Portsmouth Dockyard
HM Dockyard, Portsmouth
Type Naval Dockyard
Country United Kingdom
Active 1495-1971
Headquarters Portsmouth, Hants, England
Operator Royal Navy
Controlled by Council of the Marine (1546-1576)
Controlled by Navy Board (1576-1832)
Controlled by Board of Admiralty (1832-1964)
Controlled by Ministry of Defence (1964-1971
Succeeded by HM Naval Base Portsmouth

Portsmouth Dockyard also known as Portsmouth Royal Dockyard or formally HM Dockyard Portsmouth was one of Britain's largest Royal Navy Dockyard's. Situated in the large harbour city of Portsmouth, its establishments and facilities were part of the Portsmouth Station. It was active from 1495 to 1971 when its responsibilties were widened and it was renamed HM Naval Base Portsmouth.

1) History

15th and 16th centuries
The first recorded dry dock in the world was built in Portsmouth by Henry VII in 1495. The first warship built here was the Sweepstake of 1497; of more significance were the carracks Mary Rose of 1509 and Peter Pomegranate of 1510—both were rebuilt here in 1536. A fourth Tudor warship was the galleass Jennett, built in 1539 and enlarged as a galleon in 1558. The appointment of one Thomas Jermyn as Keeper of the Dock at Portsmouth is recorded in 1526, with a Clerk of the Stores being appointed from 1542. Following the establishment of Chatham Dockyard in the mid-1500s, no new naval vessels were built here until 1648, but ships from Portsmouth were a key part of the fleet that drove off the Spanish Armada in 1588.

17th century
Naval shipbuilding at Portsmouth recommenced under the English Commonwealth, the first ship being the eponymous Fourth-rate frigate Portsmouth launched in 1650. A new double dry dock (i.e. double the standard length so as to accommodate two ships at once) was built by the Commonwealth government in 1656. As France began to pose more of a military threat to England, the strategic importance of Portsmouth grew. In 1689, Parliament ordered one new dry dock and two new wet docks (or non-tidal basins) to be built there; work began in 1691. (A building slip was also constructed, where the Mary Rose is now in No. 3 dock.) The dry dock (or "Great Stone Dock" as it was called) was entered via what is now known as No. 1 Basin (then called the "Lower Wet Dock"). It was built to new designs developed by the naval engineer Edmund Dummer, surveyor to the Navy Board. He substituted brick and stone for wood and increased the number of altars or steps. The stepped sides allowed shorter timbers to be used for shoring and made it much easier for shipwrights to reach the underside of vessels needing repair. Extensively rebuilt in 1769, the Great Stone Dock is now known as No.5 dock.

As with all extensions, the new works were built on reclaimed land and the civil engineering involved was on an unprecedented scale. To empty the dry dock of water, Dummer designed a unique system which used water from another basin (the "Upper Wet Dock") to drive a water-wheel on the ebb tide, which in turn powered a set of pumps. (At high tide, an auxiliary set of pumps was used, powered by a horse gin.) The second ("Upper") Wet Dock was entered by way of a channel. In 1699 Dummer adapted the channel, enabling it to be closed off at each end by a set of gates, thus forming a second dry dock (the "North Stone Dock"), which was rebuilt in 1737 and is known today as No 6 dock. The Upper Wet Dock itself became a reservoir into which water from various nearby dry docks could be drained; vaulted and covered over at the end of the eighteenth century, it still exists today underground.

18th century
Between 1704-1712 a wall was built around the Dockyard, following the line of the town's 17th-century fortifications; together with a contemporary (though altered) gate and lodge, much of the wall still stands, serving its original purpose. In 1733 a Royal Naval Academy for officer cadets was established within the Dockyard, the Navy's first shore-based training facility and a forerunner of Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. The second half of the eighteenth century was a key period in the development of Portsmouth (and indeed of the other Royal Dockyards). A substantial programme of expansion and modernisation was undertaken from 1760 onwards, driven (as would be future periods of expansion) by increases both in the size of individual ships and in the overall size of the fleet. Several of Portsmouth Dockyard's most notable historic buildings date from this period, including the three great storehouses (Nos 9, 10 & 11, built 1764-1785).

