Office of the Clerk of the Ships
Office of the Clerk of the King's Ships
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Preceded by Keeper of the King's Ports & Galleys
Department Navy Office
Member of Navy Board
Reports to Treasurer of the Navy
Nominator Lord High Admiral
Appointer Monarch of the England
Term Length Not fixed
First post holder Alexander le Peyntour
Final post holder Denis Flemming
Formation 1320–1639
Succeeded by Clerk of the Navy

The Clerk of the Ships or formally Clerk of the King's Ships and originally known as the Keeper of the King's Ports and Galleys was a civilian officer in the Royal Navy the post was established in 1320 and he was one of the Offices of the Clerks of the Kings Marine. In 1546 he became one of the Chief Officers of the Admiralty as part of the Council of the Marine. In 1576 the council was replaced by the Navy Office and the post holder became a principle member of the Navy Board until 1639 when the post was abolished and replaced by a Clerk of the Navy. He was responsible for the organisation of navy office, the processing of all naval contracts and coordinating the secretarial side of the Navy Board's work.

1) History

The origins of the office, possibly in its original form though not conclusive dates from a very much earlier date, John, King of England who developed a royal fleet and the earliest known administrative structure for the English Navy, through his appointment of William of Wrotham in the early 13th century, William a naval administrator is said by modern historians to have had a "special responsibility for ports, customs, and the navy as the Keeper of the King's Ports and Galleys". Murray (1935), Oppenheim, (1940), Lloyd (1970) and Runyan (1987) support the view that his office was continued down until the creation of the Navy Board in 1546 and the Clerk of the Act's in 1660 and the Secretary of the Admiralty. However a clear definition of Wrothams office is not conclusive and has been viewed by other sources such as Turner (1994) to be similar to that of the First Lord of the Admiralty. King John's successor Henry III continued refining the naval administration his fleets. However It was during Edward III's reign when a formal naval administration really began to evolve. It was possibly the oldest administrative appointment in connection with the Royal Navy, at first called Keeper of the King's Ports and Galleys during the thirteenth century, later in the fourteenth century known as Clerk of the King's Ships, according to naval historian N. A. M. Rodger in his book the Admiralty (1979) states "Insofar as medieval Kings of England possessed a permanent administrator of their navies, he was the 'Clerk of the Kings Ships'. The post first appears in a distinct form under King John with William de Wrotham was Keeper of the Kings Ports and Galleys, the Clerk of the King's Ships was not a one man department of state but a permanent agent of the crown" this official held, sometimes really and sometimes nominally, for a period of over 200 years the control of naval organisation until the formation of the Council of the Marine in 1546. In February 1639 the office of the Clerk of the Ships was abolished and replaced by the Clerk of the Navy.

2) Responsibilities

  1. Administration of ships of the Crown.
  2. Coordinating the secretarial side of the Navy Board's work.
  3. Management of the Navy Office and its staff.
  4. Payments to all crews of the Crown's ships
  5. Processing Naval Contracts
  6. Repairs of ships of the Crown.
  7. Safekeeping of ships of the Crown.
  8. Victualling of ships of the Crown.

2) Office holders

At various times also refered to as Keeper of the Kings Ships or Clerk of Marine Causes or Clerk of the Ships.

2.1) Clerks of the Ships

  1. Alexander le Peyntour, 1320-?
  2. William de Clewre, 1336-1358, (at various times individually or jointly with de Torskey and de Snetesham)
  3. Thomas de Snetesham, 1336-1358 (at various times individually or jointly with de Torskey and Haytfield)
  4. Matthew de Torksey, 1336-1358, (at various times individually or jointly with Snetesham and Haytfield)
  5. John de Haytfield, 1358-1378, (at various times individually or jointly with de Crull)
  6. Sir Robert de Crull, 1359-1378, (at various times individually or jointly with de Haytfield)
  7. John Chamberlyn, 1398-1405
  8. John Elmeton, 1409-1413
  9. William Catton, 18 July 1413 – 3 February 1420
  10. William Soper, 3 February 1420 – 7 April 1442
  11. Richard Clyvedon, 7 April 1442 – 1460
  12. Piers Bowman, 1461-1479
  13. Thomas Rogers, 12 December 1480 d.1488
  14. William C'omersall, 1488-18 May 1495
  15. Robert Brygandine, 19 May 1495 – 1523
  16. Thomas Jermyn, and William Gonson, 1523-1533, (jointly)
  17. Leonard Thoreton 1533-1538
  18. Thomas Spert, 1538-1543
  19. Edmund Wynter, 1544-1545
  20. John Wynter 1545- d. 1546
  21. Richard Howlett, 24 April 1546- 10 October 1560.
  22. George Wynter, 10 October 1560 – 2 June 1567.
  23. John Hawkins, 2 June 1567, (appointed but did not succeed).
  24. George Wynter, 2 June 1567 – 24 March 1582.
  25. William B. B. Gonson, 24 March 1582 – 6 July 1596.
  26. Benjamin P. B. Gonson, 6 July 1596 – 17 April 1604.
  27. John Legatt, 17 April 1604, (appointed but did not succeed).
  28. Peter Benjamin Buck Gonson, 17 April 1604 – 24 March 1605.
  29. Denis Flemming, 24 March 1605 – 15 February 1639.

3) Sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerk_of_the_Acts
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