Hms Warrior

Supporters and corporate guests coming into the reception area of the Dr Martens Stand will not have failed to notice the magnificent model of HMS Warrior, the world's first iron-clad warship built in 1860 by workers of The Thames Iron Works.

Whilst the model is of interest to West Ham United fans the club did not anticipate the national interest in the model shown by two of our tabloid newspapers yesterday.

Contrary to reports in those newspapers the model cost £45,864.  The figure of £250,000 is the estimated current value of the model and not the cost. 

The model was commissioned in 1999 with delivery arranged for early September 2004 to commemorate 100 years of football at the Boleyn Ground. 

The costs of £45,854 were incurred during the following seasons:-

Season Cost
1999/2000    £2,135
2000/01        £5,502
2001/02        £5,000
2002/03        £6,602
2003/04        £26,615
Total Cost   £  45,854

As is generally well known, West Ham United holds the football memorabilia of Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Johnny Byrne and many other former players.  Our collection is worth in excess of £4m and hence no one at the club is likely to see expenditure of £45,864 over 5 years to commemorate a most important date in the club's history as being excessive.

West Ham United is the last major British football club (and possibly the last in Europe) to be controlled by its founding families.  The Hills family first became involved in East London in the early 1800s and in 1864 acquired their interest in The Thames Iron Works.  Their main business activity was converting chemicals from the products of the gas companies and their business was based on the site currently occupied by the Millennium Dome. 

The shipyard of The Thames Iron Works was opposite and when the company ran into financial difficulties the Hills purchased a financial interest.  Frank Hills subsequently acquired a controlling interest in 1871 and was chairman of the board until his death in 1895.  In his will Frank Hills left £2m and was estimated to be the 40th richest man in England.  His son Arnold Hills was captain of Harrow School football team and, during his time at University College, Oxford, ran a mile for the University against Cambridge in 1877 and 1878, the three miles in 1879 and played in the Varsity football matches in 1877 and 1879, as well as playing for England in the 5-4 victory against Scotland in 1879.  When he became chairman of The Thames Iron Works Arnold Hills formed his football club in 1895, which became West Ham United in 1900. 

Arnold Hills was less than enamoured with the introduction of professional footballers and stood back from the club in 1900, but he retained his shareholding and lived to know that this "works team" had played in front of 200,000 people at Wembley in 1923.  The shares he acquired are still held by the family who are today represented on the board by Charles Warner - great, great grandson of Frank Hills.

At the time the club was formed an employee of the Thames Iron Works, a Mr J W Y Cearns, was put in charge of the team and the Cearns family have provided directors for almost every year since and the chairman or vice-chairman every year since the early 1930s.

It is, perhaps, a pity that the newspapers concerned were unaware of the club's rich history and the actual cost of the model.  It may be considered churlish to point out the five-fold increase in the value of the model against its costs but if the club were in the financial straits that are sometimes portrayed then shareholders and supporters together would, no doubt, take some comfort in the millions of pounds of memorabilia currently within the club's possession.

Without wishing to plunge the 'fans' spokesmen' and the entire tabloid press into a state of apoplexy we should, perhaps, point out that the Rev. William Mowll has, again, been commissioned to produce a second model, namely that of HMS Thunderer, which was the last battleship to be launched by the Thames Iron Works.  It is hoped the model will be available in 2011 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the launch of the original Thunderer.

As mentioned above, West Ham United is the last major British football club to remain in the hands of its founders and the determination of both families to safely pass the club from one generation of supporters to the next has, undoubtedly, had much to do with the stability associated with this great institution - never more so than during the difficult time since relegation from the Premier League.  The club is proud to recognise its heritage in the form of the model of HMS Warrior.

Attached are details of the original Warrior, which in 1860 cost £377,292 to build and was restored at Hartlepool.  It took eight years and cost more than £7m to restore - the most complex and detailed ship restoration project ever accomplished.  The ship may be viewed in Portsmouth Harbour.

The Model & The Club's History

The model of HMS Warrior 1860, built on a scale of 1:48, was commissioned in 1999 and finished in 2004, and took 2,500 hours to build.

The model directly connects the history of West Ham United Football Club with The Thames Iron Works, from whence the club was originally formed.  A close study of the club's logo reveals crossed riveting hammers, the primary tool of iron ship-building.

Warrior is the finest example we have of the mastery of Victorian ironwork and shipbuilding and the original ship, now permanently docked in Portsmouth as a preserved vessel, represents the first and last battleship in the world and is still under commission.

The model hull was made from glass reinforced polyester, in order to detail the plating lines and rivets involved in the construction of this vessel.  The original ship's hull was made totally of iron and armoured with 4 ½" plates, backed by 18" of teak to absorb the shock of shellfire.  The only other timber used in the vessel was for the masts, spars, the decking and the figurehead.

The ship had a complement of 705 officers and men, weighed 9,137 tons in displacement and had a perpendicular length of 380ft 2".  On her main gun deck she had 8 x 110lb rifle breech loaders and 26 x 68pdr smooth bore cannon.  The model has all of these guns detailed on the gun (main) deck, although largely hidden by the gun ports.  Other below deck details include the galley stove and the ladderways, stanchions and gratings.  On the upper deck 2 x 110lb rbl (bow and stern chaser guns on pivoting carriages) 4 x 40pdr rbl, 4 x 20pdr & 26pdr (signal guns).  Warrior had five times the fire-power of HMS Victory, built 100 years previously.

The propeller is of the lifting variety (Giffifths patent)  and was raised by the ship's company, using the main capstan, when the ship was under sail alone.  The funnels were also retractable to lessen the effect of windage.  The diameter of the screw was a massive 24ft 6" with a pitch of 30ft.  The propeller on the model was made so that it can be raised and lowered.  The engines (horizontal trunk) 1,250 horse power (ihp 5,267) were constructed at Messrs Penn's Works at Greenwich.

Under steam power alone, the ship made an average speed 14.079 knots and with the assistance of sail-power, just over 17 knots.

Warrior 1860 is recognised world-wide as a huge technological achievement for her day and is seen as the most significant vessel every built by The Thames Iron Works.

William Mowll.  Constructor.
Model Shipwright.  Honorary & elected member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen UK.
Author of "Modelling a Working Warship - HMS Warrior 1860" publ. 1997. Chatham Press.