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The Navy Board (1546-1832)
Navy Board Flag 1832 new version.jpg
The Flag of the Navy Board in 1832
Board overview
Formed24 April 1546
Preceding Board
Dissolved1 June 1832
JurisdictionKingdom of England Kingdom of England
Kingdom of Great Britain Kingdom of Great Britain
HeadquartersNavy Office
Board executive
Parent departmentAdmiralty

The Navy Board[1] and formerly known as the Council of the Marine or Council of the Marine Causes[2] was the commission with responsibility for day-to-day civil administration of the Royal Navy between 1546 and 1832. The board was headquartered within the Navy Office.[3]


The origins of the Navy Board first began to appear in the 15th century when the Keeper of the Kings or Clerk of the Kings Ships in 1414 the predecessor, then later subordinate office, of the Lord Admiral of England was joined by a Keeper of the Storehouses in 1514.[4] As management of the navy began to expand he was joined by a Clerk Comptroller in 1522, then later the Lieutenant of the Admiralty in 1544, then a Treasurer of Marine Causes in 1544 was added. A sixth officer was created, a Surveyor and Rigger of the Navy, in 1544, and finally a seventh officer called Master of Naval Ordnance also in 1545[5] the group by January 1545 was already working as a body known as the Council of the Marine or King's Majesty's Council of His Marine.[6] In the first quarter of 1545 an official memorandum was outlined that proposed the establishment of a new organisation that would formalize a structure for administering the navy that would have a clear chain of command for executing the office.[6] Following the previous proposals the Navy Board was officially appointed by letters patent by Henry VIII on the 24 April 1546 it was initially directed by the Lieutenant of the Admiralty until 1557.[7] the board was charged with overseeing the administrative affairs of the navy (while directive, executive and operational duties of the Lord High Admiral remained with the Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office.[8] In 1557 the Lieutenant of the Admiralty ceased to direct the Navy Board that role was now given to the Treasurer of the Navy also known as the Senior Commissioner. In the earlier part of its history it remained independent until 1628 when it became a subsidiary body of the Board of Admiralty now reporting to the First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1660 the Treasurer of the Navy ceased to direct the board and was replaced by the Comptroller who now held the new joint title of Chairman of the Board. Although a subordinate body of Admiralty Board, it still maintained its independence in relation to its role within the Royal Navy until 1832. Following re-structuring proposals of the Naval Service made by Sir James Graham the Navy Board was finally abolished (along with its subsidiary boards for Sick and Hurt, Transport, and Victualling) and all of the functions were merged under the single responsibility of the Board of Admiralty with its administrative functions being dispersed among the Naval Lords.

Duties and responsibilities

Badge of the Navy Board on Somerset House (the Board's headquarters 1789–1832)

The Navy Board overall responsibilities were the construction and maintenance of ships through the Royal Dockyards of Deptford, Woolwich, Portsmouth and Chatham; the operations of the dockyards and other naval establishments.[9] In addition to the procurement of victuals (obtained from private contractors or "agents"), stores, supplies and services for the fleet[9] and provision of ordnance items (sourced from the Office of Ordnance). It was also responsible for all civilian and naval pay,[9] and for the appointment of junior officers and warrant officers, and had several other duties in addition.

  • The Lieutenant of the Admiralty: He initially presided over the Council of the Marine (1545-1564) and was later superseded by the Treasurer.
  • The Treasurer of the Navy: He was Senior Commissioner of the board from 1564 to 1660 and controlled and directed all Naval finance - though in practice his responsibilities were later increasingly devolved to the Comptroller.
  • The Comptroller of the Navy: He was in charge of Naval spending he also acted as chairman of the board from 1660 until its abolition in 1832.
  • The Surveyor of the Navy: He was in charge of Naval shipbuilding, ship design and running the Royal Dockyards.
  • The Clerk of the Navy: He was in charge of the day-to-day running of the Board and the administration of its work and acted as Chief Secretary to the Navy Office.
  • The Surveyor of Marine Victuals: He was responsible for the administration of victualling yards and supply of food and beverages for the Royal Navy from 1550 to 1679, his office was abolished and replaced by the Victualling Board in 1683.
  • The Master of Naval Ordnance: He was a specifically assigned officer from the Ordnance Office responsible for the supply of Naval Ordnance he was briefly a member from (1561-1569).
  • The Comptroller of Storekeepers's Accounts: His post was created to relieve the Comptroller of the Navy one of his duties
  • The Comptroller of Treasurer's Accounts: His post was created to relieve the Comptroller of the Navy one of his duties
  • The Comptroller of Victualling Accounts: His post was created to relieve the Comptroller of the Navy one of his duties

