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British Industrial History

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Finch and Heath

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of Bridge Works, Chepstow

Connected with Finch and Co

1858 Exhibited Finch and Lambert's [actually Lamport (Charles Lamport)] patent iron mast for ships

1859 'THE MASTS OF THE GREAT EASTERN. The Observer of Sunday last had an article with reference to the Great Eastern, in which prominent mention is made of the iron masts manufactured for the vessel by the enterprising firm of Messrs. Finch and Heath, Chepstow. " The first things." says the writer, which arrest attention are the great iron masts, which lie upon the deck, ready for hoisting, like some fallen monumental columns. These iron masts are not altogether a new idea, for a patent was taken out for them several years since by Mr. Finch, of the celebrated firm who constructed the famous iron bridge at Chepstow for the South Wales extension of the Great Western Railway, and Mr. Lamport, and known as Finch & Lamport's patent. The Dutch have used iron masts for some years past, but prejudice — upon what ground it is not easy to say — has hitherto existed against them this country. Iron is rapidly driving hemp out of the field for cables and ropes of all kinds ; it is superseding timber in the construction of ships, and it appears strange that any objection should exist to the use of iron for masts in ships, and especially in steam vessels, where the action of the steam and smoke from the funnels must necessarily be very prejudicial to the timber. The duration of wooden masts is not more than five years, and to ordinary minds it would appear only an act of prudence when a valuable ship is built, to have masts placed in it which will last as long as the hull. Add to this very important consideration, iron masts are about one-third less in weight than wooden ones of the same dimensions: they will last four times as long, have very nearly twice the strength, and their first cost is very little above that of timber. In the case of large vessels such the Great Eastern, where immense masts are required, there would be of course great difficulty in obtaining single sticks of timber sufficiently large for the purpose, and the relative cost of iron and timber is in consequence considerably reduced. The iron masts of the Great Eastern have not, be believe, cost more than the wooden ones. One very important condition is that the upper part these iron masts have been increased in strength by adding to the thickness of the metal plates, a compensation for necessary reduction of size, which cannot be made in wooden masts. The three iron masts of the Great Eastern were designed by Mr. Brunel, and they have been constructed by Messrs. Finch and Heath, of Chepstow. These huge iron columns rise 100 feet above the upper deck, and have a diameter of three feet six inches for height of 74 feet, when they decrease gradually to two feet six inches at the cap. The whole of the outer circumference is formed of four monster plates of iron, five-eights of an inch thick, curved in the required form, and riveted together in such a manner to ensure uniformity of strength from top to bottom. The inside of these masts have what are termed 'vertical webs," formed of angle iron and cross stays," which greatly increase their strength, the cylindrical form of the masts is kept constant by discs of iron plates, which are inserted at intervals in the interior of the iron columns. The three masts are now on board, and the first of them was lifted into its place last week. Its weight above deck was about twenty-five tons ; the two others are ready for hoisting, and will be in their places in a few days. The lower part, or steps of the mast, are square, built of pieces of iron, and the one which is raised, this portion has been adapted to the purposes of condenser and water tank, which will hold several thousand gallons of water, and, being close to the stewards' offices and kitchens, will be found of great convenience.' [1]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Birmingham Journal, 23rd July 1859