SUNDAY saw a replica of the Titanic’s great anchor make the return trip from Dudley to Netherton (see page 15) , filmed for a Channel 4 television series, but what of the original anchor? Titanic’s centre anchor was, at the time and for some time to follow, the world’s largest anchor ever forged by hand. In its overall size, the anchor measured an impressive 18ft 6in in length, the cast steel head of the anchor was 10ft 9in in width and the anchor weighed an incredible 15ton 16cwts.
The order for the anchors, both side and centre, was received from Harland and Wolff in late 1910 by the Black Country’s historic forging company, Noah Hingley and Sons Ltd in Netherton.
However, not every part of the anchors was to be produced by Hingleys.
The head of the anchor was cast by John Rogerson and Co. in Newcastleupon- Tyne, upon the request of Hingleys, and manufactured to the 1906 Hall’s Patent. The steel hand and drop forged anchor shank went to Walter Somers Ltd. in Halesowen. The job was given to Somers by Hingleys due to Somers having the techniques to produce large scale ingots and housing much more powerful hydraulic drop hammers compared to the one in use at the Hingleys works in 1910/11.
The Noah Hingley works, however, went on to manufacture themselves the anchor shackle and pin, anchor head locking pins and retaining blocks, anchor attachment links, anchor chains (for the side anchors), mooring swivel chains and anchor chains deck stoppers for the “unsinkable” liner.
The head of the anchor was to be cast in a bed of sand. The process was typical of late Victorian and early Edwardian casting, but on a much larger scale. The bed had the shape of the anchor cut into the sand from large wooden moulds made of the anchor head sections.
The bed, which sat close to the furnaces, had molten metal poured into the mould. Cooled down the whole cast head was lifted from the mould and cleaned up. If the head of the anchor was incorrect in weight, pig-iron was blasted onto the head when it was received by Noah Hingleys.
The anchor shank was a much more daunting process. After pig-iron bars were created by channelling liquid metal into beds set in sand, the bars were sent to the drop forge shops, melted down and formed into large ingots of steel. The drop forge hammers would be used to form the anchor shank’s principal shape.
The end result was an object over fifteen feet in length and weighing almost 8 tons. For the eyelets at both ends of the shank, for the securing pins to be passed through to secure both head and shackle, the eyes were forged into the shank during construction. Once the shape was achieved, the eyelets were cleaned.
The anchor parts were then passed onto the Lloyds Proving House which was situated alongside the Noah Hingley works on the opposite side of the Cradley Road.
The anchor was put through a series of tests, as set by Lloyds Register of Shipping. Some of the tests included the drop test which would see the assembled anchor lifted to a height of 12ft and dropped onto a solid concrete and steel topped base. This was to establish the drop load of the anchor when at sea.
Next there was the hammer test in which the anchor was lifted and a Lloyds worker would hit the head and shank of the Titanic: The Hingley Anchors anchor. If the steel had a “ring” sound, the anchor had no imperfections and was passed. It was then stamp-marked with certificates from the Proving House registration, date, Proving House Superintendants initials, weight, drop test and materials used.
Each link for the anchor chains of the Titanic were of an impressive scale and made from steel which Hingleys proudly claimed “Hingleys Best”.
The largest link was situated within the anchor attachment and measured 36in, the others were forged at 33in.
Each link was forged from pig-iron bars, heated up and run through a machine known as a mandrel.
The mandrel gave the link its distinctive shape, but both ends of the link did not meet.
The link would then be heated while a centre stud was hammered into place. The link, still open, was then hooped into its neighbouring closed-up link. The “chain gang” would then close the link and fuse the ends together.
Before this process, sections of chain were made for testing purposes.
Lengths of the chain were tested at the Hingley works in hydraulic pulling beds.
One end of the length of chain was secured to a stationary clamp. The other was fitted into the jaws of the anchor and chain testing machine.
The machine would then apply pressure upon the chains to a set tonnage recommended by Lloyds.
Like the anchors, the section of chains forged had to be proved and both Hingley and Lloyds Proving House workmen had the lengthy task of checking the links. Almost 1,200 feet of chain were forged for the Titanic.
All three of the Olympic-Class liners had their centre anchors painted matt white while at the Hingley works. But Titanic was the only one of the three that had the name “Hingley Netherton” painted upon the shank.
Both side anchors of the Olympic were painted matt white and sent that way to Belfast.
Both Titanic’s side anchors were painted matt black and Britannic’s centre anchor was painted matt white.
Transportation for the Titanic anchors came from the Great Bridge (West Midlands) haulage company W.A.
Ree, who were sub-contracted to LNWR (London and North Western Railways). The company sent a large heavy duty haulage cart, more commonly known as a dray, and eight of their Clydesdale horses to help pull the cart. These huge horses had the pulling strength of up to two tonnes each and were a common sight on inland waterways, canals and roads of the Midlands. The horses were then connected to the cart after the huge anchor had been lowered upon it while at the Lloyds Proving House. With hills challenging the procession, such as that on Blowers Green, Hingley works decided to attach six of their own horses to the group of Ree horses to help take the extra strain as the horses and dray made their way up hills and cobbled streets. From the LNWR terminal, another six horses were sent down to assist, if needed. Placed at the head of the team, and now being returned to where they came from, the sight was that of a horse procession of twenty beasts.
With hundreds of townsfolk lining dirt tracks and streets, the procession left the Hingley works and started its two-mile journey to Dudley. Heading through Netherton High Street, then through Cinder Bank and on to Blowers Green, coming out at the top of Dudley High Street, and through the Market Place and into Castle Hill, the huge anchor finally arrived at the LNWR goods yard next to the Guest Hospital on the Tipton Road. The next leg of the journey would see the anchors and chains sent via rail to Fleetwood in Lancashire.
From Fleetwood, the anchor was to be put onboard the passenger/ cargo steamer Duke of Albany and sent across the Irish Sea to Donegal Quay in Belfast. From there it went on to the Belfast shipyards of Harland and Wolff via Harland’s own horses and cart, painted black then fitted aboard the Titanic.
One of the spectators that day was the Cradley Heath freelance photographer Edwin Beech; little did Beech know how iconic his images would be.
The sinking of the Titanic was a night to remember. The journey from the Hingley works to Dudley Railway Station was, for the people of Dudley and Netherton, a day to remember.
(Jonathan Smith comes from Willenhall and has studied the Titanic since the age of seven. Over the years he has supplied images and information to a number of Titanic books, magazines, researchers, historians, websites and DVDs. For the Channel 4 series, he has supplied technical information, photographs, plans, drawings and the information on not only anchors for the Titanic, but also the company of Noah Hingley and Sons, the methods of how they manufactured such large-scale anchors, and the historic journey they undertook in May 1911).