19th century
In 1800, the Royal Navy had 684 ships and the Dockyard was the largest industrial complex in the world. The Industrial Revolution saw the world’s first steam powered factory, Portsmouth Block Mills, open in Portsmouth in 1802 to mass-produce ship pulley blocks. It was built alongside the 1799 steam engine house, over the newly roofed-over reservoir (the former Upper Wet Dock). Marc Brunel, father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, famously designed the machines, which manufactured the blocks through a total of fifteen separate stages of production. Horatio Nelson left Britain for the last time before his death at the Battle of Trafalgar when he embarked from Portsmouth on HMS Victory. From 1815 the system of Dockyard apprenticeship was supplemented by the establishment of a School of Naval Architecture in Portsmouth (for training potential Master Shipwrights), initially housed in the building which faces Admiralty House on South Terrace. Taking on students from the age of 14, this was the forerunner of Portsmouth Dockyard School (later Technical College) which continued to provide specialist training until 1970.

The adoption of steam propulsion for warships led to large-scale changes in the Royal Dockyards, which had been built in the age of sail. The Navy's first 'steam factory' was built at Woolwich in 1839; but it soon became clear that the site was far too small to cope with this revolutionary change in ship building and maintenance. Therefore, in 1843, work began in Portsmouth on reclaiming land immediately to the north of the then Dockyard to create a new 7-acre basin (known today as No 2 Basin) with a sizeable steam factory alongside;[28] new Brass and Iron Foundries were also built soon afterwards. Furthermore, three new dry docks were constructed over the next 20 years, opening off the new basin, and another was built on reclaimed land west of the basin alongside a row of five new shipbuilding slips. Further developments in shipbuilding technology, however, meant that several of these new amenities had to be rebuilt and expanded almost as soon as they were finished. In 1843 construction began on a railway system within the dockyard. In 1846 this was connected to Portsmouth Town railway station via what became known as the Admiralty Line.

Technological change affected not only ships' means of propulsion, but the materials from which they were built. By 1860 wooden warships, vulnerable as they were to modern armaments, had been rendered largely obsolescent. The changeover to metal hulls not only required new building techniques, but also heralded a dramatic and ongoing increase in the potential size of new vessels. The Dockyards found themselves having to expand in kind. At Portsmouth, plans were drawn up in the late 1850s for further land reclamation north and east of the new Steam Basin, and from 1867 work was begun on a complex of three new interconnected basins, each of 14-22 acres. Each basin served a different purpose: ships would proceed from the repairing basin, to the rigging basin, to the fitting-out basin, and exit from there into a new tidal basin, ready to take on fuel alongside the sizeable coaling wharf there. Three dry docks were also constructed as part of the plan, as well as parallel pair of sizeable locks for entry into the basin complex; the contemporary pumping station which stands nearby not only served to drain these docks and locks, but also delivered compressed air to power cranes, caissons and capstans. This "Great Extension" of Portsmouth Dockyard was largely completed by 1881.

Before the end of the century, however, it was recognised that there would have to be still further expansion across all the Royal Dockyards in order to keep pace with the increasing likely size of future naval vessels. At Portsmouth two more dry docks, Nos 14 & 15, were built alongside the Repairing Basin in 1896; within ten years these, together with the adjacent docks 12 & 13, had to be extended, and by the start of World War I Dock No 14 was over 720 ft in length. The largest Naval ships were now too large for the interlocking basins, so to guarantee access to the new dry docks the intervening walls between the basins were removed to create a single large non-tidal body of water (No 3 Basin), with a pair of 850 ft entrance locks being built at the same time. These (C & D locks) were operational from 1914, and they, together with the enlarged basin and docks, have remained in use, largely unaltered, ever since.

Alongside the new Basins new buildings were erected, on a huge scale, to accommodate new manufacturing and construction processes. These included a gun-mounting workshop (1881, producing gun turrets), torpedo workshop (1886), and the very large New Factory of 1905, to the east of No 13 dock, which was soon put to the task of fitting out Dreadnoughts. Electrification came to the Yard with the opening of a 9,800 kW power station in 1906.

20th century
n 1900 the Third class cruiser HMS Pandora was launched, followed by the armoured cruisers Kent in 1901 and Suffolk in 1903. Two battleships of the pre-Dreadnought King Edward VII Class were launched in 1904—Britannia and New Zealand. The first modern battleship, Dreadnought, was built in 1905–06, taking one day more than a year. Further dreadnoughts followed—Bellerophon in 1907, St. Vincent in 1908, Orion in 1910, King George V in 1911, Iron Duke in 1912 and Queen Elizabeth in 1913. On 8 April 1913, Portsmouth Dockyard opened the first of two new large 850 ft long drydock locks directly connecting Portsmouth Harbour to No.3 Basin, the first named 'C' Lock. A year later, 'D' Lock was opened in April 1914.

