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Sir William Batten (1600/1601 – 1667) was an English naval officer and politician, who sat in the House of Commons from 1661 to 1667. As Surveyor of the Navy, he was a colleague of Samuel Pepys, who disliked him and disparaged him several times in his famous Diary.

Early life

Batten was the son of Andrew Batten of Somerset, master in the Royal Navy. In 1625 he was stated to be one of the commanders of two ships sent on a whaling voyage to Spitsbergen by the Yarmouth merchant Thomas Horth.[1] In August 1626 he took out letters of marque for the Salutation of London, owned by Andrew Hawes and others.[2] He was master of the Salutation again in 1628,[3] and in April of the following year Batten, along with Horth and Hawes, was ordered by the Privy Council not to send up the Salutation, now of Yarmouth, to "Greenland" (Spitsbergen), but they sent her and another ship up anyway.[4] The ships of the Muscovy Company seized both ships at Spitsbergen and drove them away clean (empty).[5] In 1630 he was master and part-owner of the Charles of London, and in 1635 was still serving as a master in the merchant service.[6] In 1638 Batten obtained the post of Surveyor of the Navy, probably by purchase.[7]

Civil War

In March 1642 Batten was appointed second-in-command under Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick, the Parliamentary admiral who took the fleet out of the King's hands, and up to the end of the First Civil War showed himself a steady partisan of Parliament. It was Vice-Admiral Batten's squadron which bombarded Scarborough when Henrietta Maria landed there. He was accused (it appears unjustly) by the Royalists of directing his fire particularly on the house occupied by the Queen.[7] In 1643 he was appointed Captain of Deal Castle. In 1644 he was at Plymouth, where he fortified the tip of the peninsula, which has been known since as Mount Batten.[8] Batten continued to patrol the English seas until the end of the First Civil War. His action in 1647 in bringing into Portsmouth a number of Swedish warships and merchantmen which had refused the customary salute to the flag, was approved by Parliament.[7]

When the Second Civil War broke out, he was distrusted by the Independents and removed from his command, though he professed continued willingness to serve the state. When part of the fleet revolted against Parliament and joined the Prince of Wales in May 1648, Batten went with them. He was knighted by the prince, but being suspected by the Royalists, was put ashore mutinously in Holland. He returned to England and lived in retirement during the Commonwealth period.[7]


At the Restoration, Batten again became Surveyor of the Navy. This put him in constant touch with Samuel Pepys, who mentions him frequently in his Diary. Pepys came to dislike Batten[9] and made numerous insinuations against his integrity, but there is no evidence to show that Batten, in profiting from his office, infringed the generally accepted ethics of the time,[7] or Pepys's own standards, for he also accepted bribes. Pepys's picture of Batten is not wholly consistent: he portrays him as a devious schemer, but Batten often comes across in the Diary as a typical old sailor, open-natured and quick-tempered. Pepys himself noted that the easiest way to deal with Batten was to make him lose his temper, "for then he will tell you everything in his mind." Relations between Pepys and the Battens were not always unfriendly: when Pepys's old enemy Mr Field, who had sued him successfully for false imprisonment, tried to have him arrested in view of the judgement, Pepys acknowledged gratefully that the Battens had sheltered him in their own house until the crisis was over.

Batten was elected in 1661 as a member for Rochester in the Cavalier Parliament and held the seat until his death in 1667.[10] In 1663 he was made master of Trinity House.[7] He acquired through marriage an estate at Walthamstow, where he was described by Pepys, possibly with a touch of envy, as "living like a prince"; Pepys also thought that the Battens were living well beyond their means. Certainly at Batten's death he left an estate smaller than his family seems to have expected. His heavily indebted eldest son, also named William, sold Walthamstow and all his father's other real property in the 1670s.


