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British Industrial History

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Bute Shipbuilding and Engineering Works

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Aka 'Bute Iron Works', of Cardiff

The Bute Iron Works appears to have been established over the original (1794) site of the river terminus of the Glamorganshire Canal, abandoned after the sea pound extension to the canal was built in 1798.

Note: No connection with Bute Ironworks, which smelted iron in the Rhymney Valley.

Presumably later occupied by Norman Scott Russell and then by Maudslay Brothers. River-launched iron steamers were built here from 1864 (see article below).

1869 Made the wrought iron girders for the new bridge to take the Penarth Road over the River Taff
Cardiff Times, 5 June 1869

1880 The 'Bute Iron Works' were shown on the 1880 OS 25in map. Slipways on the western side connected with the River Taff. The [[Glamorganshire Canal was on the eastern side.

IMPORTANT SALE OF ENGINEERS' TOOLS. MESSRS FULLER, HORSEY, SONS, and CO. are instructed by the Proprietors (consequent upon a dissolution of their partnership) to SELL by AUCTION, on the premises, Bute Iron Works, Cardiff, on WEDNESDAY, June 23rd, and following days, at 12 precisely each day, in lots,
The Plant is of modern description, chiefly by Buckton, Smith, Beacock, and Tannett; Collier; De Bergue, Craig and Donald; Maudslay Brothers, and others, including five screw-cutting, surfacing, and boring lathes from 8 to 25 1/2 inch centres, 12 vertical and horizontal drilling machins, three multiple drilling machines from 20 to 30 spindles, slotting and shaping machines, two planing machines, three plate planing machines, Smith and Coventry's screwing machine, a powerful steam rivetting machine by Cook, three powerful punching and shearing machines (will punch up to 1 1/2 inches through 1 1/4 inch plates), a powerful double- angle iron shearing machine with steam engine attached, two circular saws for cutting iron, bending and straightening machine, three wrought-iron cupolas, two fans, two over-head travellers (six and eight tons), with gantrys; two Wellington travellers (of three and 12 tons), by Stothert and Pitt; two horizontal steam engines of 20 and 35 horse power respectively; three Cornish boilers, loam mill, saw bench and pattern maker's lathes; 15-ton weigh-bridge, two Pooley's weighing machines, 40 tons foundry boxes, five tons pig iron, five tons wrought and cast scrap, 10 tons new bar iron, three tons steel, engineers', smiths', and boiler-makers' tools, an assortment of general stores, chains, ropes, blocks and falls, &c., crabs, 200 loads wood blocking and timber, 200 dry pine boards, timber whims and trollies, leather bands, office furniture, and numerous other effects.
May be viewed two days preceding and mornings of Sale, and catalogues had on the premises, and of Messrs Fuller, Horsey, Sons, and Co., 11, Billiter-square, London. E.C.
Note.— The extensive Premises to be Sold. Held from the Marquis of Bute for an unexpired term of about 88 years, at a very low ground rent.' [1]

1884 The Bute dry dock was built at the southern corner of the Roath Basin. The iron gates for this new dock were also built at these works

By 1901 the works had been renamed Bute Shipbuilding and Engineering Works but had fallen into disuse.

1901 Bute Shipbuilding, Engineering and Dry Dock Co were Ironfounders. [2]

The site subsequently became part of Currans.

