Department of Admiralty (1707 1799)
Department of Admiralty
Type Government Department and Military Command
Preceded by Admiralty And Marine Affairs Office
Country Kingdom of Great Britain
Founded 1707
Abolished 1964
Headquarters London, England
Ministerial Head First Lord of the Admiralty (1679-1964)
Chief Naval Adviser Senior Naval Lord (1689–1771)
Chief Naval Adviser First Naval Lord (1771–1903)
Role Naval Administration, Law and Operations
Affiliations HM Naval Service
Part of government-of-the-kingdom-of-great-britain
Succeeded by navy-department-mod

The Department of Admiralty differed from other British service departments in that it functioned as an operational authority, sometimes actually issuing direct orders to ships at sea. From the middle decades of the 17th century, and through the 18th century, the Royal Navy vied with the Dutch Navy and later with the French Navy for maritime supremacy. From the mid 18th century, it was the world's largest and most powerful navy for a period of 200 years until it was surpassed in size by the United States Navy at the end of the Second World War in 1945.

1) History

Naval operations in the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–13) were with the Dutch against the Spanish and French. They were at first focused on the acquisition of a Mediterranean base, culminating in an alliance with Portugal and the capture of Gibraltar (1704) and Port Mahon in Menorca (1708). In addition Newfoundland and Nova Scotia were obtained. Even so, freedom of action in the Mediterranean did not decide the war, although it gave the new Kingdom of Great Britain (created by the Union of England and Scotland in 1707) an advantage when negotiating the Peace of Utrecht, and made Britain a recognized great power. The British fleet ended Spanish occupation of Sicily in 1718 and in 1727 blockaded Panama.

The subsequent quarter-century of peace saw a few naval actions. The navy was used against Russia and Sweden in the Baltic from 1715 to 1727 to protect supplies of naval stores. It was used at the Cape Passaro in 1718, during the Great Northern War, and in the West Indies (1726). There was a war against Spain in 1739 over the slave trade. In 1745 the navy transported troops and stores to Scotland to defeat the Jacobite rising.

The War of Jenkins' Ear (1739–48) saw various naval operations in the Caribbean under different admirals against Spanish trade and possessions, before the war subsequently merged into the wider War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748). This, in turn, brought a new round of naval operations against France. In 1745 the navy twice defeated the French off Finisterre but their convoys escaped. The Navy also defended against invasion by Charles Edward Stuart the "Young Pretender". By the end of the war, the Navy was fully engaged in the worldwide protection of British trade.

The Seven Years' War (1756–63) began somewhat inauspiciously for the Navy, with a French siege of Menorca and the failure to relieve it. Menorca was lost but subsequent operations went more successfully (due more to government support and better strategic thinking, rather than admirals "encouraged" by Byng's example), and the British fleet won several victories. The French tried to invade Britain in 1759 but their force was defeated at Quiberon Bay. Spain entered the war against Britain in 1762 but lost Havana and Manila, though the latter was given back in exchange for Florida. The Treaty of Paris that ended the war left Britain with colonial gains, but isolated strategically.

At the beginning of the American Revolutionary War (1775–83), the Royal Navy dealt with the fledgling Continental Navy handily, destroying or capturing many of its vessels. France soon took the American side, and in 1778 a French fleet sailed for America, where it attempted to land at Rhode Island and nearly engaged with the British fleet before a storm intervened Spain and the Dutch Republic entered the war in 1780. Action shifted to the Caribbean, where there were a number of battles with varying results. The most important operation came in 1781 when, in the Battle of the Chesapeake, the British failed to lift the French blockade of Lord Cornwallis, resulting in a British surrender in the Battle of Yorktown. Although combat was over in North America, it continued in the Caribbean and India, where the British experienced both successes and failures. Though Menorca had been recaptured, it was returned to the Spanish.

2) Organization

2.1) Titular Head of HM Naval Service

Senior Leadership during this period included a single naval lord of England the Lord Admiral he was responsible for formulating naval policy, directing the navy and operations. Below him were his two deputy's the Vice-Admiral of England responsible for naval operations and judicial administration together with the Lieutenant of the Admiralty in charge of civil administration of the navy. Below them sat the various operational commanders, the shore based commanders, the offices of the clerks of the kings marine, then later the council of the marine, the high court of the admiralty, the vice-admiralty courts and admiralty law system.