Note:The Navy Pay Office (domain of the Treasurer of the Navy) was independent of the Board; though the Board's Commissioners were required to authorize payments, all funds were held and issued by the Pay Office (which was also known as the Navy Treasury).

Subsidiary boards

As the size of the fleet grew, the Admiralty sought to focus the activity of the Navy Board on two areas: ships and their maintenance, and naval expenditure. Therefore, from the mid- to late-17th century, a number of subsidiary Boards began to be established to oversee other aspects of the Board's work.[10] these included:

  • The Victualling Board (1683-1832), was responsible for providing naval personnel with enough food, drink and supplies.
  • The Sick and Hurt Board (established temporarily in times of war from 1653, placed on a permanent footing from 1715, amalgamated into the Transport Board from 1806) and was responsible for providing were responsible for providing medical support services to the navy and managing prisoners of war.
  • The Transport Board (1690-1724, re-established 1794, amalgamated into the Victualling Board in 1817), was responsible for the provision of transport services and for the transportation of supplies and military equipment.

Each of these subsidiary Boards went on to gain a degree of independence (though they remained, nominally at least, overseen by the Navy Board).[11]

Principal Officers and Commissioners

Tudor and Stuart period

List of Principal Officers and Commissioners 1546-1660 included.

Instrumental in the early administration of the Navy Office were usually between four and seven officials or "Principal Officers" though some were styled differently prior to 1660, Charles I added a fifth between 1625 and 1640 they included:.[18] As defined by a set of Ordinances drawn up under Henry's successor, Edward VI, the Navy Board was given a high degree of autonomy while yet remaining subordinate to the Lord High Admiral until 1628. This - at times ambiguous - relationship with The Admiralty was an enduring characteristic of the Board, and indeed was one of the reasons behind its eventual demise in 1832.[19]

Commonwealth and Restoration period

During the Commonwealth the business of both Navy Board and Admiralty was carried out by a committee of Parliament. Following the Restoration, James, Duke of York (as Lord High Admiral) oversaw the reconstitution of the Navy Board. Alongside the aforementioned "Principal Officers" further officials were appointed to serve as "Commissioners" of the Navy, and together these constituted the Board. By tradition, commissioners were always Navy officers of the rank of post-captain or captain who had retired from active service at sea.[20]

List of Principal Officers and Commissioners 1660-1796 included.[21]

Additional Commissioners added after 1666, who were soon given specific duties (so as to lessen the administrative burden placed on the Controller.

Hanoverian period

In 1796 the Board was reconstituted: the post of Clerk of the Acts was abolished, as were the three Controllers of Accounts. Henceforward, the Board would consist of the Controller and a Deputy Controller (both of whom were normally commissioned Officers), the Surveyor (usually a Master Shipwright from one of the Dockyards) and around seven other Commissioners (a mixture of officers and civilians) to whom no specific duties were attached.

The Treasurer, though still technically a member of the Board, was (like the Dockyard Commissioners) seldom in attendance.[23] In fact the post of Treasurer was by this stage little more than a sinecure; the main work of his department was carried out by its senior clerk, the Paymaster of the Navy.

Following the abolition of the office of Clerk of the Acts, the post of Secretary to the Board was created; as well as overseeing the administrative department, the Secretary attended meetings of the Board and took minutes; but he was not himself a Commissioner and did not therefore have a vote.

