Brown & Harfields's Capstan

The capstan arrangement on Cerberus differed from the layout below in 3 ways.
  1. The capstan flange (capstan cable holder), bitts and cable stopper were on the Upper Deck.
  2. The capstan was on the Lower Deck.
  3. There was a steam engine to power the capstan on the deckhead (ceiling) of the Hold Deck below the capstan.
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Image from Fast Sailing Ships: Their Design and Construction, 1775-1875 by David R. MacGregor

Wrought Iron Capstan Cable Holder

"From the lower deck I ascended to the flying deck, and from that elevation watched the process of weighing Martin's patent (and ponderously) anchor by the steam windlass. Slowly and surely the links keep rising out of the water, and lots of boys from the Nelson, with crooked rods of iron, fork it up, and pass it below; the hose playing upon it as it comes up, link by link, to wash off the crust of mud, with which it is coated. After thirty six fathoms have been brought up then up comes the unwieldly mud-hook, and the order is passed 'easy ahead.'" Herald 28 August 1871

Remains of the capstan cable holder. The vertical post bolted to the top is a recent addition.photo Peter Webster c 1990

One of the Martin's anchors & the capstan cable holder.
photo courtesy of
Museum Victoria

Capstan Cable Holder
Wilfrid Russell Grimwade collection
University of Melbourne Archives.
image no. UMA/I/3026


A Brown & Harfields Patent capstan had a shaft going up to a cable holder on the Upper Deck. The photo below shows the capstan on the Lower Deck. A 24 hp steam engine on the deckhead (ceiling) of the deck below provided motive power.

Capstan bars could be fitted to slots in the barrel to allow manual operation although this was only done after the second set of boilers had been condemned & hence steam could not be raised.

"Thirty-one men of the naval forces took the bars of the big capstan on the lower deck and a piper sat on the bars. The heavy anchor came up slowly to the tune of 'There Was an Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket' as the piper & his flute revolved with the capstan. The march was quickened when 'Yankee Doodle' thrilled out & soon the anchor was 'catted'." The Argus April 13 1909

Capstan on the Lower Deck
Photo: Glen Agnew, Parkdale Research 1989.

The capstan on USS Constitution.
photo: www.ussconstitution.navy.mil