First World War
the largest vessel launched at Portsmouth during World War I was the 27,500-ton battleship Royal Sovereign in 1915. The only other launchings during the war were the submarines J1 and J2 in 1915, and K1, K2 and K5 in 1916. Some 1,200 vessels, however, underwent a refit at Portsmouth during the course of the War, and over the same period 1,658 ships were either hauled up the slipways or placed in dry-dock for repairs. During the Inter-war years The rebuilt Semaphore Tower and adjacent office block (1923-29). The single-storey buildings in front were used for hydraulic testing of chains and cables from 1905-1970s. The period after the war was inevitably a time of contraction at the Dockyard, and there were many redundancies. In accordance with the Government's Ten Year Rule the Dockyard worked over the next decade and a half with a presumption of enduring peace rather than future conflict.

The majority of warships launched at Portsmouth following the end of the War were cruisers—Effingham in 1921, Suffolk in 1926, London in 1927, Dorsetshire in 1929, Neptune in 1933, and Amphion and Aurora in 1934. There were also four destroyers—Comet and her sister Crusader in 1931, and the flotilla leaders Duncan in 1932 and Exmouth in 1934. The only other vessels launched between the wars were the mining tenders Nightingale in 1931 and Skylark in 1932. New Dockyard facilities included a Steel Foundry, built in 1926. The "Semaphore Tower" was opened in 1930, a facsimile of its namesake (1810–24) which had been destroyed in a fire in 1913. The arch beneath incorporates the Lion Gate, once part of the 18th-century fortifications.[38] The original Semaphore Tower nestled between a sizeable pair of buildings: the Rigging Store and Sail Loft (both of 1784) which perished in the same fire; in the end only one of the pair was rebuilt, as a five-storey office block.

Second World War
The destroyer flotillas (the capital ships having been evacuated to Scapa Flow), were essential to the defence of the English Channel, particularly during Operation Dynamo (the Dunkirk evacuation) and against any potential German Invasion. The base itself served a major refit and repair role. The Germans realised this importance and the city and base in particular was heavily bombed. Portsmouth and the Naval Base itself were the headquarters and main departure point for the military and naval units destined for Sword Beach on the Normandy coast as a part of Operation Overlord and the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944. Troops destined for each of the landing beaches left from Portsmouth aboard vessels such as the armed merchant cruisers HMCS Prince Henry and HMCS Prince David, escorted by the Canadian destroyers HMCS Algonquin and Sioux. The majority of the naval support for the operation left from Portsmouth, including the Mulberry Harbours. Boathouse 4 (built around the start of hostilities) contributed to the construction of landing craft and support vessels as well as more specialised craft such as midget submarines.

Post Second World War
HM Dockyard, Portsmouth in the 1960s. There was much rebuilding, demolition and consolidation of bomb-damaged buildings in the aftermath of the Second World War. This led to Porstmouth Dockyard being renamed HM Naval Base, Portsmouth in 1971.

2) Administration of the dockyard

From 1546 until 1832 prime responsibility for administering H.M. Royal Navy Dockyards lay with the Navy Board, initially with the Master Shipwright, In 1631 the board introduced resident commissioners who were naval officers though civilian employees of the Navy Board, not sea officers [42] in charge of the day-to-day operational running of the dockyard and superintendence of its staff. Following the abolition of that board its functions were merged within the Admiralty and a new post styled Admiral-superintendent was established the admiral-superintendent usually held the rank of rear-admiral though sometimes vice-admiral. His immediate subordinate was an officer known as the captain of the dockyard (or captain of the port from 1969). This followed the appointment of a (civilian) Chief Executive of the Royal Dockyards in September 1969 and the creation of a centralised Royal Dockyards Management Board.[44] Admiral-superintendents ceased to be appointed in the royal navy after 15 September 1971, and existing post-holders were renamed port admirals.[45] In May 1971 the post was renamed Flag Officer, Portsmouth and Admiral Superintendent until July 1971 when it was renamed Flag Officer, Spithead and Port Admiral until August 1975, the post name was changed again to Flag Officer, Portsmouth and Port Admiral until October 1996 when it ceased to exist as a separate command that was then absorbed into the First Flotilla Command later renamed Portsmouth Flotilla.