List of Principal Officers and Commissioners 1796-1832 included:[21]

Commissioners of the Navy

To all of these lists must be added the Commissioners of the Navy with oversight of the Royal Navy Dockyards. Normally resident at their respective Dockyards and thus known as Resident Commissioners, these Commissioners did not normally attend the Board's meetings in London; nevertheless, they were considered full members of the Navy Board and carried the full authority of the Board when implementing or making decisions within their respective Yards both at home and overseas.[23] Not every Dockyard had a resident Commissioner in charge, but the larger Yards, both at home and overseas, generally did (with the exception of the nearby Thames-side yards of Deptford and Woolwich, which were for the most part overseen directly by the Board in London, although Woolwich did have a Resident Commissioner for some years). Chatham Dockyard, Devonport Dockyard, Portsmouth Dockyard, Sheerness Dockyard, Trincomalee Dockyard and the Bermuda Dockyard all had Resident Commissioners.

After the abolition of the board in 1832 the duties of these Commissioners were taken over by commissioned officers: usually an Admiral-superintendent at the largest yards, or a Captain-superintendent at smaller yards.


Navy Office, Crutched Friars (the Board's headquarters 1656–1788)

From the 1650s the Board, together with its staff of around 60 clerks, was accommodated in a large house at the corner of Crutched Friars and Seething Lane, just north of the Tower of London. Following a fire, the house was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. This new Navy Office provided accommodation for the Commissioners, as well as office space. Different departments were accommodated in different parts of the building; the rear wing (which had its own entrance on Tower Hill) housed the offices of the Sick and Hurt Board. The Victualling Office was also located nearby, on Little Tower Hill, close to its early manufacturing base at Eastminster. The Navy Treasury, where the Treasurer was based, was located from 1664 in Broad Street (having moved there from Leadenhall Street). It was also known as the Navy Pay Office. In 1789, all these offices were relocated into the new purpose-built office complex of Somerset House.[25]


By the early nineteenth century, Members of Parliament had begun raising concerns at the cost of Navy Board operations and the obscurity of its record-keeping. On 15 February 1828 Robert Peel, the Home Secretary, established a Parliamentary Committee to review the Board's operations. The committee, chaired by Irish MP Henry Parnell, was specifically charged with interpreting and reducing Navy Board costs. By the end of the year it had issued critical reports covering the Board's administration of naval pensions, half-pay, revenue, expenditure and debt. In particular, the Committee noted the Navy Board had long since abandoned financial controls; that it had instead "established a scale of expense greatly beyond what existed during former periods of peace," and that its operations tended to "exalt its own importance" over the needs of the public service as a whole.[26]

The Board's internal operations were also found wanting:

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The ancient and wise control vested by our financial policy in the hands of the Treasury over all the departments connected with the Public Expenditure, has been in a great degree set aside. Although it is the [Navy Board] practice to lay the annual estimates before the Board of Treasury, the subsequent course of expenditure is not practically restrained ... Old modes of conducting public business, full of complexity and inconsistency, have too long been suffered to exist; official forms and returns have been multiplied; and the result has been an unnecessary increase of establishments.

— Sir Henry Parnell MP, Select Committee on the State of Public Income and Expenditure, End of Session Report, Volume Four, 1828.[26]

The Government's response was delivered on 14 February 1832, with a Bill to abolish both the Navy Board and the Victualling Board and merge their functions into the Board of Admiralty. This Bill was moved by Sir James Graham as First Lord of the Admiralty, who argued that the Boards had been "constituted at a period when the principles of banking were unknown," and were redundant in an era of greater Parliamentary oversight and regulation. An amendment proposed by First Sea Lord Sir George Cockburn suggested that Navy Board be preserved and only the Victualling Board abolished, but this was defeated by 118 votes to 50. The Bill itself was passed on 23 May 1832, with the Navy Board formally ceasing operations from 1 June.[26]


