Dockyard School History

Naval Architecture School Proposal

Source: Navy Estimate - Hansard Report HC Deb 29 February 1864 vol 173 cc1280-315

LORD ROBERT MONTAGU wished to know what had been done towards the establishment of a Royal Naval College?

LORD CLARENCE PAGET said, that it was intended to establish a School of Naval Architecture. The Admiralty were desirous that the school should be open, not only to the pupils of the dockyard schools, but also to the public. With regard to the former, it was intended to choose some of the most intelligent and better educated youths among the dockyard apprentices, and to teach them the higher branches of mathematics. These youths would form a considerable portion of the Admiralty pupils of the new institution, and some of them would, it was hoped, become the future master shipwrights and draughtsmen of the Royal dockyards. All the advantages of the school would be open, however, to the public on payment of a fixed Bum. The school would be placed under the Science and Art Department at Kensington, where apartments would be provided. Lord Granville would undertake the charge of it, with proper officers under him, and that would be a guarantee that the system of education required for the Admiralty students would be properly carried out. He did not wish to express too sanguine an opinion, but he had great hopes of the success of the proposed institution. It was proposed to ask for £2,300 this year, which would pay for preparing the rooms, and also for two lecturers and instructors. The Admiralty did not propose to put more than thirty students into the school at first.

SIR JOHN PAKINGTON inquired, when the School would begin, and under whose management it would be placed?

MR. AUGUSTUS SMITH wished to know whether he understood the rooms for the new schools were to be built? A worse situation for a naval school than Kensington could not be conceived. The Vote was one of those of which the House had seen too many. It was a small sum at the commencement, but it pledged the House to go on, and to incur, probably, a heavy expense in the end.

LORD CLARENCE PAGET said that, no doubt, a larger sum than £2,300 would be required when the School became developed. The apartments belonged to the Department of Science and Art, but they had been placed at the disposal of the Government. He had not himself seen the rooms, but he was told they formed a suite of apartments well adapted to the purpose. If the hon. Gentleman would move for the details connected with the expenditure of the proposed Vote of £2,300 he should be happy to give them.

MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS said, that the School was to be opened to all qualified youths, but what was the use of placing it at the west end of the town when all the dockyards were at the east?

LORD CLARENCE PAGET said, that the very object of placing it at Kensington was that the School should be in some central place. The Admiralty were anxious to accommodate youths from Liverpool, Glasgow, and other maritime ports. They therefore selected London as a central place, and Kensington, because they did not wish the school to be too much under the shade of the Admiralty. Moreover, Kensington was chosen because there were eminent lecturers and masters already established there who would be very useful to the Students of the Schools, many of the subjects taught there being well adapted to the education of naval architecture. The School would be opened, indeed, quite as much for the public as for the Admiralty. At present there was no great establishment in this country for the education of shipbuilders, and it was high time, not only for the sake of the public, but for the sake of private shipbuilders, that youths should be enabled somewhere to acquire a scientific knowledge of shipbuilding. In answer to the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) he would state that the School was to be opened immediately, and that it would be placed under Dr. Woolley, one of the Government Inspectors of Schools. He would be assisted by the Controller of the Navy, who would represent the Admiralty, and by Mr. Cole. Between these three gentlemen the School would, he thought, be in very good hands.

MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS Why not have the School at Woolwich? There is plenty of science there.

CAPTAIN JERVIS said, that a School of Naval Architecture at South Kensington was mere rubbish. The pupils did not want mere theoretical knowledge, and they would no more learn shipbuilding at Kensington than they could learn anything else there. It was perfectly plain that this would be only throwing away the public money.

LORD CLARENCE PAGET said, he stated the other night that the six winter months of the year were to be devoted to the theory, and the six summer months to the practice of shipbuilding in the dockyards.

MR. C. P. BERKELEY said, that under the head of "Scientific Branch, extraordinary expenses," were some expenses which were very extraordinary indeed. There were "Galvanic contingencies," £100; "Subterranean apartment for magnetic instruments," £240; "Self-registering barrel for record of earth's currents," £50; "For determining the longitude of New Milford, in connection with the operations for measuring the great European are of parallel from Valentia, in Ireland, to Orsk, on the Oural," £60—in all, an increase of £463 on the sums voted last year. Perhaps the noble Lord would give some explanation.

