|Cyclops class ship|
Parliament regarded these ships as necessary because they were small and cheap with a shallow draft and offered coastal water defence. The attack-minded, Admiralty thought that because of their shallow draft, they might make good attack vessels in shallow water ports of the enemy. However, the majority of people believed them unfit for the open sea and heavy weather. The low fore and aft decks were often awash with sea even in conditions not regarded as severe.
HMS Hecate did make a journey across the North Sea and for this reason, I have a soft spot for her and the rest of these odd little ships. She had a complement of 156 men was 225ft from bow to stern with a beam of 45ft. She had two engines and a fore and aft turret, each with two 10 inch rifled muzzle loaders. The little lady could pack a punch if an enemy vessel was to get in her way.
These four ships (Cyclops, Hecate, Hydra, and Gorgon) were smaller versions of the HMS Devastation class battleship. They had one funnel instead of the two that HMS Devastation had and looked like a miniature version of this first turret Battleship with no sails.
(Incidentally there is an Australian Ship called HMVS Cerberus that was in service three years before HMS Devastation and is still about - part submerged in a bay off the Australian coast. She is very much like the Cyclops class ships but was built earlier. There is a Save the Cerebus movement to protect and look after this unique ship. You can find out more on Friends of the Cerebus Inc. Please click link below.)
Below is a newspaper report of HMS Hecate from the Glasgow Herald on 26th December 1883:
Some important experiments were made on Saturday off Plymouth on board the Hecate, 4, double-screw iron armour-plated turret-ship. This vessel, together with Gorgon, Cyclops, and Hydra, her sister ships, was built on the same principle as the Devastation, but on a much smaller scale. It was discovered that they could in no way stand the rough weather, and the belief was that powerful as they were, they could only be used for coast defence. About twelve months ago it was proposed to erect a superstructure on one as a test, with a view to secure not only greater stability but better accommodation for officers and crew. The Hecate was selected to experiment upon, and in January last Messrs H. & R. Green, of Blackwall, who were entrusted by the Admiralty with the work took, the ship in hand.
The improvement made included the extension of the breastwork to the ship's side and the lengthening aft about 20 feet. The captain's apartments are now within the superstructure, instead of below the upper deck, and are well supplied with light and natural ventilation. The officers generally have the advantage of a commodious reading room. A sick bay has been fitted up, and provision made for carrying a quantity of patent fuel. Additional mess accommodation has been secured on the lower deck by the removal of the sick bay, and better cabins have been allocated to the warrant officers.
The sea-going qualities of the Hecate under her altered condition were fully tested on her way from the Nore to Devonport. Saturday's experiments were directed to firing the four guns in the turrets, to test the strength of the superstructure, which is composed of ½ inch steel. Another object **** was to discover the best places for fixing the four Nordenfelt guns with which the ship is to be supplied.
The vessel is armed with four 18 ton guns, two in each turret, both of which revolve. The four guns were first discharged with scaling charges. Then the left gun in the fore turret was loaded with a full charge of 44lb of powder and a common shell weighing 400 lb and was discharged bearing on the port beam, at a horizontal elevation. The right gun in the same turret was next fired under similar conditions, but bearing on the starboard beam. Upon examining the superstructure it was found that two rivets had been started on the starboard side. The guns of the same turret were then fired with a battering charge of 70lb. of powder each and 400lb shell, but the concussion did no damage. They were then discharged simultaneously. The final experiment was the firing of an electric broadside of all four guns at once, bearing on the port beam. The concussion was considerable, but beyond the two rivets started, after the smallest charge, not the slightest damage was done — not even a pane of glass.