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  1. ^ In the mid-eighteenth century, and particularly during the War of Jenkins' Ear from 1739 to 1748, the Navy Board was chaired by Surveyor Jacob Acworth, because the Controller, Richard Haddock, was considered by his peers to be too old and feeble to carry out the role. The chairmanship reverted to the Controller after Haddock was superannuated in February 1749.[22]


  1. ^ .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}"Research guide B6: The Royal Navy: Administrative records". Royal Museums Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site In London. Royal Museums Greenwich. 13 January 2003.
  2. ^ Rasor, Eugene L. (2004). English/British naval history to 1815 : a guide to the literature. Westport (Conn.): Praeger. p. 265. ISBN 0313305471.
  3. ^ Clarke, James Stanier; McArthur, John (Sep 2, 2010). The Naval Chronicle: Volume 25, January-July 1811: Containing a General and Biographical History of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom with a Variety of Original Papers on Nautical Subjects. Cambridge University Press. p. 123. ISBN 9781108018647.
  4. ^ Oppenheim, Michael (1988). A History of the Administration of the Royal Navy and of Merchant Shipping in Relation to the Navy from 1509 to 1660 with an Introduction Treating of the Preceding Period. Temple Smith. p. 84. ISBN 9780566055720.
  5. ^ Ranft, Bryan (2002). The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy. Oxford University Press. p. 31. ISBN 9780198605270.
  6. ^ a b Ranft, Bryan (2002). The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy. Oxford University Press. p. 31.
  7. ^ Ehrman, John (2012). The Navy in the war of William III, 1689-1697 : its state and direction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 179. ISBN 9781107645110.
  8. ^ "MOD historical summary" (PDF).
  9. ^ a b c Dewar, David; Funnell, Warwick (2017). The Pursuit of Accountability: A History of the National Audit Office. Oxford University Press. p. 45. ISBN 9780198790310.
  10. ^ "Royal Museums Greenwich archives summary".
  11. ^ "National Maritime Museum research guide".
  12. ^ Rodger, N.A.M. (1979). The Admiralty, Offices of State. Lavenham: Terence Dalton Ltd. p. 5. ISBN 0900963948.
  13. ^ Thrush, Andrew D. "The Navy Under Charles I, 1625-1640" (PDF). University College London, Ph.D. Dissertation, p.68, June 1990. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  14. ^ Thrush, Andrew D. "The Navy Under Charles I, 1625-1640" (PDF). University College London, Ph.D. Dissertation, p.68, June 1990. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  15. ^ Thrush, Andrew D. "The Navy Under Charles I, 1625-1640" (PDF). University College London, Ph.D. Dissertation, p.68, June 1990. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  16. ^ Sainty, J.C. "Surveyor of Marine Victuals 1550-c. 1679 Institute of Historical Research". Historical Research Institute, University of London, 2003. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  17. ^ Archives, The National. "accounts as master of naval Ordnance". Gloucestershire Archives, 1561-69. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  18. ^ FOURTH REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONERS FOR Revising and Digesting the Civil Affairs of His MAJESTY'S Navy. Digitized, Oxford University, 2006. 1806. p. 7.
  19. ^ Hamilton, Sir Vesey. "Naval Administration (1896)". Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  20. ^ Rodger, N.A.M. (1986). The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 34. ISBN 0870219871.
  21. ^ a b Collinge, J. M. "Principal officers and commissioners British History Online". University of London, 1978. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  22. ^ Baugh, Daniel A. (1965). British Naval Administration in the Age of Walpole. Princeton University Press. pp. 47–48. OCLC 610026758.
  23. ^ a b Collinge, J.M. "Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 7, Navy Board Officials 1660-1832". British History Online. University of London, 1978. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  24. ^ Admiralty, Great Britain (1834). The Navy List. H.M. Stationery Office. p. 136.
  25. ^ "Somerset House: the Great Institutions".
  26. ^ a b c Bonner-Smith, D. (1945). "The Abolition of the Navy Board". The Mariner's Mirror. 31 (3): 154–159. doi:10.1080/00253359.1945.10658919.


