Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 138,146 pages of information and 223,038 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Thomas Lloyd (1803-1875)

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search

Thomas Lloyd (1803-1875), the first Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy.

1841 Thomas Lloyd of the Royal Dockyard, Woolwich, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1876 Obituary [2]

MR. THOMAS LLOYD was born at Portsea, on the 29th of October, 1803.

After receiving a preliminary education under the Rev. John Neave of that place, he gained admission, by competitive examination, into the 'School of Naval Architecture,' then located at Portsmouth Dockyard, where his father was one of the practical instructors. He entered this establishment on the 1st of June, 1819, and passed through the regular course of study with great distinction, leaving on the 1st of January, 1826.

His first appointment was to Plymouth, now Devonport, yard, as a supernumerary officer, to acquire information as to the conduct of the general duties and business of the dockyards.

Thence he was sent, in 1830, to the Navy Office, to acquaint himself with the practice of designing ships.

In 1831 he made a six months’ cruise in the 'Columbine,' a vessel forming part of one of the experimental squadrons, to obtain a practical knowledge of the behaviour of ships at sea.

Up to this time Mr. Lloyd had devoted his attention to the theory and practice of naval architecture, but he was now directed by the Admiralty to make a special study of the steam-engine and of machinery generally, with a view to his becoming an engineer.

Accordingly, on his return from the cruise above mentioned, he was appointed Superintendent of the Wood-mills and Block Machinery in Portsmouth yard. Here he remained till the 19th of January, 1833, when he was gazetted Inspector of Steam Machinery at Woolwich.

In 1835 a new office - that of 'Chief Engineer and Inspector of Machinery' - was created at Woolwich, to which Mr. Peter Ewart was appointed, and Mr. Lloyd was sent, on the 1st of July in that year, as his assistant, to Devonport, where he remained till the 27th of November, 1838.

He was then again removed, in the same capacity, to Woolwich. In addition to his duties in these dockyards, he had to make periodical surveys of the machinery of all the mail-packets at their various stations. About this time ho visited some of the principal engineering establishments in England and Scotland, to ascertain for the Admiralty their extent and capabilities.

In 1842 Mr. Ewart died, and Mr. Lloyd was selected, on the 16th of November in the same year, to succeed him as Chief Engineer at Woolwich, a post which he held till the 6th of April, 1847, when he was removed to the Admiralty as 'Chief Engineer of the Navy,' a title subsequently changed to that of 'Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy.'

It was during his second residence at Woolwich, viz,, between I840 and 1845, that he conducted the long series of important investigations and experiments which established the superiority of Sir Francis Pettit Smith's invention, the screw-propeller, over the paddle-wheels till then in use in the Navy.

At the close of the Exhibition of 1851, Mr. Lloyd and several of his friends were granted permission by the French Government to visit their arsenals, and the following gentlemen availed themselves of the opportunity of doing so in company:- Sir Joseph Whitworth, Bart., F.R.S., M. inst. C.E.; Mr. John Penn, F.R.S., M. Inst. C.E.; Mr. Lloyd, C.B., M. Inst. C.E.; and Mr. Watts, C.B., who was at that time Chief Constructor of the Navy. The two latter went with the sanction of the Admiralty, in order to report on matters connected with shipbuilding and the manufacture of engines. At this time the 'Napoleon' was being fitted out at Toulon. She was the first line-of-battle ship built expressly for the reception of screw engines of great power with a view to high speed.

This led to the building, in this country of the Agamemnon, which ship, fitted with engines of 600 HP., attained a much higher speed than had been contemplated, and was in every respect justly considered a great success. When she was employed, in May 1858, with the United States frigate Niagara, to lay the first electric cable connecting England with America, Mr. Lloyd was requested by the Atlantic Telegraph Company to join Mr. Penn and the late Mr. Joshua Field, Past-President Inst. C.E., in suggesting and carrying out such plans and arrangements as they should deem necessary for the safe paying out of the cable. The success which attended this undertaking is a matter of history.


The subjoined letter will show how his services were appreciated by the company :-

'ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH COMPANY, 22, Old Broad Street, London,

'DEAR SIR, 22nd May, 1858.

'I have laid before my Directors your letter of the 21st inst., wherein you state that you have no claim to make against this Company, and I am instructed to express to you their very warmest thanks for the kind and disinterested manner in which you have accorded to this Undertaking your most valuable aid and advice, whereby in a great measure results at present so highly satisfactory have been secured in respect to the new machinery for paying out the cable.

I am, dear Sir, Yours most truly, GEO. SAWARD, Sec.


When the combined French and English fleets were preparing to go to the Baltic in 1856, the late Emperor of the French conceived the idea of protecting the ships by shot placed in an external wooden case, and a target representing a portion of a ship’s side so protected was erected at Vincennes. Mr. Lloyd accompanied Sir Baldwin Walker, the Surveyor of the Navy, and Mr. Watts, the Chief Constructor, to Paris, to witness the effect of artillery on this structure. It was on this occasion that the suggestion was made by Mr. Lloyd that more effectual protection would be afforded by solid armour plates, The idea was adopted by both Governments, and 'La Gloire,' built by the French, and the Warrior,” by the English, were the first types of a system of shipbuilding destined to revolutionise naval warfare.

In 1868 Mr. Lloyd received, as an acknowledgement of his eminent services, the honour of a Companionship of the Bath; and in 1869, after having completed fifty years of public service, he retired, on which occasion the following recommendation was addressed by Sir Spencer Robinson to the Treasury :-


'To state that Mr. Lloyd has discharged his duties with diligence and fidelity, and entirely to my satisfaction, would be but a feeble expression of my opinion of his deserts.

'Not only has Mr. Lloyd so discharged his duties as to entitle him to such an acknowledgement, but there is no public servant within my knowledge who has so largely contributed to the advance of practical science in his particular department.

'To Mr. Lloyd, more than to any one else, is due the successful application of the screw to the propulsion of steam-ships ; and it was owing to his enlightened knowledge and his zealous exertions that the Royal Navy was enabled to take the lead in its application to ships of war.

'During a very long public life Mr. Lloyd has been distinguished for wise and carefully-considered suggestions for the improvement of the details of marine engines; and I venture to say that the principal marine engine makers in the kingdom have frequently consulted him, and always benefited by his advice.

'I do not hesitate to recommend Mr. Lloyd’s case as one most specially deserving the greatest amount of consideration which it is in the power of the Treasury to bestow.

'(Signed) R. SPENCER ROBINSON, Controller of the Navy.”


During his long and honourable career, Mr. Lloyd assisted by his judgment and counsel at all the various transformations the Navy has undergone in the present century. It must be borne in mind that, from the nature of his official position, he was necessarily rather a critic than an inventor, though there are few, if any, of those who were brought into contact with him professionally, who would not gladly testify to the value of the advice he was always willing to give, and to the courtesy and urbanity with which it was given. Perhaps those only who enjoyed the privilege of Mr. Lloyds friendship and society could thoroughly appreciate him. His knowledge of a great variety of subjects, attained by diligent reading, and stored in a singularly capacious memory, will have been remarked by all his acquaintances ; but those with whom he was intimate will remember, besides this, his ready wit, his hearty good-humour, and the pleasure he felt in doing a kindness.

For several years before his death he had been in failing health, and almost entirely confined to his house, where he died in an apoplectic seizure, on the 23rd of March, 1875.

Mr. Lloyd was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 18th of May, 1841, and was for many years a frequent attendant at the meetings, occasionally taking part in the discussions, and otherwise testifying to the interest he felt in its prosperity.


See Also

Loading...

Sources of Information