H.M.S. Warrior the first British ironclad signed 'J. Steven Dews' (lower left) oil on canvas 50 x 76cm (20 x 30in).
PROVENANCE: with E. Stacy Marks Ltd
Ordered by the Admiralty in response to some worrying French experiments with ironclad warships, the contract to build Warrior went to Mare's Yard, on the Thames at Blackwall, where her keel was laid on 25th May 1859. Launched on 19th December 1860, when it took six tugs over an hour to coax her down the frozen ways, she displaced 9,210 tons and measured 380 feet in length with a 58 foot beam. Heavily armed with 40 massive guns of varying calibre all mounted on one deck, she was commissioned in August 1861 and, after successfully completing her speed trials, was officially handed over to the Navy on 24th October the same year. The world's first ocean-going iron-hulled warship as well as the largest capital ship of her day, Warrior's entry into service effectively rendered obsolete all the fleets of the other great powers and signalled a profound change in sea warfare thereafter.
Capable of 14 knots at full steam, Warrior also sported a full ship rig in order to conserve coal when cruising and began her long life with a reputation for awesome firepower such as no previous battleship had ever enjoyed. In fact, this reputation served as such a potent deterrent that she never actually fired a shot in anger such was the effect of her presence on any of the world's oceans. Paid off for the last time in May 1883, after a hugely successful career in which she played no small part in maintaining the 'Pax Britannica', she proved far too sturdy to scrap and began her second career as a depot ship at Portsmouth, latterly housing the torpedo school H.M.S. Vernon until 1924. Even though she had, by then, been afloat for over sixty years, she was still in such sound condition that she was converted into a floating oil jetty at Pembroke Dock and remained there, stubbornly refusing to rust away, until rescued for preservation in 1979. Superbly restored as the world's only remaining ironclad, she is now permanently moored at Portsmouth, the sole survivor of a vanished breed of ship that helped shape naval history in the mid-nineteenth century.