HC Deb 24 April 1855 vol 137 cc1728-30

said, he would beg to ask the hon. Gentleman the Clerk of the Ordnance whether the building for the Lancaster shot manufactory at Woolwich was erected by Messrs. Fox and Henderson without the supervision of an officer of the Royal Engineer department; and, if so, what was the reason for adopting such a course? also, whether that work has been performed, in respect to construction and materials, to the entire satisfaction of the Ordnance, and whether an officer of the Royal Engineer department has been directed to examine and report upon the same?


, in reply, said, that in the month of November last, on account of reports that had been received from the East by the Government, it was considered desirable to increase very largely the manufacture of Lancaster shells. He had communicated with Mr. Nasmyth on the subject, who had placed at the disposal of the Government his great works, but, on consultation with the Engineer Department at Woolwich, it was found impossible, in consequence of the absence of certain things, that the work could be carried on in Mr. Nasmyth's factory. They, therefore, found themselves obliged to erect the establishment at Woolwich to which the hon. and gallant gentleman had alluded. The plans were prepared by the inspector of machinery, in conjunction with Messrs. Fox, Henderson, and Co. They were submitted to the commanding officer of Royal Engineers at Woolwich, Colonel Foster, who declared that upon the whole, considering the rapidity with which the building had to be erected, he considered the price to be a fair one. The works were accordingly commenced in the course of December, and within a few days afterwards Colonel Foster called upon him and informed him that, in his opinion, if the materials brought upon the ground were used, and if the building were constructed in the way Messrs. Fox, Henderson, and Co. proposed, it would not stand. But Colonel Foster informed him also that if a guarantee were given by Messrs. Fox and Henderson that the building would stand even for six months, he was quite sure the building might be considered to be a permanent one, in consequence of the great force of the Nasmyth's hammers, and the great amount of machinery that would be set to work from the moment that the works were put in operation. He (Mr. Monsell) accordingly sent to Sir Charles Fox, who gave the guarantee required entirely to Colonel Foster's satisfaction, and the building was proceeded with; and in two months from the day of the commencement the first shell was forged. He might mention that the building covered 3,000 yards, was 240 feet long, and 180 feet broad. The factory had been in operation for some time, and had been working very well; but on account of certain representations made, chiefly with regard to the firebricks, Major General Hardinge, of the Royal Engineers, was requested to go to Woolwich, to inspect the building, and to report upon it. His report was in some respects unsatisfactory, and it was referred to Sir Charles Fox; and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would, when the reply of Sir Charles Fox was received, put another question, he (Mr. Monsell) would be happy to communicate to him the result. All he could then say was, that the building was working perfectly well, that it had stood the severe test to which it was exposed, and, so far as he could learn, the works appeared to answer the purpose for which they were intended. In the first instance the building was to some extent under Colonel Foster's superintendence; but after the guarantee was given by Messrs. Fox, Henderson, and Co., it ceased to be under Colonel Foster's superintendence, and Messrs. Fox, Henderson, and Co. having given the guarantee, they had the undivided responsibility of the erection of the building.

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