Woolwich Arsenal, about 1750: the Laboratory pumps

(Updated, February 2018) The man at left, carrying a full bucket into the building behind, is wearing the uniform cap and light protective overall coat seen in others of these drawings, with the identifying number 'L. No. 55' ('L' probably for 'Laboratory') on the back. What look like wooden bunkers behind appear in fact to be a large, freestanding water cistern fed by the pump to the rear and accessible from both sides, with hinged lid covers. Apart from supplying the Laboratory for the water it needed for industrial purposes it was presumably also part of fire precautions. The pump to the front has a two-man handle, though with only one man using it. Its short spout is closed by a stopper apparently also allowing it to deliver water to the cistern behind through the lead pipe rising from the ground by the man to the rear drinking a mug of water. The water carrier has presumably filled his bucket from the cistern, either by dipping or from the tap low down on the right. The fall of the shadows suggests that if the pumps were inside Laboratory Square, they were in the south-west corner, but they are not visible in any of the other view in the same set so may have been outside the Square on the west side. The Royal Laboratory at Woolwich was constructed in 1696 for the purpose of manufacturing ammunition, fuses and gunpowder. It was formally renamed the Royal Arsenal in 1805. This drawing is one of 11 of which the numbers are non-sequential owing to the different boxes in which they are stored (by mount size): PAG9664, PAH4071-72, PAI0744-46, PAI7701-03, PAJ2303 and PAJ2312. Four were reproduced as a double-page spread in the 'Illustrated London News' of 1 January 1916, pp.. 14-15, as having recently appeared at auction by Messrs Hodgsons' and been bought by the ILN for that purpose. This makes it likely that they were later given to the NMM by Sir Bruce Ingram, managing proprietor and editor of the ILN and an early supporter of the Museum. They have been attributed to Gamaliel Massiot, an obscure artist of probably Huguenot French ancestry who was drawing master at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich from 1744 to 1768, after which he continued in a secondary position under Paul Sandby to shortly before his death early in 1782 (see further notes to PAI0746).

Object Details

ID: PAH4072
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Unknown; British School, 18th century Massiot, Gamaliel
Places: Unlinked place
Date made: ca.1750
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Mount: 380 mm x 562 mm

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