  • Rodger, N.A.M. (1979). The Admiralty. Offices of State. Terence Dalton Ltd, Lavenham. Suffolk. England.
  • Collinge, J M, ed. (1978), "Principal officers and commissioners", Office-Holders in Modern Britain Volume 7, Navy Board Officials 1660–1832, London, pp. 18–25, retrieved 28 February 2017 – via British History Online

External links

1893 text

A list of the Officers of the Admiralty, May 31st, 1660. From a MS. in the Pepysian Library in Pepys’s own handwriting.

His Royal Highness James, Duke of York, Lord High Admiral. Sir George Carteret, Treasurer. Sir Robert Slingsby, (soon after) Comptroller. Sir William Batten, Surveyor. Samuel Pepys, Esq., Clerk of the Acts.

Commissioners: John, Lord Berkeley (of Stratton,) Sir William Penn, Peter Pett, Esq.—B,

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

9 Annotations

Pauline  •  Link

From Claire Tomalin's "Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self" pp49-50
"The members of the Navy Board were appointed by the king and whoever he chose to listen to. In 1660 Sandwich [Montagu], as vice-admiral, was one adviser, alongside the duke of York and his secretary, William Coventry. They agreed that the board should consist of four principal officers, as it had done under Charles I--treasurer, comptroller, surveyor and clerk of the acts--and three commissioners, a system that had worked well under the commonwealth. Sir George Carteret, an impeccable royalist whose service at sea had begun under Charles I and who had held Jersey for him, was appointed treasurer. He had official lodgings at Whitehall, a house in Pall Mall, another at Deptford and a country mansion near Windsor, and he was the highest paid,with L2,000 a year and the right to three pence in every pound he handled--this was a remnant of the old way of doing things. He was well disposed to Pepys, and Pepys knew he must cultivate him. The comptrollership went to two still more aged cavaliers, first Sir Robert Slingsby, who died within a year, then Sir John Mennes, whose naval career went back to the 1620s. He had fought at sea with Prince Rupert and no doubt against William Penn; and he was an educated man, a wit and a poet who had published imitations of Chaucer and encouraged Pepys to appreciate "The Canterbury Tales" and "Troilus and Ciseyde".

"The surveyor, with particular responsibility for the dockyards and the design, building and repair of ships, was Sir William Batten, a professional who had served on both sides during the civil war. Of the commissioners, Penn, who was given a brief to take an interest in every aspect of the board's work, also owed his appointment to his years of experience as a naval commander; both men made a useful practical link with the commonwealth regime. Another commisioner, Peter Pett, the master-shipwright at Chatham, had nothing of the cavalier about him and had served Cromwell zealously; but no change of government could unseat him, because the Pett family had a virtual monopoly of shipbuilding in the Thames yards, and he moved smoothly to work for the restored monarchy. In May 1660 he had been summoned on board the Naseby to prepare it for the king, and later in the year he started to build a royal pleasure yacht, the Catherine, greatly admired by Pepys.

"These were the men with whom Pepys chiefly had to work; Lord Berkeley, the third commissioner, was appointed purely as a sign of royal favour; nothing was expected of him. There were further officers working at the more distant dockyards, Harwich and Portsmouth, some with histories of service to the commonwealth. Other minor officials left over from commonwealth days contrived to hang on in lesser Jobs....

"Each officer of the Navy Board was served by his own two clerks, chosen by himself and usually owing their jobs to personal connections, just as their master did. Pepys was quick to defend his two, Tom Hayter and Will Hewer, against any criticism and to attack inefficiency among the other. The rest of the staff served everyone: two messengers, a doorkeeper, a porter and couple of watchmen; and there were boatmen ready to take all the board official up or down river at all times."

