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William Batten
Portrait of the 'Constant Warwick' RMG PY1877.jpg
Constant Warwick, a frigate part-owned by Batten in which he defected to the Royalists in 1648
Master of Trinity House
In office
June 1663 – June 1664
Member of Parliament
for Rochester
In office
May 1661 – October 1667
Surveyor of the Navy
In office
1638 to 1648 – 1660 to 1667
Personal details
Bornc. 1601
Easton in Gordano, Somerset
Died5 October 1667, age 66 (approximate)
Resting placeSt. Mary's Church, Walthamstow
Spouse(1) Margaret Browne (1625–her death)
(2) Elizabeth Turner (1659–his death)
Children(1) William (1626–after 1671); Benjamin (1644-1684); Mary; Martha (1637–after 1667)
OccupationNaval officer and administrator
Military service
AllegianceParliamentarian 1642–1648; Royalist 1648

Sir William Batten (1601 to 5 October 1667) was a naval officer and administrator from Somerset, who began his career as a merchant seaman, served as second-in-command of the Parliamentarian navy during the First English Civil War, then defected to the Royalists when the Second English Civil War began in 1648. After the 1660 Stuart Restoration, he was elected Member of Parliament for Rochester and re-appointed Surveyor of the Navy, a position he had previously held from 1638 to 1648. In this capacity, he was a colleague of the author Samuel Pepys, who mentions him several times in his "Diary", usually to his detriment.

Personal details

William Batten was born around 1601 in Easton in Gordano, Somerset, second son of Andrew Batten, Master mariner of a merchant ship. Little is known of his family, except that his elder brother was also in the merchant navy, while he also had at least one sister, who married Captain John Browne, another master who also served in the Parliamentarian navy.[1]

In 1625 he married John Browne's sister Margaret, daughter of a London cobbler.[2] They had six children, of whom at least four survived him; William (1626–after 1671), a member of Lincoln's Inn, Benjamin (c. 1644–1684), who followed his father into the navy, Mary, who married James Lemon, and Martha (born 1637) who in 1663 married William Castle, a shipwright. Samuel Pepys mentions the children and their spouses in his "Diary", and has little good to say of any of them, particularly William Castle. He is more positive about Margaret's brother John, who died in 1663 after a drunken fight with one of his servants.[3]

Margaret died sometime in the 1650s, and in 1659 Batten married again, this time to Elizabeth Woodstocke (died 1683), widow of William Woodstocke of Westminster. His second marriage produced no children.[2]

Early Career

Whalers near Spitsbergen, ca.1690; Batten began his maritime career in a similar ship

Batten started as an apprentice with the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors in London, becoming a fully fledged member in 1623.[4] However, he decided instead to follow his father and brother into the merchant marine, and in 1625 appears as commander of one of two whalers sent to Spitsbergen by Thomas Horth, a merchant from Great Yarmouth.[5]

An Anglo-Spanish war began in 1625 and in August 1626 Batten became captain of the 350-ton "Salutation", an armed merchant ship licensed to attack Spanish shipping. By 1630, he was master and part-owner of the Charles, a position he retained until 1638 when he took over the "Confident", a merchant ship converted for military use and hired by the Royal Navy, paid for by Ship money.[6] In return for a payment of £1,500, Batten became Surveyor of the Navy in September 1638, supported by the Earl of Northumberland, who was Lord High Admiral from 1638 to 1642.[2]

Wars of the Three Kingdoms

Like many officers appointed by Northumberland, Batten was a Presbyterian with no previous service in the Royal Navy, a policy intended to reduce the influence of Royalist captains within the fleet.[7] As the political struggle with Charles I intensified, in March 1642 Parliament nominated the devout Puritan Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick, as commander of the navy, with Batten as his vice admiral and second-in-command. These positions were confirmed on 1 July, shortly before Batten received orders from the king, requiring him to place the fleet at his disposal. He immediately sent for Warwick, who declared for Parliament, followed by the majority of his captains.[7]

William Batten is located in England
Milford Haven
Milford Haven
Major ports in England & Wales, 1642 to 1646

