Pre-Dreadnought is a generic term used to describe the battleships built between the 1880’s and 1905, before the launch of HMS Dreadnought. They were various classes of battleship built to replace the iron clad sailing ships of the 1870’s and 1880’s.
Typically they had only four main guns in two barbettes, one fore and one aft. Sometimes the barbettes were enclosed in an armoured gun house, or turret as it was commonly known, but on early battleships the barbettes were open.
Pre-Dreadnoughts had an array of secondary armament typically between 100mm to 230mm though 152mm (6inch) was the norm. Some had intermediate batteries of middle sized guns. All the guns were intended to be used against the enemy battleships at ranges of around 2000 yards.
The main guns were meant to be used against the armoured parts of an enemy ship, the secondary batteries were to be used against the softer parts, such as the bridge and funnels.
Pre-Dreadnoughts were powered by coal-fuelled triple-expansion steam engines that gave the fastest of them a top speed of around 18 knots.