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NELSON armoured cruisers (2, 1878-1881)


Northampton with fighting top on mizzen


Name No Yard No Builder Laid down Launched Comp Fate
Nelson   189 Elder, Govan 2.11.1874 4.11.1876 26.7.1881 training hulk 1901
Northampton   344 Napier, Govan 26.10.1874 18.11.1876 7.12.1878 training hulk 6.1894

Technical data

Displacement normal, t

Nelson: 7473

Northampton: 7630

Displacement full, t


Length, m

85.3 pp

Breadth, m


Draught, m


No of shafts



Nelson: sails + 2 2-cyl IHC, 10 oval boilers

Northampton: sails + 2 3-cyl IHC, 10 oval boilers

Power, h. p.

Nelson: 6624

Northampton: 6073

Max speed, kts

Nelson: 14

Northampton: 13

Fuel, t

coal 1150

Endurance, nm(kts)


Armour, mmiron; belt: 229 - 152 on 330 - 254 teak backing, bulkheads: 229 - 152, decks: 76 - 51, CT: 229

4 x 1 - 254/15 MLR Mk I/II, 8 x 1 - 229/14 MLR Mk IV, 6 x 1 - 100/21 20pdr 16cwt BL, 3 x 1 - 76/16 9pdr 6cwt BL



Standard scale images

<i>Northampton </i>1878
Northampton 1878


<i>Northampton </i>with fighting top on mizzen
Northampton with fighting top on mizzen

Project history

Enlarged versions of Shannon and of similarly limited value despite an increase in displacement of almost 2000t. The increased size resulted from the adoption of more powerful machinery, for a 1.7kt increase in speed, improved protection and heavier armament. The general distribution of armour and armament was similar to that in Shannon except that the arrangement forward, with a protective deck, deep bulkhead and upper deck armour screen with corner ports for two 254mm guns, was repeated aft. The addition of a protective deck aft was made possible by the adoption of twin screws which allowed the steering gear to be placed below the waterline and under the 76mm lower deck whereas that in Shannon, being above the waterline, required the protection of side armour. In place of the forecastle and poop of Shannon they carried a full length deck which covered the unprotected battery of 6 229mm guns.

Engines of Northampton had three equal size cylinders with adjustable volumes allowing their use as all high pressure, all low pressure or compound. Despite several trials and modifications to the propellers and engines she never achieved her designed speed of 14kts. Both completed with a barque rig of 2300 m2 sail area but unlike Shannon they were intended mainly for steam cruising and were given sufficient coal stowage to provide an endurance of 5000nm at 10kts, or 7500nm at 7kts. This was fortunate for although reasonable sea boats they proved to be poor sailers.

Ship protection

The lower strake of the belt, which was 55.2m long, was reduced to 152mm in thickness while the main deck over the length of the belt was 51mm. The main deck guns were divided into four groups by 25mm steel bulkheads which gave some measure of splinter protection and reduced the risk of several guns being knocked out by one hit. The side plating, abreast the midships guns, was also constructed of 25mm steel.


1886, Northampton: was converted to a military rig with fighting top on mizzen; - 6 x 1 - 100/21, 3 x 1 - 76/16; + 6 x 1 - 57/40 Hotchkiss Mk I, 8 x 1 - 47/40 Hotchkiss Mk I, 2 - 356 TT (beam aw)

1889-1891, Nelson: was converted to a military rig with fighting tops on fore and mizzen, torpedo net added; - 6 x 1 - 100/21, 3 x 1 - 76/16; + 4 x 1 - 120/40 QF Mk I/II/III/IV, 6 x 1 - 57/40 Hotchkiss Mk I, 14 x 1 - 47/40 Hotchkiss Mk I, 2 - 356 TT (beam aw)

Naval service

Nelson served as a guard-ship at Portsmouth in 1891-1894 and was then placed in reserve until 1901 when she was converted to a stokers` training ship. Northampton was placed in reserve after refit in 1886 but commissioned regularly to take part in manoeuvres until 1894 when she became a boys` training ship. Nelson was sold to BU in July 1910 and Northampton in April 1905.

Many thanks to Wolfgang Stöhr for additional information on this page.