This year, the 150th anniversary of the commissioning of HMS Warrior, gives us an opportunity to celebrate a Portsmouth man who did so much to make the revolutionary new ship a reality.
He was also involved in many key developments in the transition from sail to steam. Though recognised by historians as ‘one of the greatest engineers of the nineteenth century’, few people have heard of Thomas Lloyd.
Born in Portsea in 1803, Lloyd was educated at Portsmouth Grammar School. At that time, grammar schools (as the name suggests) were intended for the teaching of classical languages, and, at Portsmouth, the curriculum comprised Greek and Latin, along with ‘the principles and religion of the Established Church of England’.
With this character-forming grounding, Lloyd appears to have progressed to 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 propellers and is personally attributed as being responsible for the Royal Navy’s lead in screw propulsion.
He became friends with the greatest of Victorian engineers, Portsmouth-born Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and helped 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 Warrior, 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 died in 1875. Along with Isaac Watts, he is credited as being ‘amongst the greatest of warship designers’.