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Oliver William Lang

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Oliver William Lang (1807-1867), naval architect master ship builder

1807. Born the son of Oliver Lang and his wife Sally

1839 Married at Stoke Dameral, Devon, to Louisa the eldest daughter of Thomas Briggs

1867 July 22nd. Died

1867 Probate. Of Blackheath.


Obituary [1]

O. W. Lang, naval architect. He received his professional education under the auspices of his father, Mr Oliver Lang, formerly master-shipwright of Woolwich Dockyard; and during the early part of his career, assisted him in the construction of all the ships he so successfully designed for Her Majesty's Navy, among which were the Black Eagle, Medea, Niger, and Terrible, the latter the finest paddle war steamship ever produced, and also the Royal Albert.

In 1828 he entered the service at Woolwich Dockyard as an experienced naval architect, and in 1831 was appointed to assist (the then) Captain Symonds in the construction of ships of war.

In 1837 he was appointed to Devonport, and in 1843 to Deptford, to re-establish that yard. In the following year he joined Chatham Dockyard as assistant master-shipwright, and in 1853 he was promoted to be master-shipwright at Pembroke, where he built the royal yacht Victoria and Albert. His last appointment was in 1858, to Chatham, and he remained there until his retirement in 1862, when he was the senior master-shipwright in the service by more than six years. In the mercantile navy, Mr Lang's reputation was at an early age very great, and continued steadily to increase up to the present time, he having met with universal success in every undertaking. At the age of eighteen he designed the Ruby for the Gravesend Company, which was subsequently purchased by the General Steam Navigation Company, and was the fastest steamer on the Thames for many years.

Twenty four years ago, in 1845, the Porcupine and Spitfire steam vessels were designed and built by him in Deptford Dockyard. They were both very successful; but his reputation was chiefly established by the Garland and Banshee, both built from his designs and under his superintendence, and the latter, especially, obtained a world wide fame. These vessels were exposed to a most severe competition from his opponents, and so complete was their success that Mr Lang was ordered to design and build in Chatham Dockyard, the Vivid, for the Dover station (when the service was performed by the Admiralty), and the Elfin, despatch-yacht for Her Majesty. All these vessels were built the diagonal principle which was introduced by him.

Subsequently to this, he, in 1859, designed and built the Nankin, 50-gun frigate, for the experimental squadron; but from some unexplained reason, she was at once put into ordinary in Chatham Harbour, and not commissioned until 1854, when she beat every ship she fell in with, and was officially reported to be "very easy, stiff under canvas, a most excellent sea-boat, and in all respects a complete man-of-war.

In the great revolution in the building of ships of war, Mr. Lang played a conspicuous part. A short time after the drawing for building the Achilles was received at Chatham, he submitted, through the captain- superintendent, a design for giving her a flatter floor (one exactly similar to that proposed for his iron cased frigate in 1859), and increasing her displacement sufficiently to allow the armour plating to be carried all round the ship, instead of only amidships, as then intended. This alteration was adopted, as to the flatter floor and increased displacement; but, instead of completely armour-plating her, the Admiralty ordered her to have a belt of armour plating at the water-line only, as at that time ordered to be fitted to the Enterprise, Research, and Favourite, by which the rudder-head, tiller, steering- wheel, &c., were left unprotected.

To obviate this, Mr Lang again proposed to armour-plate the Achilles at the fore and after ends as high as the main-deck, undertaking, at the same time, not to increase the weight of the hull; in fact, by doing away with the armour-plated bulkheads, &c., he saved 12 tons, and completely protected the rudder- head, tiller, steering-wheel, and everything on the lower-deck. The Admiralty, after testing the correctness of his calculation of weights, adopted this plan in the Achilles, and afterwards in many other vessels. While at Chatham Mr Lang also built the Royal Oak, the first at sea of our converted wooden armour-plated ships by many months, and thus (the Achilles being the first iron ship ever built in the establishment) he was the pioneer of iron shipbuilding in Her Majesty's dockyards.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Year-Book of Facts in Science and Art by John Timbs. 1868