In common with HMS Rodney, HMS Howe, HMS Camperdown and HMS Benbow she was a progressive development of the design of HMS Collingwood and was an exact sister-ship of Camperdown. She was armed with guns of 13.5 inches in calibre, which was a significant advance on earlier ships. The 13.5 inch calibre gun was chosen because it was of virtually the weight and power as the artillery which the French naval architects were shipping in their Formidable and Amiral Baudin. It was a much more powerful weapon than the 12 inch gun mounted in Collingwood and in some earlier ships, and would in theory penetrate the thickest armour carried on any warship currently afloat. Because of delays in the manufacture of these weapons the completion of Anson, and of all of her sisters, was vastly prolonged. Delays spanned six or seven years between laying-down and commissioning. She arrived at Portsmouth from the builder's yard in Pembroke in March 1887, and lay at anchor for two years, slowly completing for sea while waiting for her guns to be manufactured. She finally commissioned 28 May 1889 as flagship of the Rear-Admiral, Channel Fleet. In September 1893 she was transferred to the Mediterranean, where she served until January 1900, with a refit at Malta in 1896. She returned home and paid off at Devonport in January 1901, re-commissioning for the newly-formed Home Fleet in March of the same year. In May 1904 Anson finally paid off into reserve, where she remained until sold on 13 July 1909.