Aerial hydraulics


Armstrong Mitchell hydraulic crane,  Venice,  November 2017

The Arsenale is a historically important and visually dramatic part of Venice. Hidden from visitors’ eyes for much of the time, its drama is well worth seeking.

Towering over this historic dockyard, is a unique piece of British engineering, the work of Armstrong, Mitchell and Co. of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The idea of introducing a heavy-duty crane to the Arsenale was first proposed in 1881 to support the construction of the battleship Morosini, the first giant warship with metal hull to be built on Venice.  The crane we can see now was commissioned in 1883 and was fully functioning within 2 years.  Heavy wear and war damage led to it being decommissioned in the mid-1950s.

The new technology in this crane,  invented by William Armstrong himself, permitted large quantities of water to be forced through the pipes at a constant pressure, so lifting greater weights than previously possible. The first of its type was installed in La Spezia in 1876, with others following in Bombay, Liverpool, Malta, Taranto, Pozzuoli and Japan.  Sadly, wear an tear, the arrival of electricity, and war damage has resulted in the dismantling of all but the Venice example.

Venice isn’t lacking in its history and beauty, but this one features high on the list for both categories.




Copyright Debbie Smyth, 19 December 2017

Posted as part of Square Sky

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