Batten married first in 1625 Margaret Browne, daughter of William Browne, by whom he had six children, of whom at least four survived him: William junior (a barrister of Lincoln's Inn), Benjamin, who followed his father into the Navy, Mary, who married James Lemon (or Leming), and Martha (born 1637) who in 1663 married William Castle, a shipwright ("I do not envy him his wife," wrote Pepys spitefully). All the children and their spouses are referred to in Pepys's Diary: he has little good to say of them in general (detesting William Castle in particular), although with his usual eye for an attractive woman, he admired young William Batten's wife, Margaret Alcock. Rather illogically, given his poor relations with the family, he was offended at not being invited to the christening of young William's first child (yet another William) in 1663.

Margaret Browne's brother, Captain John Browne, was master of the ship Rosebush. Pepys, who liked him, expressed his regret at Browne's death in 1663 due to a drunken fight with a sailor.

Batten married secondly, in 1659, Elizabeth Woodstocke (née Turner), widow of William Woodstocke of Westminster. Pepys, although he appreciated her presents of home-grown wine, came to dislike Lady Batten as much as he did her husband, and in his Diary made seemingly unfounded attacks on her virtue.[11]


Batten died "after being but two days sick" on 5 October 1667. Pepys, despite their past bad relations, wrote that he was sorry for the death of a good neighbour. He did not attend the funeral, but took an interest in the quarrels between Lady Batten and her stepchildren over the size of her husband's estate; Lady Batten later complained she had been "left a beggar". Pepys records his condolence call on the widow, noting that widows weep for their husbands, but soon leave off grieving, as is natural given the cares of the world.[12] In 1671 she remarried, as his second wife, Johan Barckmann, Baron Leijonbergh, the Swedish Resident to the English Court (subsequently Ambassador 1672–1691). She died in 1683. A quarrel between Pepys and Leijonbergh, which led to an abortive duel, may have been caused by Lady Batten's claim that Pepys was withholding money due to the Batten estate.[13]


  1. ^ Harris (1920), p. 52.
  2. ^ Stephen and Leslie (1908), p. 1338.
  3. ^ Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, Charles I, 1628-29.
  4. ^ Conway (1906), pp. 144–145.
  5. ^ Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, November 1629.
  6. ^ Andrews (1991), p. 44.
  7. ^ a b c d e f One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Batten, Sir William". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 530.
  8. ^ C. Gill, Plymouth: a New History (Exeter: David and Charles, 1979).
  9. ^ "I to my office, all our talk being upon Sir J[ohn] M[ennes] and Sir W[illiam] B[atten]'s base carriage against him at their late being at Chatham, which I am sorry to hear, but I doubt not but we shall fling Sir W. B. upon his back ere long." Diary of Samuel Pepys for 17 October 1662.
  10. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "R" (part 2 )
  11. ^ Pepys Diary, 3 May 1664: "heard... that his wife was a whore."
  12. ^ Pepys' Diary, 17 October 1667
  13. ^ Arthur Bryant, Samuel Pepys – The Years of Peril (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1935), p. 46.


  • Andrews, Kenneth (1991). Ships, money, and politics: seafaring and naval enterprise in the reign of Charles I. CUP Archive.
  • Conway, William Martin (1906). No Man's Land: A History of Spitsbergen from Its Discovery in 1596 to the Beginning of the Scientific Exploration of the Country. Cambridge, At the University Press.
  • Harris, Rendel (1920). The Last of the "Mayflower". Manchester University Press.
  • Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1885). "Batten, William" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 3. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  • [1]

