The Lusitania Resource > Related Ships > RMS Mauretania > Design and Construction

Design and Construction

Just like LusitaniaMauretania was conceived as the British answer to growing German naval and American commercial dominance of the North Atlantic.  In 1903, the Cunard Line and British Government came to an agreement where the government would provide a loan of £2,600,000 to build Lusitania and Mauretania with the provision that the ship would have a service speed of no slower than 24 ½ knots and could be requisitioned by the British Admiralty as Armed Merchant Cruisers during times of war.  The British Government also agreed to pay Cunard an additional £150,000 per year for the ships to carry royal mail.

Both ships were designed by Leonard Peskett, and the original 1903 plans showed Lusitania and Mauretania as three-funneled ships powered by reciprocating engines.  As the sisters’ designs evolved, in 1904 the sisters became four-funneled ships powered by Parsons turbines.

Mauretania’s construction was contracted out to Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richarsdon at Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, England.  To protect the nascent ship from the elements, Mauretania would be constructed under a roof.

Her construction did not proceed as smoothly as Lusitania’s at John Brown and Company in Clydebank, Scotland.  Swan Hunter was consistently asking Cunard for more input on construction advice.  A March 1906 surveyor’s report to Cunard’s directors wrote that “work on this ship [Mauretania] is satisfactory but not so far advanced as in the Lusitania.”

Cunard decided the names Lusitania and Mauretania on 15 February 1906, but it would take until 23 May for the company to decide whether the spelling “Mauretania” or “Mauritania” would be used, where Cunard opted for the spelling with an “e.”

Mauretania was launched on 20 September 1906, 3 ½ months after Lusitania.  Mauretania was christened by the Duchess of Roxburghe.  Being slightly larger than LusitaniaMauretania was the largest ship in the world until the introduction of White Star Line’s Olympic, which was launched in 1910 and entered service in 1911.

Mauretania and Lusitania were distinguishable by their vents, as Mauretania had cowl vents and Lusitania had oil-drum shaped vents.  Mauretania was also slightly longer, and the forward end of her superstructure was not stepped, as Lusitania’s was.

As for Mauretania’s machinery, the English sister had two extra stages of turbine blades in her forward turbines that Lusitania did not.  Both sisters pioneered Charles Parsons’ steam turbine engine technology for express ships.   Mauretania and Lusitania were the only ships with direct-drive steam turbines to hold the Blue Riband.  Later ships would use reduction-geared turbines.

Much like LusitaniaMauretania’s high speed also caused major vibration, requiring interior strengthening and redesigned propellers to fix the problem before entering service.

Mauretania’s saloon interiors were designed by English architect Harold Peto.  In contrast to Lusitania’s light and airy feel as designed by Scottish architect James Millar, Peto chose dark, rich woods that gave Mauretania the impression of an exclusive gentlemen’s preserve.  Mauretania’s public rooms used 28 different types of wood carved by 300 craftsmen from Palestine.  Her public rooms also included marble, tapestries, and other furnishings.

The first class dining saloon, while practically identical in specifications with Lusitania’s, had a completely different personality.  Mauretania’s dining room was decorated in Francis I style with rich woods that covered not only the room but also the dome above.

Similar to LusitaniaMauretania also had two elevators for saloon, around which the grand staircase wrapped.  The aft end of the boat deck also featured a verandah café.

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