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News > OP updates > The Iron Lady and the Old Portmuthian

The Iron Lady and the Old Portmuthian

18 Oct 2022
OP updates
HMS Warrior at sunset
HMS Warrior at sunset

One of the first sights to greet visitors to Portsmouth alighting at the Harbour station is HMS Warrior, moored alongside its Dockyard jetty. This time of year it is especially resplendent at sunset when murmurations of starlings begin and end their flights on its rigging. 

The ship has become one of Portsmouth's major tourist attractions since its arrival in 1987, taking its place in the Dockyard alongside HMS Victory and the Mary Rose. One Old Portmuthian - recognised by historians as "one of the greatest engineers of the nineteenth century" - played a vital role in making the revolutionary ship a reality, though few people have heard of him.

Thomas Lloyd was involved in many key developments in the transition from sail to steam. Born in Portsea in 1803, he was educated at Portsmouth Grammar School. At that time, grammar schools were intended for the teaching of classical languages, and, at Portsmouth, the curriculum was comprised of of Greek and Latin, along with “the principles and religion of the Established Church of England”. With this grounding, Lloyd appears to have progressed to Mr John Neave’s Academy in Portsea which prepared young men for the Royal Naval and Military Colleges.

Lloyd then enrolled at the School of Naval Architecture in the Dockyard where his father was an instructor, graduating in 1826. His subsequent meteoric career spanned the navy’s industrial revolution. In 1831 he took charge of Marc Brunel’s block-making machinery and went on to the Woolwich Steam Factory which was to become the navy’s engineering development centre.

Lloyd was heavily involved in the design of the first warships driven by screw propellors and the Royal Navy’s international lead in screw propulsion is attributed to him. He became friends with the greatest of Victorian engineers, Portsmouth-born Isambard Kingdom Brunel (alas not an OP), and assisted him in the trials of the SS Great Britain, the world’s first screw propelled, ocean-going, wrought iron ship.

In 1847, Lloyd became the first Chief Engineer of the Royal Navy. In 1856, he suggested the use of solid armour plates to protect ships from artillery, an idea that was adopted and used for the first time on the Warrior in 1860, revolutionising naval warfare. Lloyd was responsible for the machinery in the ship, and worked closely with the Chief Constructor, Isaac Watts, on the design, though their relationship appears not to have been an easy one.

Shortly before he retired, Lloyd was active in proposals to use fuel oil in ships, though the technology at that time was not advanced enough for this to be put into practice successfully. Lloyd was awarded the CB in 1868, retired the following year and died in 1875. Along with Isaac Watts, Thomas Lloyd is credited as being “amongst the greatest of warship designers”.

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