1893 text

Clarendon describes William Batten as an obscure fellow, and, although unknown to the service, a good seaman, who was in 1642 made Surveyor to the Navy; in which employ he evinced great animosity against the King. The following year, while Vice-Admiral to the Earl of Warwick, he chased a Dutch man-of-war into Burlington Bay, knowing that Queen Henrietta Maria was on board; and then, learning that she had landed and was lodged on the quay, he fired above a hundred shot upon the house, some of which passing through her majesty’s chamber, she was obliged, though indisposed, to retire for safety into the open fields. This act, brutal as it was, found favour with the Parliament. But Batten became afterwards discontented; and, when a portion of the fleet revolted, he carried the “Constant Warwick,” one of the best ships in the Parliament navy, over into Holland, with several seamen of note. For this act of treachery he was knighted and made a Rear-Admiral by Prince Charles. We hear no more of Batten till the Restoration, when he became a Commissioner of the Navy, and was soon after M.P. for Rochester. See an account of his second wife, in note to November 24th, 1660, and of his illness and death, October 5th, 1667. He had a son, Benjamin, and a daughter, Martha, by his first wife.—B.

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

11 Annotations

vincent  •  Link

more on This Admiral:…
----------------- from the will of Sir W. Batten
"... Mingo - from Servant to Lighthouse Keeper
give and bequeath to my servante Mingoe a Negroe That now dwelleth with mee the somme of Tenne pounds to be paid within Twelve monethes next after my decease And I doe alsoe give unto him the said Mingoe the Custody and keeping of my Light houses Att Harwich, and the somme of Twenty pounds a yeare of lawfull money of England during the Terme of his naturall life for his paines therein ..."…

vincent  •  Link

from Paul Brewster on Sat 1 Nov 2003,
Sir W. Batten’s country house
L&M: “The Rectory Manor House, Church Hill, Walthamstow, Essex. Penn later had a house not far away at Wanstead.”


An 1848 Directory…

“The nearby Rectory Manor estate was sold as building plots after the demolition of the old manor house facing Church Hill in 1897”

vincent  •  Link

gleened from will: he did have "... my grandchild Mary Leming my Grandchild William Castle
my sister Martha Bradford
PROB 11/325, q. 144
maid servants Rachell Underhill and Martha Peake + Mingo..."

vincent  •  Link

sailing days 1642:William Batten, Vice Admiral :[capt: ] his ship in the 1642 Rainbow [a class 2:] his No 1: Lutten, commanded the following : 260 men, ships wt:721 tons: no of guns 40 was built in 1617, fit for 10 yrs
gleaned from

vicenzo  •  Link

got his letter of "Sir"
"...That the Letter of the Lord Admiral from Warwick House, of 21 Decembris 1648, and the Indemnity of the Lord Admiral unto Captain Wm. Batten, now called Sir Wm. Batten..."
:… batten
also heavily involved in the capture of the Scilly Isles as vice admiral:
:…, Sir George

more on the formalities of and paper work.
:…, Sir George
he knew first hand about vittals.
A Letter from Captain Wm. Batten, Vice Admiral, of the Twenty-ninth of August; representing the great Necessities of the Navy; was this Day

From: British History Online
Source: House of Commons Journal Volume 3: 29 August 1643. Journal of the House of Commons: volume 3, (1802).
URL:… batten
Date: 10/03/2005

Pauline  •  Link

from L&M Companion (partial)
kt 1648 (?1601-67)....Son of a Somerset mariner, Andrew Batten, he made the sea his career, serving for a while in merchant ships and as a sailing master in the King's ships....During the Interregnum he retired into private life. In 1660 he was reappointed
Surveyor and in 1661 was elected M.P. for Rochester in the face of opposition from the cathedral interest. He and Pepys were soon on bad terms, quarrelling over the right to draft contracts and competing for the favours of suppliers. Pepys early formed an alliance with Warren the timber merchant, and Batten with William Wood, Warren's closest rival. Relations between them remained hostile or at best uneasy throughout the diary period, despite some efforts---always on Batten's part---to improve them. Pepys believed Batten to be corrupt, and no doubt (like Pepys himself) he feathered his nest, but whether he was seriously corrupt is impossible to determine. The charge of incompetence which Pepys also makes is easier to sustain, thought it should be added that his job was one of great complexity. He was a poor speaker and not at his best with ledgers and memoranda. According to Pepys's notes in his 'Navy White Book' he chose his clerks badly (see Gilsthorpe), and undermined the efficiency of the Navy Office by seconding them to the Ticket Office or Navy Treasury in order to earn extra pay. Coventry criticised his slowness; Middleton, his successor, complained of the state of his papers at his death; and the Chatham Chest under his direction remained as badly run as ever. In 1665 and 1666 Batten spent a lot of time in the yards, where he was probably more at home than at an office desk.