1864 Report

1864 'LAUNCH OF THE MALLORCA. On Wednesday morning, from an early hour, crowds of pedestrians and numbers of carriages might have been seen wending their way towards the mouth of the river Taff. Fortunately for the convenience of the public in this respect, the new road running from the old toll-bar on the Penarth road towards the Old Sea Lock, parallel with the river Taff, had just been completed, and on Tuesday one of the Angel Hotel omnibuses passed along its whole length, being the first public conveyance which had penetrated to that terra incognita of mud and marsh which surrounds the mouth of the river. The object which brought so many people, of every degree and description, to so remote and uninviting a quarter of the suburbs of Cardiff, and at so apparently unseasonable an hour, was easily to be perceived when we arrived near the new ship-building yard of Mr. N. Scott Russell. The first iron ocean-going steamship ever built in Cardiff, of the history and progress of which we have from time to time kept our readers apprised, was about to be launched on the bosom of the impetuous river, swollen as it was by the rising of the tide to its fullest height. High above the lofty roofs and chimneys of the works towered the masts ef the vessel still elevated on the stocks. From the summit of each mast along the standing rigging to the deck, to the stern and bowsprit, ran lines of flags of all nations and of all sizes and colours. The morning was a fine one, and the gay pennants fluttering in the breeze aloft, and the no less gay habiliments of the fair ladies beneath who had come to witness the launch, imparted to the scene an appearance as pleasing as it was novel. By balf-past eight, the hour appointed for the launch, not only was the spacious premises of Mr. Russell filled with people, but for a long distance up and down the canal bank, as far as a view of the spot where the vessel was to debouch could be commanded, there stood a continuous line of spectators.
A platform had been erected at a height of about fifteen feet from the ground, immediately under the figure-head of the ship. To this, when the time for the launch arrived, Mr. Russell repaired, in company with Mrs. Clark (the wife of G. T. Clark, Esq., of Dowlais House), who had consented to perform the ceremony of christening the "little stranger"— the first-born of the family. A long piece of red cord hung over the bow of the vessel, to which, on a level with the platform and close to it, was attached a bottle of champagne, garlanded with evergreens and flowers. Mr. Russell instructed Mrs. Clark to hurl the bottle against the side of the vessel as hard as she could, the moment it began to move, and to pronounce at the same time the name which was to be given to her. In a moment or two more the props were cut away, the ship rested only on the well-greased "cradle," and in another second it was perceptibly in motion toward the water. Mrs. Clark skilfully smashed the champagne bottle according to directions, and before the last drops of the wine had trickled down the beautifully curved lines of the Mallorca, she was floating calmly and majestically on her adopted element.
The dimensions of the Mallorca are as follows:- Length over all, 233 feet; depth at side, 15 feet; depth in hold, 13 feet 10 inches extreme breadth, 26 feet; draught of water when laden, 8 feet. Her estimated speed is twelve miles an hour, and her burthen 700 tons She is a paddle ship, and is fitted with oscillating engines of 180 horse-power, made by Messrs. Jackson and Watkins, of London, from the designs of Messrs. Scott Russell, and Co. The iron for her hull, which is composed of plates of an average thickness for vessels of her class, was made by the Dowlais Company. When ship-builders first began to build iron ships, they naturally adopted the same methods that they had been used to in building wooden ships. These consisted of setting up a series of transverse frames, and then binding the planks round them, and by securely fastening the two together a continuous structure is obtained. An iron ship can be built upon the same plan, but the result is that the ship is not nearly so strong as she would be if the same weight of material had been differently arranged. The severest strains to which a ship is subject are those which tend to break her back, and it is therefore self-evident that the greatest amount of metal should be disposed so as to resist this strain in the most effectual manner. This, it appears to us, has been done in the Mallorca. She is built with a great number of longitudinal webs, or keelsons, from 12 to 15 inches deep, running right fore and aft the ship. These, standing at right angles to the skin or outer plating of the ship, prevent the plates in the bottom from crumpling up, and the plates in the top-sides from tearing asunder. The celebrated steam-ship Persia, belonging to the Cunard line, is a notable instance of the weakness of iron ships built on the old wooden model. She is nearly 400 feet long, and after her first voyage across the Atlantic and back again, it was found that the plates in her bottom had actually begun to crumple up, and the plates in her top-sides to tear asunder, and she had to be strengthened considerably longitudinally before she was fit to go to sea again.
The Great Eastern is a noble instance of the enormous strength that it is possible to give to an iron ship. She is 700 feet long, and although she has been put to many severe tests, and has received some hard knocks, she has not altered in shape three-quarters of an inch, nor have any of her plates shown the least sign of weakness. The Mallorca is built, not after the old wooden model, but after the more scientific mode of the Great Eastern, or on what is popularly known as "Mr. Scott Russell's longitudinal plan." Her cabin accommodation is very superior, and is being fitted up in a very handsome and superior manner. She has room for nearly 50 first class passengers, and as many second class. The cabins are unusually lofty and airy, and the comfort of the passengers appears to have been studied to the utmost.
The engines are direct-acting oscillating, the boilers are large and roomy, the paddle wheels are feathering. Although there is so much room occupied by the cabins and engine-room, there still remains space for 450 tons of cargo and coal. She is therefore a practical example of the possibility of combining great carrying capacity with very fine lines.
The figure-head is a lion rampant, supporting the arms of Majorca in gold and heraldic colours. The stern is ornamented with foliage, vine leaves and grapes, gilded.
The wood engraving, which we present this week to our subscribers, will give the reader a general idea of the beautiful piece of iron naval architecture which we have attempted to describe. The engraving was executed by Mr. J. Corner, of Edinburgh, an artist of considerable eminence in the metropolis of Scotland.
The changes that have taken place in the aspect of the yard since we last described the progress of ship-building there, have been almost as great as the transformation made since that time (last summer) in the steam ship Mallorca. The large machine-shop, which we then described, has been found insufficient for the demands of the business, and it is being doubled in length and increased in width, so that the room for machinery will be doubled.
The Mallorca will occupy until nearly the close of the year before she is sent to sea, as there is a good deal of work, especially carpenter's, to be done, in building deck-houses, fore-cabins, &c.
A pontoon dock (for a West Indian port), and other extensive works, have been already ordered, and render it imperative that the capacity of the yard for executing its orders should be continually increased. Indeed, the feature which confers most credit on Mr. Russell, in connection with the Mallorca, is that he commenced her simultaneously with the building of his own workshops and offices; and, instead of having a completely fitted yard to build her in, he had, so to say, to create, one day, the mechanical and office facilities which he needed to employ, the next day, in the construction of his first vessel.
Within the last few weeks, the high stone wall which surrounds the premises has been completed, a massive pair of gates erected fronting the canal, with "Bute Iron Works, 1864," graven on a granite slab over the side door. The office buildings are 100 feet long, 35 feet wide, and two stories high. The carpenters' and moulders' shops form a building of equal size, connected with the other by a bridge. The erection of these buildings gives quite another aspect to the locality. The long, wide, dreary expanse of mud and marsh, from the Taff to the Ely, does not look so interminable and dreary now that signs of life and animation are beginning to appear along the bank of the Taff. A few more such investments in stone and iron, in buildings, workshops, and launching slips, we trust, will be made by other capitalists now that Mr. Russell has set the example, and shown that Cardiff is a good place to build ocean-going ships in, as well as to come to for cargo.'[3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Cardiff Times, 5 June 1880
  2. Trades Directory of Wales, 1901
  3. Cardiff Times - Friday 18 November 1864
  • [1] Bute Iron Works