The need for greater speed and efficiency in the Royal Dockyards to meet the ever-increasing demands of keeping the fleet at sea during the Napoleonic Wars led to many of the great engineers and architects of the day – Marc Brunel, Henry Maudslay, John Rennie, Samuel Bentham, Simon Goodrich and Edward Holl – becoming involved in the mechanisation of industrial processes from sawing timber to the manufacture of rope and paint.
At Chatham new ironworking facilities were built in 1808 (No 1 Smithery), the Ropery mechanised in 1809, one of Britain’s first steam powered Saw Mill’s erected in 1814, the Lead & Paint Mill constructed in 1818 and a new stone dry dock with steam powered pumping station completed in 1820.
During this time new office accommodation for the Dockyard’s principal officers (now Admirals Offices) and the Royal Dockyard Church built for the spiritual welfare of the yard’s employees.
The last major period of construction of dockyard buildings and structures on the Historic Dockyard site took place during the middle of the 19th century. A new range of covered building slips were constructed between 1838 and 1855, most on land largely reclaimed from the River Medway. All of the slip covers were at the forefront of technology. No 3 Slip, thought to be Europe’s the widest wide span structure in timber. The cast iron frames to 4, 5 & 6 slips providing examples of the world’s first wide span structures in metal, pre dating the great Victorian train shed roofs and being part of the design path to the Crystal Palace. No 7 slip, one of the first wide span structures in wrought iron leading the development of modern portal framed buildings.