Pedro.  •  Link

Naval Board General powers (L&M Companion):

The Board was to make most of its decisions jointly. It was required to meet twice a week, the hours and days being varied during parliamentary session for the benefit of the members who were MP's or peers. In 1660 when, it was getting into its stride, and in crises, during the war and after, it met more frequently. Two members constituted a quorum. The clerks were present except when the Board resolved to meet "close".

vicenzo  •  Link

Navy board Officials
At the Restoration the offices of the four Principal Officers of the Navy, the Treasurer, Controller, Surveyor and Clerk of the Acts, were re-established, and three Commissioners were appointed to act with them. These officials, known both singly and collectively as Principal Officers and Commissioners of the Navy, formed the Navy Board and were jointly responsible under the direction of the Lord High Admiral for the civil administration of the Navy. .....

Various expedients were adopted to deal with the business arising from the examination of seamen's tickets. The Ticket Office was usually managed by one of the members of the Navy Board. Its management was taken out of the hands of the Controller in 1668 and entrusted to the Controller of Treasurer's Accounts.
From: 'Introduction', Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume VII: Navy Board Officials 1660-1832 (1978) pp. 1-17 URL:…. Date accessed: 10 April 2005

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Writing of the Commonwealth times, M. Oppenheim in his 1923 book, “Administration of the Navy”, says that never had England, so far as administration was concerned, been better prepared for war. Instead of officials who, in the preceding half century, owed their posts to court influence, or to seniority, the work was in the hands of men chosen for business aptitude and who had often given proof of higher qualifications on the field of battle or in Parliamentary Committee.

Of the latter class were the Admiralty Commissioners; but the Navy Commissioners, and especially those in charge of the dockyards, on whom fell most of the duty or organization, were officers who had been taught by actual warfare. Prompt, capable, honest, and energetic, sparing themselves neither in purse nor in person, and frequently bringing religious fervor as a spur to their daily service, they conveyed to war on another element, although one with which they were more familiar by early training, the same thoroughness and zeal which had made them victorious on land.

In 1652 the depleted Navy Commissioners petitioned the Admiralty Commissioners calling attention to their openings and “desire timely remedy or dismissal from our employment.” The Admiralty approved — or accepted their ultimatum — and recommended Capt. Francis Willoughby, Major Nehemiah Bourne, and Capt. Edward Hopkins to be additional Commissioners of the Navy.
On 20 December 1652 the Council of State approved the recommendation and ordered warrants to be issued to them as such.

It appears to be more than a coincidence that all three were Puritan New England colonists who had gone out to Massachusetts at about the same time (1637–1638). Sir Henry Vane, the younger, a former Governor of Massachusetts (1636–1637), was now a member of the Council of State as well as one of the Admiralty Commissioners. Whether he influenced the appointments in favor of the New Englanders cannot be known, but the number of colonists who obtained appointments in the navy is remarkable; however, they were always men of outstanding merit and ability.

By 1657 the debts of the navy were £100,000 and its immediate needs £300,000, but Parliament refused to grant Supply unless the control of the militia was restored to them, and Cromwell, utterly refusing to allow the military power out of his own hands, in a fit of temper, dissolved Parliament. Such a situation did not ease the difficulties or improve the tempers of the Navy Commissioners, who were at once the butt between the seamen and dockyard workmen and the administration. Pensions of the sick and wounded were always in arrears; the men in the dockyard were unpaid and frequently complained that they were unable to obtain credit for the necessities of life.

Commissioner Peter Pett was obliged to leave Chatham for a time to avoid the clamor of the unpaid poor

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


Cromwell died on 3 September, 1658 and the intrigues which followed intensified the disorder existing in naval affairs.

In the autumn of 1658 it was decided to lay up the big ships, and the Admiralty sent Major Nehemiah Bourne, Capt. Robert Thomson and Capt. John Taylor down to join with Chatham Commissioner Peter Pett and Capt. William Badiley to survey the Medway and report as to how far the ships could be taken up the river and how they should be moored, and particularly, whether the Sovereign (the largest ship in the service), could be taken above Upnor Castle and whether she should be moored by chains or cables; also, what kind of a guard was necessary for their protection.