2.2) Office of the Lord High Admiral of Great Britain

  1. Office of the Lord High Admiral of Great Britain, (1707-1801)

Immediately below the Lord High Admiral of Great Britain is a deputy commander-in-chief was created the Vice-Admiral of Great Britain.

2.3) Office of the Vice-Admiral of Great Britain

In former days, the office of the Vice-Admiral of Great Britain following the 1707 union with Scotland was the second most powerful position in the Royal Navy, and until 1801 was officially called the Lieutenant of the Admiralty. Below him was his deputy the Rear-Admiral of Great Britain.

  1. Office of the Vice-Admiral of Great Britain, (1707-1801)
2.4) Office of the Rear-Admiral of Great Britain

The office of Rear-Admiral of England was established in 1683 and despite of the title, the Rear-Admiral of England was usually a full admiral. He is the deputy to the Vice-Admiral of England, who is in turn deputy to the Lord High Admiral of England.

  1. Office of the Rear-Admiral of Great Britain, (1707-1801)

3) Direction of Naval Affairs, Operations and Policy

The Board was chaired and directed by a British government minister and who represented the HM Naval Service in cabinet.

3.1) Board of Admiralty

The Board of Admiralty was established in 1628 when Charles I I put the office of Lord High Admiral into commission as that position was not always occupied. The purpose was to enable management of the day-to-day operational requirements of the Royal Navy; at this point administrative control of the navy was still the responsibility of the Navy office established earlier in 1546. This dual system remained in place until 1832, when the Board of Admiralty became the sole authority charged with both administrative and operational control of the navy when the Navy Office was abolished. The head of the board was an official known as the First Lord of the Admiralty he became a minister of state and member of the cabinet when the Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office was renamed as the Department of Admiralty in 1707.

  1. Board of Admiralty

3,2) Lord High Admirals Council

The Lord High Admirals Council was a series of councils appointed to advise and assist the Lord High Admiral of England and then later of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in the direction of Naval Affairs also known as Council of the Lord High Admiral when the Board of Admiralty was not in commission the first series of councils took place between 1702-1708 and second and final series of councils took place from 1827-1828.

  1. Lord High Admirals Council (1702-1708), (1827-1828)
3,3) Departments and Offices of the Admiralty

The Department of Admiralty head-quarters building and staff was overseen by the Secretary to the Admiralty supported by the Second Secretary to the Admiralty Inside the admiralty were a number of other departments and offices.

  1. Office of the Secretary to the Admiralty
  2. Office of the Second Secretary to the Admiralty (1782-1869)
  1. High Court of the Admiralty (1360–1875)
  2. Office of the President and Judge of the High Court of the Admiralty (1483-1875)
  3. Vice-Admiralty Courts (1536-1890)
  4. Office of the Treasurer of the Navy, (1546-1832)
  5. Office of the Comptroller of the Navy (1561-1832)
  6. Impress Service (1597-1814)
  7. Office of the Surveyor of the Navy (1611-1832)
  8. Prisoner of War Department (1653-1822)
  9. Office of the Judge Advocate of the Fleet (1660-2008)
  10. Office of the Clerk of the Acts (1660-1796)
  11. Marine Office (1664-1755) renamed the Marine Department
  12. Head Messengers Office (1666-1870)
  13. Office of the Deputy Judge Advocate of the Fleet (1668-1870)
  14. Counsel to the Admiralty (1673-1995)
  15. Porters Office (1676-1870)
  16. Register Office (1696–1715)
  17. Royal Observatory Greenwich (1675-1998)
  18. Transport Board (1686-1717), (1796-1816)
  19. Admiralty Secretariat, (1690-1932)
  20. Office of the Solicitor to the Admiralty (1692-1964)
  21. Greenwich Hospital Department (1692-1869)
  22. Necessary Woman House Keepers Office (1694-1865)
  23. Watchmens Office (1694-1832)
  24. Messengers Office (1694-1806)
  25. House Keepers Office (1697-1800)
  26. Sixpenny Office (1696–1832)
  27. Office of the Assistant Secretary to the Admiralty 1702-1782)
  28. Office of the Charity for Sea Officers’ Widows (1732-1836)
  29. Royal Naval Academy (1733-1837)
  30. Marine Department (1755-1809)
  31. Marine Pay Department (1755-1831)
  32. Royal Marine Office (1755-1964)
  33. Office of the Poor Knights of Windsor (1771-1833)
  34. Naval Works Department (1796-1815) superseded by the Department of the Surveyor of Buildings.
  35. Hydrographic Office (1796-1831)
  36. Sea Fencibles Department (1798-1810/13)
3.4) Operational Commands

