Chatham Dockyard, 1815-1865. The Industrial Transformation

Vol 154 (2009), P. MacDougall

By the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the seven home dockyards of the British Royal Navy employed a workforce of nearly 16,000 men and some women. On account of their size, dockyards add much to our understanding of developing social processes as they pioneered systems of recruitment, training and supervision of large-scale workforces. From 1815-1865 the make-up of those workforces changed with metal working skills replacing wood working skills as dockyards fully harnessed the use of steam and made the conversion from constructing ships of timber to those of iron. The impact on industrial relations and on the environment of the yards was enormous.

Concentrating on the yard at Chatham, the book examines how the day-to-day running of a major centre of industrial production changed during this period of transition. The Admiralty decision to build at Chatham the Achilles, the first iron ship to be constructed in a royal dockyard, placed that yard at the forefront of technological change. Had Chatham failed to complete the task satisfactorily, the future of the royal dockyards might have been very different.

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About Philip MacDougall

Philip MacDougall, a former lecturer in economic history at the University of Kent, is a founder member of the Navy Dockyards Society, editor of the Society’s Transactions, and the author or editor of a number of books on maritime history. He specialises in the history of north Kent and the Chichester area, as well as in the history of both British and foreign dockyards.

Publications include:

• The Chatham Dockyard Story (1981)
• Royal Dockyards (1982)
• Chatham Dockyard in Old Photographs (1994)
• Chatham Dockyard, 1815-1865 (Navy Records Society, 2009)
• The Naval Mutinies of 1797 (with A V Coats, 2011)
• Chatham Dockyard: The Rise and Fall of a Military Industrial Complex (2012)
• London and the Georgian Navy (2013)