Reply To: Coppering the wooden walls

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Malcolm Lewis

    In reply to my query Tony Beales says that Bellerophon was recoppered four times between 1800 and 1810, confirming the frequency and high cost of maintaining the hulls of the fleet.
    Arthur Bugler, Victory: building, restoration and repair, (HMSO 1966), page 167, refers to coppering Victory in 1780 using: ‘4ft x 14inch No.40 gauge (28oz. per square foot) sheets, each weighing 8lbs.’
    Brian Lavery, The Ship of the Line, volume 2, (1984), page 116, refers to 32oz. plate used: ‘on parts most vulnerable to wear such as the bows’; 28oz. plate being used elsewhere. What would the equivalent thicknesses be?
    With the demand for copper sheet from the Royal Navy, production at the Parys Mountain mine in Anglesey expanded rapidly. In the days when water was the only means of transport for minerals and bulk materials the logistics of moving copper ore to the smelting and rolling mills in Holywell, Flintshire must have been considerable; also the subsequent supply of sheet to the Royal dockyards, mainly on the Thames and the south coast.
    I believe the French navy in the late 18th century followed the British practice of coppering. How did France meet the needs for copper sheet?
    It is interesting to be reminded that iron ships were also coppered. I cannot see any reference to Warrior being sheathed in this way but the Global Security website:, accessed 8.1.10, notes that the iron screw-frigate Inconstant was coppered from new in 1868/9.
    From 1889 onwards the British Admiralty copper-sheathed vessels for foreign waters. Only with the development of successful anti-fouling paint at the end of the 19th century did copper and other forms of sheathing apparently cease.