Key Officials

2.1) Master Shipwright, Portsmouth Dockyard (1496-1643)

  1. 1638-1643 Edward Boate (in post until 1650)

2.2) Commissioner of the Navy at Portsmouth (1649-1829)

  1. Lieutenant William Willoughby, 13 March 1649 – 30 March 1651
  2. Vice-Admiral Robert Moulton, 4 May 1651 – 22 September 1652
  3. Francis Willoughby, 22 September 1652 – 10 November 1664
  4. Thomas Middleton, 10 November 1664 – 30 September 1675
  5. Rear-Admiral Sir John Kempthorne, 30 September 1675 – 22 October 1679
  6. Rear-Admiral Richard Beach, 22 October 1679 – 26 March 1689
  7. Captain Thomas Wilshaw, 26 March 1689 – December 1693
  8. Captain Henry Greenhill, 26 March 1695 – 1702[9]
  9. Captain Sir William Gifford, 18 June 1702 – 14 January 1705
  10. Captain Isaac Townsend, 14 January 1705 – 17 May 1713,
  11. Captain Isaac Townsend, 17 May 1713 – May 1729, (jointly with Seymour)
  12. Captain Sir Michael Seymour, 14 January 1729 – 28 June 1732, (jointly with Townsend, then Hughes)
  13. Captain Richard Hughes, 5 May 1729 – 12 February 1754, (jointly with Seymour)
  14. Captain Sir Richard Hughes, 12 February 1754 – 25 August 1773
  15. Commodore James Gambier, 25 August 1773 – 26 January 1778
  16. Captain Samuel Hood, 26 January 1778 – 30 September 1780
  17. Captain Henry Martin, 30 September 1780 – 13 March 1790
  18. Captain Sir Charles Saxton, 13 March 1790 – July 1806
  19. Captain Sir George Grey, July 1806 – January 1829

2.2.1) Master Shipwright, Portsmouth Dockyard (1496-1643)

  1. 1643-1650, Edward Boate
  2. 1650-1668, John Tippetts
  3. 1668-1672, Anthony Deane
  4. 1672-1680, Daniel Furzer
  5. 1680-1689, Isaac BettsBWAS
  6. 1689-1695, William Stigant
  7. 1695-1698, William Bagwell
  8. 1698-1702, Elias Waffe
  9. 1702-1709, Thomas Podd
  10. 1709-1715, Richard Stacey
  11. 1715-1726, John Naish
  12. 1726-1742, Joseph Allin
  13. 1742-1755, Peirson Lock
  14. 1755-1762, Edward Allin
  15. 1762-1772, Thomas Bucknall
  16. 1772-1778, Edward Hunt
  17. 1778-1779, Nicholas Phillips
  18. 1779-1802 George White
  19. 1802-1825 Nicholas Diddams

2.3) Admiral Superintendent, Portsmouth (1832-1971)

