Reply To: Coppering the wooden walls

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Malcolm Lewis

    July Edgerton in her Turner – The Fighting Temeraire, National Gallery, London 1995, pages 40-45, notes that Beatsons of Rotherhithe bought the Temeraire for £5,530 in 1838 for breaking, which took some 10 years. They sold back: ‘two loads of copper sheathings, pintles, braces, nails etc to the Admiralty for £3000’.
    I presume all the ship breakers did this, but did the Royal ship yards recover the copper themselves or would this have been done by outside smelters? From what we have discovered, the copper sheathing only had a useful life of some 2-4 years so the sheathing removed by the breakers could not just have been used again on sea-going vessels.
    I have counted some twenty five private yards on the Thames, the Medway and Essex rivers that built Ships-of-the Line (the Admiralty was rigorous in selecting builders), but I do not think any had dry docks. Maintenance of the naval fleet such as coppering and repairs would appear to have only been done by the Royal Dockyards.
    It is somewhat surprising that ship repairing of naval vessels was not done by private yards, as ships needed constant attention and in peacetime all major new builds were done by the Government yards. Maybe there were capital restraints which prevented private yards building dry docks.
    It would be interesting if any member could comment on this please.