This post presents a letter held at the National Archives from Captain John Quilliam to Sir John Barrow, Second Secretary to the Admiralty in November 1815. It highlights a lesser-known aspect of Quilliam, Nelson’s First Lieutenant in HMS Victory at Trafalgar. In the letter Quilliam describes his experience testing out a new type of ‘iron cable’ invented by Captain Samuel Brown. Brown believed wrought iron chain could replace hempen cordage both for standing rigging and ground tackle and in 1808 had taken out patents for twisted chain links, shackles and swivels based on a new method of ‘welting’ or welding the links. By the following year the navy had standardised on iron chain for the anchor cables of all new men of war and the company that he established and its successor continued to supply the navy’s chains for the next 100 years.
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