Prior 1690 the Lord Admiral also acted as Admiral of the Fleet when he commanded an operation, his deputy was called the Vice-Admiral of the Fleet and his deputy the Rear-Admiral of the Fleet. An Office of the Admiral of the Fleet was established on a permanent basis from this date until 1998 when it became an honoury appointment. From the establishment of his office the Lord Admiral and his deputy's ceased to be a sea going command. During the 17th century new naval stations and squadrons were established they included the following:

Fleet Command

  1. Office of the Admiral of the Fleet (1690-1998)

Home commands

  1. Admiral Vice -Admiral Commanding, North Sea Station, (1543–1815)
  2. Commander-in-Chief, the Downs Station, (1626-1834)
  3. Commander-in-Chief, Western Squadron, (1650-1854)
  4. Vice -Admiral, Rear-Admiral Commanding, Royal Flotilla (1660-1997) later known as the Royal Squadron
  5. Commander-in-Chief, Thames and Medway Station, (1707-1711)
  6. Commander-in-Chief, Spithead Station, (1709-1746)
  7. Commander-in-Chief, Thames, Medway and Nore Station, (1711-1745)
  8. Commander-in-Chief, Nore Station, (1745-1747)
  9. Commander-in-Chief, Leith Station, (1745-1825)
  10. Commander-in-Chief, Medway and at the Nore Station, (1747-1797)
  11. Commander-in-Chief, Cork Station (1795-1831)

Overseas commands
It was during this century that navy began to establish commands and bases abroad.

  1. Commander-in-Chief, Jamaica Station (1655-1830)
  2. Commander-in-Chief, British Baltic Fleet, (1658-1812)
  3. Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Station (1690-1967)
  4. Commander-in-Chief, Newfoundland Station (1729-1825)
  5. Commander-in-Chief, Barbadoes and Leeward Islands Station (1743-1772)
  6. Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station (1744-1832), (1867-1913), (1917-1958)
  7. Commander-in-Chief, North America Squadron, (1745–1767)
  8. Commander-in-Chief, Weser, Elbe and Ems Station, (1758)
  9. Commander-in-Chief, Basque Roads Station, (1762)
  10. Commander-in-Chief, North America Station, (1767–1815)
  11. Commander-in-Chief, Leeward Islands Station (1772-1821)
  12. Commander-in-Chief, Portugal. (1810-1812)
  13. Commander-in-Chief, Lisbon Station (1779–1809, 1812-1841)
3.5) Shore commands

The Vice-Admiralties of the Coast were official posts established in maritime counties of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales . The officer holders, designated as "Vice-Admirals", were chiefly responsible for naval and judicial administration for their county and including defence of their county, they were deputy shore commanders of the Lord High Admiral . There were twenty six Vice-Admiralties responsible for England , five Vice-Admiralties responsible for Ireland, three Vice-Admiralties responsible for Scotland and six Vice-Admiralties responsible for Wales.

  1. Office's of the Vice-Admiralties of the Coast, (1536-1890)

4) Civil administration, finance and logistical support

4.1) Navy Board

Civil administration of the British Navy lay with the Navy Board based in the Navy office separate Navy Pay Office was also established that was semi-autonomous of the Navy Office.

4.2) Navy Office

The Navy Office and previously known as the Council of the Marine or Council of the Marine Causes was the government office charged with responsibility for day-to-day civil administration of the Navy Royal, (1578-1707) and then Royal Navy, (1707-1832). It was administered by the Navy Board.

  1. Navy Office
3.3) Dockyards and shore facilities

The main naval dockyards constructed during the period the admiralty office was in operation included. Management of the various yards was the responsibility of the various Master-Shipwrights until the introduction of resident Commissioners of the Navy in the early seventeenth century, the Master Shipwright then became their deputy. During this century two more dockyards were established in England and the first one overseas in the Caribbean.

