A unique image has been discovered of William Armstrong’s 111-ton ‘monster’ gun. Published on 11 June 1887 in the Illustrated London News, the picture shows the testing of the weapon – then the largest gun in existence – at Woolwich Arsenal in southeast London.
Constructed at the Elswick Works of Sir W. G. Armstrong, Mitchell & Co. of Newcastle upon Tyne, it was designed for arming the most modern warships.
It had a calibre of 16.25in and a total length of 43ft 8in. Its 1800lb shells emerged from the muzzle at a speed of 2020ft per second, and could penetrate wrought iron to a depth of 30.6in at a distance of 1000yds. The gun had an effective range of 8 miles.
Outclassing the products of Armstrong’s greatest rival, Alfred Krupp of Essen, the monster gun was the main attraction at the Royal Mining, Engineering and Industrial Exhibition, held at Newcastle in 1887 to celebrate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne. In that same year, its creator was raised to the peerage as Baron Armstrong of Cragside, the first engineer to be ennobled.