C., and Commerell, V.C., both double-turreted ships, and each fitted to carry four 12-ton guns, at a maximum draught of water of 12ft.; the Helicon, paddle despatch-vessel, in the bow of which the officers of the Magenta and Solferino may recognise the "beak" of their own ships; the Mersey, wooden frigate, the largest and finest of her class ever constructed; and lastly, though not least important, the iron frigate Minotaur, with her beautiful hull and machinery and most abominable style of rig. To the officers of the French fleet this ship, as she now lies in dock, will be an object of great interest, and the dock also in which she lies, the only dock we have fit to show a stranger, exhibits itself also at the same time under the best possible conditions in having on its blocks one of the largest ironclads in the world. Although, therefore, Portsmouth yard is small and ill-arranged, it yet contains ships and material which will interest our visitors, and upon which we shall be glad to receive their criticism while endeavouring to return the courtesy they themselves have exhibited to us under similar circumstances.
Tu 2 January 1866The Minotaur iron frigate had her fires lit yesterday morning, preparatory to steaming out of Portsmouth harbour for Spithead and Portland, on her experimental gun-carriage testing cruise. Suddenly, however, on the steam reaching about 12lb. pressure in the boilers, one of the condensers was discovered to be seriously cracked. Steam was then let down, and, for some days at least, the Minotaur cruise must be deferred. Let the damage be less or greater than is now anticipated, it is not improbable that the Minotaur may not now be despatched on this cruise at all, as with the accident to one condenser an examination will necessarily follow into the condition of both, and this may lead to the substitution of another vessel, especially as there happens to be a very suitable one available in the Bellerophon, Capt. E. Tatham, ordered round to Portsmouth from the Medway to complete her trials of speed at the measured mile in Stoke's Bay. The accident to the Minotaur's condenser is just one of those accidents likely to occur to a ship's machinery which no ordinary precautions would apparently have prevented, and for which, therefore, no person or department can now well be blamed. In addition to the three 12½-ton guns mounted on their competitive carriages the Minotaur has also received since our notice of the ship, with the guns and carriages, in The Times of the 12th ult., one 6½-ton 7in. rifled wrought-iron muzzle-loading gun, mounted on a wooden carriage and slide of the ordinary Admiralty pattern, for experimental firing. A report upon it will be drawn up by Capt. A.C. Key, C.B., altogether independent of his report on the competitive 12½-ton competitive gun carriages. This 6½-ton gun is the weapon known a short time since as the Frederick gun, we presume as a compliment to Rear-Admiral Frederick. It is, however, in fact, the Woolwich manufactured wrought-iron coil gun fitted with a seven-inch steel tube, rifled on what is known as the Woolwich system. It has been adopted by the Admiralty as the gun of minimum calibre for the broadsides of our ironclads under the new system of armament, as the 12½-ton gun is at present fixed upon as the maximum weight for broadsides. In accordance with these arrangements the Warrior will carry 32 of the 6½-ton guns, but none of the 12½-ton guns; the Royal Alfred her formidable complement of ten of 12½ tons and four of 12½ [sic; I assume this should be '6½'] tons. The Minotaur, according to present arrangements, will only carry four of the 12½-ton guns on her broadsides, the remainder of her armament being composed of the 6½-ton guns. This apparent disproportion between the armaments of the converted wooden ship Royal Alfred and the massively iron-built Minotaur is owing to the fact that the broadside ports of the latter are only built to carry four of the larger guns, the remainder having been constructed for the smaller, and a reconstruction of the ports could only now be effected at immense cost and sacrifice of time.
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