MR. AUGUSTUS SMITH thought the noble Lord's explanation about the Naval School of Architecture incomplete and unsatisfactory, and that the school, if established, might hereafter lead to unlimited expense. He wished to enter his protest against the proposal. He should move to reduce the Vote by £2,300.

LORD ROBERT MONTAGU did not think the hon. Member would have moved the reduction of the Vote if he were aware of the value of the proposed establishment. The old School of Naval Architecture had been given up; all the men who knew anything about naval architecture had been educated in that school; and if we were not to get a new supply from a new source, we should be totally destitute of persons capable of designing ships for the navy. He would give an instance of the value of such a school. Professor Wray, at Devon-port, was the principal schoolmaster of the dockyard, and a short time ago Lloyd's Committee offered a number of prizes of £60 for the best designs, and no less than six of those prizes were carried off by the pupils of that Professor. The boys who carried off those prizes were the sons of working men, and they actually beat many men who had been employed all their lives in designing ships. That instance was enough to show the advantage of having a school of naval architecture.

MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS said, that the old School of Naval Architecture was at Portsmouth, and he thought the new school should be placed in one of the dockyards.

MR. AUGUSTUS SMITH asked, was such an establishment called for by the country? He should like to hear the opinions of hon. Members connected with shipbuilding on the necessity of such an institution, and if it were necessary, where it ought to be established with the greatest probability of success. But to found an institution of that kind in the particular locality named for it would be the commencement of the most extraordinary expenditure. Such an establishment ought to be at some such place as Portsmouth or Woolwich, and he, therefore, felt it necessary to take the sense of the Committee upon the question.

MR. ADDINGTON said, he thought it desirable that young officers should know-more of naval architecture than they did. He wished to ask, whether the noble Lord's attention had been directed to the circumstance that Naval Instructors were not required to pass any examination in steam, nor were naval officers until they had been six years in the service?

MR. BUXTON inquired, why the old Naval School had been done away with?

CAPTAIN JERVIS asked, whether the pupils of the new Naval School were to meet with the same fate as those of the old School; and whether men who might have distinguished themselves were to look forward to being passed over by persons newly brought into the Admiralty? No one knew better the object of having this School at Kensington. It had been for many years on the cards to establish such a School there. If the Admiralty -were inclined to bring forward a bonâ fide scheme, let the School be established at Portsmouth, or some other of the ports of the country where the pupils could obtain a practical knowledge of their business.

LORD CLARENCE PAGET said, the object of fixing the School at Kensington was upon these grounds. The old Naval School, which he regretted had been ever done away with, had failed in this—that there was no provision, no adequate outlet, for all the students that belonged to it. The wants of the navy proper were not sufficient for their employment. But it was contended, and with very great reason, by the Institute of Naval Architects, and urged on the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty and himself by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), that it would be desirable to have such an establishment, in which the higher branches—not only the form of ships, but likewise the chemical properties of iron, and all those minerals that are requisite for shipbuilding—might be studied. If such a School were established, and kept up with a due regard to economy, it would, notwithstanding the alarm of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Augustus Smith), be of immense national importance. But the School at Portsmouth was felt to be a purely Government school, nor did the public generally benefit by it. In the present case it was proposed to provide for a certain number of students connected with the dockyards, and at the same time to invite the public to come to the School upon payment of a fixed sum, and enjoy all the advantages of the School. If the School were put at Portsmouth, or any one of the dockyards, it was thought by the Government it would have the air of an Admiralty establishment; but they did not want that, nor did they desire that the Admiralty should interfere with the details. To make it a national establishment, it was necessary that it should be placed in some central situation; and the question was, where could a central situation for it be found? Lord Granville took the matter up, and put himself in communication with Dr. Woolley, Mr. Cole, and others, and all agreed that South Kensington was the best place for the School. The institution at present there was eminently a school of art, and a great many branches of art were taught in it which would be useful to young persons studying shipbuilding.

