To keep pace with naval developments occurring in hated France, the British Royal Navy was approved for construction of a new class of surface warship - the Admiral-class. The six-strong group followed the general layout of the earlier Devastation-class (1869-1877) and all were given names of former British admirals (Collingwood, Rodney, Howe, Camperdown, Anson and Benbow). The ships were in commission from 1888 until 1910 when the arrival of HMS Dreandnought in 1906 (detailed elsewhere on this site) rendered the class more or less obsolete (as it did other mixed-gun warships worldwide).
The construction of HMS Benbow was awarded to Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company Ltd and saw her keel laid down on November 1st, 1882. She was launched on June 15th, 1885 to fall within the contract requirements though she would not be finished until June of 1888. HMS Benbow was named after Admiral John Benbow (1653-1702) a Royal Navy officer wounded in the leg at Monsieur Du Casse and having died at Port Royal, Kingston, Jamaica.
As completed, HMS Benbow displaced 10,600 tons and held a length of 330 feet, a bean of 68.5 feet and a draught of 27.9 feet. Power was from a Maudslay inverted compound engine arrangement developing 8,658 horsepower to 2 x shafts under stern. She was crewed by 523 personnel and armor protection ranged from 3" along the deck and 12" at the conning tower to 16" at the bulkheads and 18" at the belt. Her profile included two smoke funnels seated inline with one at midships and the other held forward. A single main mast was erected aft of the second funnel. One of the main gun installations sat atop a short structural work overlooking the bow with the second gun of equal design overlooking the stern. The main superstructure was uninterrupted and ran the length between the two main gun platforms.
Originally, the vessel was slated to carry a battery of 4 x 13.5" (343mm) main guns backed by 8 x 6" (152mm) secondary guns. However, the Woolwich Arsenal, charged with the construction of the main guns, failed to deliver the intended armament so the choice was made to use a pair of 16.25" guns instead and add two more 6" cannons due to the weight deficit. Additional armament included 12 x 6-pounder guns and 5 x 14" torpedo launchers - the latter installed above the waterline. These weapons, when taken collectively, made for a very well-armed warship of the period.
HMS Benbow took a full six years to complete and the entire class suffered in entering service on delayed schedules. Once operational, Benbow was assigned to the British Mediterranean Fleet whose purpose was to defend the critical British Empire trade routes emerging from Africa and elsewhere. Benbow held this position from 1888 until October of 1891. From there she was held in reserve until brought back, briefly, for exercises. She was then made a guardship and served in this role until April of 1904 (the same year she was paid off). Once again placed in reserve, and her military usefulness all but over, she was sold for scrapping in 1909.