Home Bases and Dockyards

  1. Portsmouth Dockyard (1496 – current)
  2. Woolwich Dockyard (1512 – 1869)
  3. Deptford Dockyard (1513 – 1869)
  4. Chatham Dockyard (1567-1983)
  5. Sheerness Dockyard (1665 – 1957)
  6. Plymouth Dockyard (1690 – current) later renamed Devonport.
  7. Kinsale Dockyard (1694-1799)

Oversea bases and dockyards

  1. Port Royal Dockyard, Jamaica (1675-1729, 1749-1905)
  2. Gibraltar Dockyard, Gibraltar, (1704-1984)
  3. Port Mahon Dockyard, Menorca, Spain, (1708-1802)
  4. Antigua Dockyard, (1728-1882)
  5. Port Antonio Dockyard, Jamaica, (1729-1749)
  6. Halifax Dockyard, Canada, (1759-1905)
  7. Naval Island Naval Shipyard, Canada, (1763-1822)
  8. Barbados Dockyard, (1779-1783, 1810)
  9. Kingston Dockyard, Canada, (1788-1853)
  10. Malta Dockyard, (1791-1979)
  11. Simons Town Dockyard, Simon's Town, South Africa, (1790-1898)
  12. York Naval Shipyard, Canada, (1793-1813)
  13. Ajaccio Dockyard, Corsica, (1794-1799)
  14. Amherstburg Dockyard, Canada (1796-1813)
  15. Madras Dockyard, India, (1796-1813) staff and work transferred to Trincomalee Dockyard

4.3) Navy Pay Office

The Navy Pay Office was established in 1545 it was administered by the Treasurer of Marine Causes later known as the Treasurer of the Navy the pay office was autonomous of the council of the marine and later Navy Office it existed until 1832 when along with the Navy Office it was abolished its functions were absorbed into the Department of the Accountant-General of the Navy.

4.4) Board of Ordnance

The Board of Ordnance was established in 1597 that consisted of principle officers headed by the Master-General of the Ordnance. Autonomous of the Admiralty Office it became a civil department of state in 1683. Below the board sat the various ordnance yards, gunpowder and magazine stores that were usually alongside the major naval dockyards

4.5) Ordnance Yards and Stores

Home ordinance yards

  1. Gunwharf Portsmouth (1680 – 1923)
  2. Gunwharf Woolwich (1512 – 1869)
  3. Gunwharf Deptford (1513 – 1869)
  4. Gunwharf Erith (1514 – 1521)
  5. Gunwharf Chatham (1622 – 1958)

Gunpowder magazines stores

  1. Tower of London, London (1461 – 1855)

5) Judicial administration

At first there were three separate Admiralty courts (each with a presiding admiral) for three different sections of the country each responsible for judicial administration of the navy, but these were merged into one high Admiralty court in 1483 the court was initially administered by the High Admiral of England until the creation of the office of the Vice-Admiral of England in 1410 who became the High Admiral's deputy he then presided over the court system directly until 1483 when a Chief Judge of the high court was appointed responsible for the day-today proceedings of the court. The Vice-Admiral of England remained responsible for the direction of the high court and the chief judge and for all future appointments of the judge.

5.1) High Court of the Admiralty

The High Court of the Admiralty consisted of the office of the Chief Judge who was supported by various officials known as officers of the High Court of the Admiralty they included the Admiralty Advocate, the Marshall, the Notary Public, the Proctor, the Receiver of Droits and the Registrar.

  1. High Court of the Admiralty(1483 – 1875)
5.2) Vice Admiralty Courts

Beginning in 1536 until 1835 there were 39 local courts of the admiralty administered by a Vice-Admiral in the maritime counties of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In addition there were also Vice-Admiralty Courts established in colonial possessions abroad these Vice Admiralty Courts were juryless courts located in British colonies that were granted jurisdiction over local legal matters related to maritime activities, such as disputes between merchants and seamen.

  1. Vice-Admiralty Courts (1536-1890)

During the seventeenth century vie-admiralty courts abroad were established in North America in North America Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, including Connecticut,
Pennsylvania, including Delaware and Virginia. In the West Indies in Barbados and Jamaica.

  1. Vice-Admiralty Courts Abroad

6) Sources

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