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Warship Wednesday7th February 2024

LORD WARDEN (1876) – The Largest Wooden Ship

Warship Wednesday: LORD WARDEN (1867) was an Iron-clad battleship and the largest wooden ship built for the Royal Navy.

When the Royal Navy transitioned from wooden to iron hulls it was decided, in the interests of economy, that the accumulated stores of seasoned timber should be used up, but with a sufficient supply held to allow the continued building of RN smaller cruising ships.

Chatham and Pembroke Dockyards held the largest stores of surplus timber and so were given the task of building a new class of very large, wooden iron-clad ships. Reverting to wooden-hulled iron-clads was seen, by many in and out of the naval service, as a retrograde step.

LORD WARDEN laid down at Chatham dockyard

LORD CLYDE was laid down at Pembroke on 29th September 1863, whilst LORD WARDEN was laid down at Chatham on 24th December 1863. She was completed on 30th August 1867, the three other proposed ships of the class were never put in hand.

The design of these ships was based on that of BELLEROPHON, an all-iron ship laid down at Chatham on 28th December 1863. LORD WALDEN and BELLEROPHON were built on adjacent slipways.

Both wooden ships were 280ft long x 59ft wide. LORD WARDEN displaced 7940 tons compared to LORD CLYDE which displaced 7750 tons. Both ship’s company was 605 men.

Powered by either, as required, 31,000 sq ft of sail or a steam engine. Max speed under steam power was 13.5 knots.

Special features of the two ships:


There were differences between the ships, ie armament carried, make of engines fitted and careers; the biggest of these was in careers.

LORD WARDEN has been described as staunch and impeccable, whereas Lord Clyde, as diseased and unfortunate.

Warship Wednesday: LORD WARDEN’s service history:


LORD CLYDE had a short career, commissioned at Plymouth in June 1866 but by 1868 her engines were showing signs of wear. By 1869, she had been re-engined and was in reserve at Devonport until 1871. Sent to the Mediterranean and within six months had run aground off Pantellaria. She was pulled off by LORD WARDEN but was in a badly strained and damaged condition. After temporary repairs at Malta, she returned to Plymouth for a complete overhaul where she was found to be rotten with timber fungus. Attempts to save her from decay failed, she was sold in 1887 before becoming too diseased and unsaleable.

Lord CLYDE had cost £285,750 and was sold for £3,750 after an 11-year career.

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