Bob Blair  •  Link

Batten's name appears 4 times in Clarendon's history, books 5 and 6.

In book 5.44, which deals with events in March, 1641/42: "...By this means, the vice-admiralty, which was designed to captain Cartwright, the comptroller of the navy, who hath since sufficiently testified how advantageously to his majesty he would have managed that charge, upon his refusal (which shall be hereafter mentioned) was conferred upon Batten, an obscure fellow, and, though a good seaman, unknown to the navy, till he was, two or three years before [Sept. 1638] for money, made surveyor, who executed it ever since with great animosity against the king's service . . . ."

In 5.378, which deals with June of that year and the disasterously incompetent attempt of the king to put John Pennington back in control of the fleet by coup: "Mr. Villiers hastened to the ships which lay then at anchor, and according to his instructions, delivered his several letters to the captains [July 2]; the greatest part whereof received them with great expressions of duty and submission, expecting only to receive sir John Pennington's orders, for which they staid, and, without doubt, if either the first letters had been sent, or sir John Pennington been present, when these others were delivered, his majesty had been possessed of his whole fleet; the earl of Warwick [the admiral] being at that time, according to his usual licences, with some officers, whose company he liked, on shore making merry; so that there was only his vice-admiral, captain Batten, on board, who was of eminent disaffection to his majesty; the rear-admiral, sir John Mennes, being of unquestionable integrity."

In 5.382, which backs up a bit and talks about the period in late 1641 when the Parliament was asserting control in the Navy: "...The king, looking upon the fleet in a manner taken from him, when another [the earl of Warwick], whose disaffection to his service was very notorious, was, contrary to his express pleasure, presumptuously put into the command of it, and his own minister [Sir John Pennington] displaced for no other reason (his sufficiency and ability for command being by all men confessed) but his zeal and integrity to him, and therefore he would not countenance that fleet, and that admiral, with suffering an officer of his own to command in it under the other, and therefore ordered captain Carteret to decline the employment, which he prudently, and without noise, did; and thereupon, another officer of the navy, even the surveyor general, captain Batten, a man of very different inclinations to his master, and his service, and furious in the new fancies of religion, was substituted in the place: whereas if captain Carteret had been suffered to have taken that charge, his interest and reputation in the navy was so great, and his diligence and dexterity in command so eminent, that I verily believe, he would, against whatsoever the earl of Warwick could have done, have preserved a major part of the fleet in their duty to the king.

Finally, in 6.267, describing the queen's coming over from Holland with arms in February 1642/43: "The second day after the queen's landing, Batten, vice-admiral to the earl of Warwick, (who had waited to intercept her passage,) with four the king's ships, arrived in Burlington Road; and, finding that her majesty was landed, and that she lodged upon the key, bringing his ships to the nearest distance, being very early in the morning [Feb. 23], discharged above a hundred cannon (whereof many were laden with cross-bar-shot) for the space of two hours upon the house where her majesty was lodged, whereupon whe was forced out of her bed, some the shot making way through her own chamber; and to shelter herself under a bank in the open fileds; which barbarous and treasonable act was so much the more odious, in that the parliament never so far took notice of it, as to disavow it."

