Reply To: Pickling Pond at Chatham Dockyard

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Wayne Tripp

    I believe that the above two orders are referring to separate concerns. The bending of planks for the hull was a difficult undertaking, given the size (length to some 30 feet, width of 7 to 14 inches and thickness to 7 inches). The steaming method was developed to both make this process quicker and more effective. It would appear from the first order above that the tank was to be used in order to use salt water for the steaming as opposed to fresh, though to what degree the salt would be contained in the steam is an interesting question.

    The pickling ponds, on the other hand, were intended for structural timbers (particularly futtocks and floors) that were vulnerable to dry rot. The impregnation of these timbers with salt is said to have significantly increased the durability of the timbers. There are many reports of ships rotting rapidly through the use of green or unseasoned and unsalted timbers for the frames.

    A good description of the method in use and a suggestion for improvement to the method at Deptford can be found in Cay, R. 1722. An Account of the Manner of Bending Planks in His Majesty’s Yards at Deptford, Etc. by a Sand-Heat, Invented by Captain Cumberland. By Robert Cay, Esq; Philosophical Transactions (1683-1775) 32: 75–78.