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[Royal Visit to Woolwich Arsenal, 1855]

Source: The Illustrated London News, Dec 8, 1855, p.675

After passing through the engine-room their Majesties entered the foundry for small castings. There they witnessed the molten iron poured in a dazzling stream into the mould for a "sweep" for one of the mortar-vessels, and Prince Albert explained to his Majesty the peculiar construction of some small mortar models which had just been completed. Adjoining this factory was a smaller one for casting shells, and about 50 shells of all sizes, from 32-pounders to mortar shells of 13 inches, were cast in the presence of the illustrious visitors. In this department 1200 shells per diem are manufactured. An iron mill-roller weighing 14 cwt. was also cast, and while this was going forward the Prince drew his Majesty aside to explain to him the peculiar rapid progress by which the moulds are constructed. Her Majesty also appeared to take much interest in viewing this operation, and at her request several shell moulds were made, and the different processes fully explained by Colonel Wilmott. The Royal party then entered the laboratory—beyond all doubt of its kind the most perfect and most wonderful workshop in the world. The King paused at the entrance in perfect astonishment at the sight which met his view, and acclamations of wonder and admiration burst from all his suite. It was not without good reason that this surprise was expressed, for under one extensive roof his Majesty beheld nearly 300 steam-machines at work, all performing different duties and executing the most difficult mechanical details with a rapidity and precision that it would be impossible for any amount of hand labour ever to attain. In this one factory, where not less than 1000 men and boys are employed, every twelve hours witnesses the completion of a greater amount of work than one million skilful artisans could accomplish in the same space of time. High as the King of Sardinia has rated the manufacturing ingenuity of the English people, the sight which he witnessed in the laboratory on Saturday must have completely exceeded his expectations. In no other country, nor in all the other countries of the world united, could he have beheld such varied and such perfect triumphs of mechanical art.