As later noted by the Royalist statesman and author Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, Batten's prompt action in securing the fleet was a major boost to the Parliamentarian cause. Its possession allowed them to protect their own trade routes, block Royalist imports, and made other countries wary of antagonising one of the strongest navies in Europe by providing support to their opponents.[8] It also meant when the First English Civil War began in August 1642, Parliament controlled every major port in England and Wales, apart from Newcastle. These were vital for access to internal and external waterways, the primary method of moving large bodies of men and supplies until the advent of railways in the 19th century, and prevented Royalist areas in Wales, South-West and North-East England from supporting each other. In early 1642, Charles had sent his wife, Henrietta Maria, to Europe to purchase weapons; the absence of a secure port delayed her return until February 1643, and even then, she reached Scarborough only after narrowly escaping a squadron led by Batten.[9]

Although the Royalists captured Bristol and Exeter in 1643, they lacked a significant fleet and so Batten spent most of the war resupplying Parliamentarian garrisons or supporting coastal operations. These included the 1644 sieges of Lyme Regis and Plymouth, where he built a blockhouse at the tip of the peninsula, known since then as Mount Batten.[2] In February 1645, he helped repel a Royalist attack on Weymouth, shortly before the Self-denying Ordinance obliged Warwick to resign. Batten took over as commander but since his promotion was viewed as temporary, he retained his original rank, a perceived lack of appreciation that marked the beginning of his alienation from the Parliamentarian cause.[10]

In August 1645, Batten provided support for Rowland Laugharne's victory at Colby Moor, a success which secured Pembrokeshire for Parliament, then helped recapture Dartmouth in February 1646. Charles surrendered to the Scots in June 1646, but victory highlighted divisions between the religious Independents like Oliver Cromwell who dominated the New Model Army, and moderate Presbyterians such as Northumberland and Batten who formed a majority in Parliament. In June 1647, the army demanded the impeachment of eleven MPs considered their principal opponents; to escape arrest, they fled by sea to the Dutch Republic in August and were intercepted by Batten, who released them and was removed from command as a result.[2]

Batten had been in secret correspondence with the Scots Covenanters since early 1647 December 1646 and now tried to organise support within the fleet for a coup designed to re-assert Parliament's control over the New Model. Part of the fleet declared for the Royalists when the Second English Civil War began, and in early July 1648 Batten sailed for the Dutch Republic aboard the "Constant Warwick", a frigate part-owned by himself and Warwick. Here he met Prince Charles, who made him a knight and commander of the new Royalist fleet.[4] Batten was regarded with suspicion by many of those around Prince Charles, particularly after he avoided combat with the Parliamentarian navy and in November 1648, he was given permission to return to England. During the Commonwealth period, he focused on commercial activities and avoided involvement in politics.[2]


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[11] 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, 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.[12] In 1663 he was made master of Trinity House. 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 seemed 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 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.[13] 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.[14]


  1. ^ Pepys, Samuel. "Sunday 26 May 1661". Pepys Diary. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Knighton 2004.
  3. ^ Pepys, Samuel. "Monday 27 April 1663". Pepys Diary. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  4. ^ a b Henning 1983.
  5. ^ Harris 1920, p. 52.
  6. ^ Andrews 1991, p. 44.
  7. ^ a b Andrews 1991, p. 187.
  8. ^ Wedgwood 1958, p. 105.
  9. ^ Purkiss 2006, pp. 249–250.
  10. ^ Plant, David. "Sir William Batten". BCW Project. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "R" (part 2 )
  13. ^ Pepys' Diary, 17 October 1667
  14. ^ Arthur Bryant, Samuel Pepys – The Years of Peril (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1935), p. 46.


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.

14 Oct 2003, 7:28 p.m. - vincent

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 ..."

2 Nov 2003, 3:03 a.m. - vincent

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.” Location,189081&st=4&mapp=newmap.srf&searchp=newsearch.srf 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”

15 Feb 2004, 3:37 a.m. - vincent

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

23 Feb 2004, 7:49 p.m. - vincent

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

10 Mar 2005, 5:30 a.m. - vicenzo

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

11 Apr 2005, 5:54 p.m. - Pauline

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.

27 May 2007, 2:19 a.m. - Bob Blair

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."

8 Jun 2007, 5:50 p.m. - Cumsalisgrano

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.

20 Aug 2013, 3:24 p.m. - Bill

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.

1 Apr 2014, 11:47 a.m. - Bill

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.

30 Jun 2016, 2:45 a.m. - San Diego Sarah

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.


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