Cumsalisgrano  •  Link

Captain Batten [Vice Admiral] in his prime when yung Peepes still trying to decode Aristotle:

Articles for the Surrender of the Isle of Scilly to the Parliament's Forces.
1. First, The Castle of St. Marye's, in Silly, and the Islands thereof, together with all the Forts, Fortresses, and other Fortifications, as well in Trescawe as in that Island, belonging to the said Garrison, with all their Arms, Ordnance, Ammunition, and Furniture of War, and Provision, except what shall be allowed in the ensuing Articles, shall be delivered to such Persons as Captain Wm. Batten Vice Admiral and Colonel Richard Fortescue shall appoint to receive the same, for the Use of King and Parliament, without any Spoil or Embezzlement, upon Wednesday the 16th Day of this Instant September, by Two of the Clock in the Afternoon, or at any Time after when it shall be required by the Persons authorized as aforesaid.

From: 'House of Lords Journal Volume 9: 20 March 1647', Journal of the House of Lords: volume 9: 1646 (1802), pp. 90-3. URL:…. Date accessed: 08 June 2007.

Bill  •  Link

On the Restoration Batten was reinstated in his office of surveyor of the navy; in the exercise of its duties his remaining years were passed, during which time, through the pleasant pages of Pepys's Diary, we seem to become almost personally acquainted with him. Pepys was often very much out of humour with Batten, though he continued throughout on good terms with him; and much of what we read in the Diary must be attributed to some passing pique. To say that in an age of almost universal corruption Batten's official hands were not quite clean is unnecessary; but there is something ridiculous in Pepys and Sir W. Warren discoursing on Batten's iniquities for some four hours on end, forgetful even of eating or drinking (4 July 1662); or on another occasion adjourning to a tavern to talk 'of the evils the king suffers in our ordering of business in the navy, as Sir W. Batten now forces us by his knavery' (5 May 1664). The relations of Pepys and Warren to each other were of such a nature as to permit us to suspect that Batten's 'knavery' may have largely shown itself in restraining the greed of the clerk of the acts or in insisting on a just interpretation of the clauses of a contract (e.g. 10 Feb. 1662-3, 2 Feb. 1663-4, 16 Sept. 1664). There is, in fact, no reason to suppose that Batten ever exceeded the bounds of what was then considered fair and right; and the story of Batten's cowardice (4 June 1664) as related to Pepys by Coventry, who said he had it from the king, is probably false (29 Aug. 1648); though it is quite possible that he may have shown marks of agitation, of a spirit torn with conflicting emotions, which the king thought a fitting subject for jest. In 1665 Batten had a serious illness, and lay for four or five days at the point of death. 'I am at a loss,' wrote Pepys (7 Feb. 1664-5), 'whether it will be better for me to have him die, because he is a bad man, or live, for fear a worse should come.' He revived, however, and lived on for another two years and a half. On 4 Oct. 1667 Pepys notes: 'Sir W. Batten is so ill that it is believed he cannot live till to-morrow, which troubles me and my wife mightily, partly out of kindness, he being a good neighbour, and partly because of the money he owes me.' He died on the early morning of 5 Oct., 'having been but two days sick;' and on the 12th 'the body was carried, with a hundred or two of coaches, to Walthamstow, and there buried.' From 1661 he had sat in parliament as member for Rochester, and since June 1663 had held the honourable post of master of the Trinity House. He was twice married, and left a son and daughter both grown up and married.
---Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 3, 1885.

Bill  •  Link

BATTEN, SIR WILLIAM (d.1667), admiral; obtained letters of marque for the Salutation, 1626; surveyor of the Navy, 1638; second in command of Warwick's fleet, 1642; engaged in preventing assistance king by sea, 1643; resigned command, 1647, but resumed it on personal invitation of officers; joined Prince of Wales in Holland, where he was knighted; declined to serve against parliament and returned; reinstated surveyor of navy, 1660; M.P. for Rochester, 1661; master of Trinity House, 1663-7.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Officers of The Corporation of Trinity House are elected at the Annual Meeting each year on Trinity Day. (L&M entry) On June 15, 1663, Sir William Batten took over from Sir John Mennes as Master.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.