CAPTAIN JERVIS desired to know what it was intended to teach specially in this school? The great object of a school of naval architecture must be to teach people to build ships capable of holding such guns as were required at the present day, but what opportunity was there at Kensington to test the displacement of water? It was absurd to teach a number of boys to draw lines upon paper. What was wanted, was to enable them to lay down lines for ships —to become practical shipbuilders — and that could not be done at Kensington. The proposition was mere rubbish. Mr. Cole was an able man, and had conducted the establishment at Kensington in an able way for the improvement of art; but he knew nothing about shipbuilding, and no person who knew anything about the subject would think of placing a school of naval architecture under him. Though this proposition came from the Admiralty, they did not, it seemed, wish it to be considered as emanating from them; and he desired to know, therefore, whether it was their intention to open the school to all the public?

SIR JOHN HAY believed the proposition to be a step in the right direction; but he wished the noble Lord to explain more fully what the summer vacation of these scholars was to be, and how they were to be occupied at the time when they were not at Kensington?

SIR BROOKE BRIDGES feared that, as during a portion of the year the students were not to be at Kensington, two establishments would be required instead of one. It appeared to him a most extraordinary proposition, that a School of Naval Architecture should be placed at Kensington. This was only the beginning of the expense, and the House would soon be asked for a larger sum. He should like to know what was to be the annual expense of the establishment?

LORD CLARENCE PAGET said, that the annual expense of this School, when developed, was calculated at £5,000. He did not like to tell the Committee that it would not cost more, because a certain percentage might generally be put on an estimate of that nature, and he should add that many supposed the School would ultimately be self-supporting. At Kensington, there were three class-rooms and a large model room; so that, instead of keeping the naval models shut up in a dark room at Somerset House, he hoped that the models would be neatly arranged in a fine room, specially adapted for the purpose, at Kensington. The Admiralty students would have a certain sum allowed them per annum for food and lodging. During the winter they would be studying at Kensington; and if the hon. and gallant Member for Harwich had been in a ship draughtsman's office and seen the beautiful geometrical problems and the various calculations there worked out, he would know that it required a good deal more scientific acquirement than the mere mechanical building of a ship, in order to become a naval architect; one was mere mechanical art, the other one of the highest branches of science.

SIR JOHN PAKINGTON hoped he might infer that the doubts entertained by the Committee with respect to this proposition referred rather to the locality than to the question, whether or not there should be a School of Naval Architecture. He could not express too strongly his conviction that for the interests both of the navy and the mercantile marine the establishment of a School of Naval Architecture was most necessary. He, therefore, hailed with pleasure the beginning made by the Admiralty. Whether or not Kensington was intended to be the permanent place for this school he knew not, but his belief was that it had been selected for the time merely from the accident that Lord Granville had it in his power to grant rooms there. So strongly was he convinced of the importance of such an establishment, that he anticipated that, as from all parts of the country students were sent to the Universities and the great schools, in like manner students would resort to the School of Architecture, wherever it might be established.

MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD wished to know, whether placing the School at Kensington was a temporary or permanent arrangement? If the arrangement was intended to be permanent it was most objectionable. He thought that the proposition to place a School of Naval Architecture at Kensington permanently would be just as reasonable as to fix a School of Agriculture in the heart of London.

LORD CLARENCE PAGET was afraid that he could not undertake to say that the arrangement was only temporary. Was it likely that hon. Gentlemen representing the taxpayers of the country would permit him to bring in an estimate for building a college in another place?

CAPTAIN JERVIS wanted to know, whether the noble Lord would state what sum he proposed to allow for each of the Admiralty students in the school—because £2,300 appeared a small sum for the establishment, with a number of men living and lodging in London?

Motion made, and Question put, ‘That the Item of £2,300, for School of Naval Architecture, and maintenance of Students in the same, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Mr. Augustus Smith.)’

The Committee divided:—Ayes 15; Noes 100: Majority 85. § Original Question put, and agreed to.

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