They made a long and comprehensive report, which the Admiralty approved of, and then directed the Navy Commissioners to put into effect.

If Navy Commissioner Nehemiah Bourne realized the growing unrest throughout the country, which was more apparent in the seaports than elsewhere, his letter to the Navy Commissioners, of 18 August, 1659 from Harwich makes his first mention of the rising storm.

“Since Monday, I have been here, and found business worth my time and labor. The spirit and temper of this county (notwithstanding the means they have had) may be compared with the rest of the nation, who are embittered and malignant, and want nothing but opportunity to give trouble to the Army ...
“... As for these blind people here, they are as malignant as others who show their teeth; fourteen days since, some of the baser sort declared for a King, and invited others to join with them, which insolence was too lightly passed over by the Governor of the town.”

Bourne then says he had sent to the Governor of Landguard Fort to seize some of the more bold and violent people and had advised the Admiralty to raise a company of well-affected men to secure the town and port, “which is needed as the spirit of the nation is”; he ends as usual with a comprehensive report on the ships there, and the unfailing subjects of money and stores; at the present time the workmen had difficulty in getting credit owing to arrears of pay. The storehouse was empty and there must be speedy provision made for the frigates daily arriving.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


In August and September 1659 there were more Royalist plots throughout the country — Commissioner Bourne’s letter concerning the spirit of the Harwich men reflected the dissatisfaction with the existing government which was becoming general everywhere; one rising after another had been quelled, and for a time the fortunes of the Royalists seemed at their lowest ebb.

There was one element in Charles II’s favor, namely, the want of union in the governing power in England, between the Parliament and the military force; and such was the dissension that by October or November 1659 at least those in Parliament knew that the Restoration was certain, how and when were not clear.

Despite the unrest throughout the country and the inevitable trend of events, unpleasant enough to men of Commissioner Bourne’s views, he carried on assiduously with his duties at the Navy Office.

Although Bourne had a personal dislike of Harwich, and his 7 year association with the town had given him good reason for it, he was convinced of its importance as a naval base, an opinion amply confirmed in the wars of 1666 – 1668 and 1672 – 1674, and his attention was now directed to securing its permanence.

Major Nehemiah Bourne returned to London from his last official visit to Harwich. There are more letters about the Harwich yard, showing his last efforts as a Navy Commissioner were directed towards securing its permanency as a naval base, and then his reports cease, or none have been preserved,

The events of the next few months are a matter of history; in February, 1660, Gen. George Monck returned to London, and, now with military power in his hands, insisted on Parliament’s voting its own dissolution and the summoning of a fresh Parliament consisting of a House of Commons and a House of Peers, which happened on 20 April 1660.

The Restoration was a fait accompli.

Parliament voted on 1 May 1660 for the restoration of the monarchy;
on 10 May, 1660 Adm. Edward Montagu received orders to sail for Holland to embark Charles II and his retinue.
Charles II landed at Dover on 25 May 1660 where he was met by Gen. George Monck who accompanied him to London.

The Restoration ended Commissioner Bourne’s career in the service of the state;
by an Order in Council of 4 July, 1660 for the appointment of Commissioners of the Navy, Lord Berkeley, Adm. Sir William Penn (knighted on 9 June) and Peter Pett were appointed, with Samuel Pepys as Clerk or Secretary to the Commissioners, the first appearance of his name in the State Papers, and now on the threshold of his career at the Navy Office.

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There is much evidence as to the success of the development at Harwich under well-nigh insuperable difficulties. Oppenheim in his book described Major Nehemiah Bourne and Capt. Francis Willoughby (the commissioner at Portsmouth, whose house Pepys takes over) as being, in their own sphere, amongst the ablest administrators who have ever served the state.

Highlights from a 1952 paper presented by Captain William Robert Chaplin, of the Trinity House, London.

Pepys met both Bourne and Willoughby:

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