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Tag: Royal Gun Factory

Book Review. “….Royal Gun Factory….”

Actually, the full title of the book is “Treatise On the Construction and Manufacture of Ordnance in the British Service prepared in the Royal Gun Factory” by John Fletcher Owen. Originally published in 1878.

The book is available in electronic form, free of charge, at Google Books. It may be read electronically, or downloaded to your own computer. Owen, J. F. (2018). Treatise on the Construction and Manufacture of Ordnance in the British Service Prepared in the Royal Gun Factory. United States: Creative Media Partners, LLC.

But, I really prefer to read books with the feel of paper, turning real pages, leaving bookmarks, making annotations. So, I ordered a hard back copy of the book from Booktopia. It came yesterday. Cost was a bit less than $AUD50.

I received an email that my order was “being printed” and that it would be sent within 2 weeks. It did arrive about 2 weeks later, and I was surprised to see that it had been printed in Australia! The binding is neat, and the feel is substantial. 510 pages.

Having looked at the electronic version I knew that the book is full of detailed information about the design, manufacture, construction, testing, and use of British artillery of the 1870’s era. Readers of this blog will understand my interest in the subject. There are many, many diagrams, plans, tables. A real cornucopia of information for the cannon modeller, or gun nut.

Now, understand my disappointment when I opened the book at random, to read …. anything. And I blinked and squinted, and tried to make out the words…..


With my glasses on, in a good light, I can just make out the words, but it is a struggle, not pleasant at all. And, the margins are huge! 30mm on the right! In the photo you can see the original page edges. They could have made the printed page and font size substantially larger. The reproduction result is a bit fuzzy, not sharp, which compounds the problem.

Compare the electronic version with a page from the reproduced book.

Electronic Version:

Printed (reproduced) Version.

Look at the dimensions in the printed version. Not at all clear. The small size, and degradation due to the reproduction process makes this book less useful.

The 143 year old book is a real treasure trove, and the information and diagrams etc may be freely reproduced without fear of copyright infringement. The reproduced paper version from Booktopia is disappointing. With a little more care it could have been wonderful. As it is I would give it a 5/10. I have sent feedback to Booktopia.

Some random pages follow, just to show more examples of the contents.

So, love the original book, disappointed with the Booktopia reproduction version. End of whinge.

Where to Make a Cannon? R.G.F.

The Royal Gun Factory. Originally established by Henry VIII as an artillery testing range, became the Royal Gun Factory in 1671, and became the largest cannon producing factory in the world by the time of WW1. It is located next to the Thames, in the London suburb of Woolwich, 8 miles from the centre of London, but originally it was a separate village. At its peak, in WW1 it covered 1300 acres and employed 80,000 workers. It closed in 1967.

You can see why they didn’t want it near the centre of London.

Mainly I wanted to show you some interesting images from the era of black powder cannons.

The steam hammer, installed 1874, has a downward pressure of 1000 tons.
The component being forged is red hot, and held at the end of the weighted lever. No idea what the worker near the hammer is doing, but it would be hot work.
Man power and steam power (oops, my bad. This steam hammer was in James Naismith’s foundry in Manchester, 1832)
They also manufactured artillery shells (studded type shown here, so presumably 1865-1877), and small arms, naval and garrison cannons.
and the lathes were suitably sized. Sketched in WW1.