English guns for the Sardinian frigate Carlo Alberto 1853

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    Aldo Antonicelli

    The Kingdom of Sardinia frigate Carlo Alberto was built in 1851-1853 by the Smith shipyard at Newcastle.
    In a document which I have located at the Archivio di Stato di Torino (Public Record Office in Turin), it is stated that the ordnance for the new frigate was bought from a “Thomas Hood & C.” firm. The order was for 44 guns, of which 20 were to be 32pdr of 8 feet length and 42hundred-weight (which make them, I guess, of the Monk “C” pattern); one was to be a 20cm (8inch) of 10 feet length and 95 cwt (which makes it a 68pdr/95cwt pivot gun of the Dundas pattern).
    Total cost for the 44 guns was £3049.
    Does any member have any information about the Thomas Hood company?

    J. D. H

    From Joe Clarke’s Building Ships on the North East Coast: a Labour of Love, Risk and Pain [2 vols, Whitley Bay 1997]:
    Carlo Alberto (Ex-Sardinian screw-frigate launched 1853, 8 x 160mm ML rifles, 10 x 108pdr shell guns, 32 x 72pdr shell guns, 7 small guns (note: The ship may have been re-armed later).
    She was built by T & W Smith in a covered
    berth at St Peters, the first covered berth on the River Tyne. She was the largest wood vessel ever built [on the Tyne] and was launched on 23 May 1853. She ended up on a sandbank on the south shore when a warp broke but got off unharmed. She was a three-decker pierced for 50 guns.
    She was 245 feet extreme length. 50 feet breadth and 32 feet deep.
    It was necessary to dredge 200,000 tons [of silt]out of the Tyne to create a special channel to enable the frigate to reach Shields harbour – the dredging cost £1,600. She was docked for coppering at Shields on 23 June. Four weeks later she was taken to Peggy’s Hole where she waited six months for her engines made by Stephensons.
    The Carlo Alberto sailed on 20 February 1854 for Woolwich to be armed there.
    From Napoleonic times until at least the late 1850s there was a firm of gun manufacturers called William Hood at Earl Street, Blackfriars, London who had the ability and capacity to manufacture the guns mentioned in the enquiry. They were approved government contractors. In the firm there was also a Charles Hood. There is no mention of a Thomas Hood Company in Kelly’s London Trade Directory for 1854 or 1855. It would seem probable that William Hood was the firm responsible for supplying the guns to the Carlo Alberto. A useful reference is A N Kennard’s Gunfounding and Gunfounders: a directory of cannon founders from the earliest times to 1850, London and New York 1986.

    Aldo Antonicelli

    David, thank you for your reply. The reference to Kennard’s book will be very useful to me.
    After I posted my enquiry I have located other documents referring to the guns bought by the Sardinian government in 1853 which helped to identify more precisely the firm. The casting of the guns was contracted to “Thomas and Charles Hood” founders of Low Moor.
    The Sardinian emissary Galli della Mantica, a naval officer who was surveying the building of the Carlo Alberto and signed the contract for the casting of the guns, wrote about this foundry:
    “…it was the one which has the best reputation for the high quality of the iron ore it uses, and it provides the English Government with almost all the ordnance it needs…”

    Different from what I mistakenly stated in my previous post, the order was for 4 x 68pdr, 95cwt (4824kg) guns and 40 x 8inch, 65cwt (3301kg) shell guns. Those guns were intended partly for the Carlo Alberto and partly for other frigates.
    The original armament of the Carlo Alberto was:
    Main deck:
    14 x 20cm shell guns (the 8inch,65cwt Millar shell guns noted above);
    16 x 40P N°1: they were old 32pdr, 56cwt (9feet-6inches long) Blomefields.
    Upper deck:
    1 x 80P pivot gun(the 68pdr, 95cwt Dundas’ pattern noted above);
    20 x 40P N°2; those were new guns contracted in 1853 by the Sardinian Government from the Swedish Warhendorff foundries of Akër after the pattern of the Monk’s C 32pdr, 42cwt.
    nb: the P means that the calibre is in Piedmontese pounds.

    The new 32pdr. guns were ordered from the Swedish firm because the prices asked by the Low Moor firm were deemed too high and because of political and commercial connections with the Swedish Kingdom; but as the Swedish foundry was not able to cast such heavy guns as the 68pdr. and 8inch shell guns, they had to be ordered from the Hood firm.
    As for the armament quoted in Joe Clarke’s Building Ships on the North East Coast: a Labour of Love, Risk and Pain, it seems it may refer to the Carlo Alberto armament at the time of the battle of Lissa (1866), but it seems a little off the mark, because at this time she was armed with:
    2 x 160mm ML, rifled, hooped guns;
    6 x 160mm Ml, rifled guns;
    6 x 20cm (8inch) SB shell guns;
    24 x 40P (32pdr) N°1 SB guns;
    12 x 40p (32pdr) N°2 SB guns.

    From 1874, she was used as a gunnery training ship and often rearmed with new guns of different calibres and patterns.

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