  1. Rear-Admiral Frederick Lewis Maitland, June 1832–July 1837
  2. Rear-Admiral the Hon. Duncan Playdell Bouverie, July 1837–August 1842
  3. Rear-Admiral Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker C.B., August 1842–October 1847
  4. Rear-Admiral William Henry Shirrell, October 1847–December 1847
  5. Rear-Admiral Henry Prescott, December 1847–October 1852
  6. Rear-Admiral Arthur Fanshawe, October 1852–November 1853
  7. Rear-Admiral William Fanshawe Martin, November 1853–February 1858
  8. Rear-Admiral the Hon. George Grey, February 1858–February 1863
  9. Rear-Admiral George Elliot, February 1863-June 1865
  10. Rear-Admiral George G. Wellesley, June 1865–June 1869
  11. Rear-Admiral Astley Cooper Key, July 1869–June 1870
  12. Vice-Admiral Sir William Loring, June 1870–November 1871
  13. Rear-Admiral William Houston Stewart, November 1871–April 1872
  14. Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Leopold McClintock, April 1872–April 1877
  15. Vice-Admiral the Hon. Fitzgerald A.C. Foley, April 1877–April 1882
  16. Rear-Admiral John D. McCrea, May 1882–March 1883
  17. Rear-Admiral Frederick A. Herbert, April 1883–November 1886
  18. Rear-Admiral John Ommanney Hopkins, November 1886–August 1888
  19. Rear-Admiral William E. Gordon, August 1888–May 1891
  20. Rear-Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher, May 1891–February 1892
  21. Rear-Admiral Charles George Fane, February 1892–February 1896
  22. Vice-Admiral Ernest Rice, February 1896–September 1899
  23. Rear-Admiral Pelham Aldrich, 1 September 1899 – 1 September 1902
  24. Vice-Admiral Reginald F.H. Henderson, 1 September 1902 – February 1905
  25. Rear-Admiral Sir Henry D. Barry, February 1905–November 1906
  26. Vice-Admiral Charles G. Robinson, November 1906–May 1909
  27. Vice-Admiral F. Alban A. G. Tate, May 1909–May 1912
  28. Rear-Admiral Herbert L. Heath, May 1912–August 1915
  29. Rear-Admiral Arthur W. Waymouth, August 1915–January 1917
  30. Rear-Admiral Charles L. Vaughan-Lee, January1917–April 1920
  31. Rear-Admiral Sir Edwyn S. Alexander-Sinclair, April 1920–September 1922
  32. Vice-Admiral Sir E. Percy F.G. Grant, September 1922–January1925
  33. Rear-Admiral Rear-Admiral Bertram S. Thesiger, January 1925–May 1927
  34. Vice-Admiral Leonard A. B. Donaldson, May 1927–May 1931
  35. Vice-Admiral Sir Henry K. Kitson, May 1931–September 1935
  36. Vice-Admiral Sir Robert R. Turner, September 1935–November 1940
  37. Vice-Admiral Sir Marshal L. Clarke, November 1940–November 1945
  38. Vice-Admiral Sir L. Vaughan Morgan, November 1945–July 1949
  39. Vice-Admiral William Y. La R. Beverley, July 1949 – October 1951
  40. Rear-Admiral A. Gordon V. Hubback, October 1951 – October 1954
  41. Vice-Admiral Jocelyn S.C. Salter, October 1954 – October 1957
  42. Rear-Admiral John H. Unwin, October 1957 – January 1961
  43. Rear-Admiral Sir John S.W. Walsham,Bt, January 1961 – January 1964
  44. Rear-Admiral Joseph L. Blackham, January 1964 – May 1966
  45. Rear-Admiral Richard C. Paige, May 1966 – July 1968
  46. Rear-Admiral Arthur M. Power, July 1968 – May 1971

2.3.1) Captain of Portsmouth Dockyard Reserve (1891-1903)

  1. Captain Albert H. Markham, 14 November, 1889] – 31 July, 1891
  2. Captain Armand T. Powlett, 1 August, 1891 – 25 January, 1892
  3. Captain John C. Burnell, 25 January, 1892
  4. Captain Alexander G. McKechnie, 15 January, 1895
  5. Captain Reginald F. H. Henderson, 15 January, 1898 – 28 June, 1899
  6. Captain Alfred A. C. Parr, 28 June, 1899
  7. Captain George A. Callaghan, 2 May, 1903

2.4.1) Captain of Portsmouth Dockyard (1900-1969)

  1. Captain R. Nelson Ommanney, January 1900-March 1903
  2. Captain George A. Callaghan, October 1903-April 1904
  3. Captain Francis R. Pelly, April 1904-December 1905
  4. Captain Alban G. Tate, December 1905-July 1907
  5. Captain Henry Loftus Tottenham, July 1907-March 1909,
  6. Captain William B. Fawckner, March 1909-February 1912
  7. Captain Cyril E. Tower, February 1912-June 1916
  8. Captain Edward H. Moubray, June 1916-May 1918
  9. Captain Albert C. Scott, May 1918-December 1920
  10. Captain Charles Tibbits, December 1920-February 1923
  11. Captain Alfred H. Norman, February 1923-March 1925
  12. Captain James D. Campbell, March 1925-December 1926
  13. Captain Alexander R.W. Woods, December 1926-November 1928
  14. Captain Reginald St. P. Parry, November 1928-January 1931
  15. Captain Albert J. Robertson, January 1931-February 1933
  16. Captain Edward B. Cloete, February 1933-May 1935
  17. Captain William S.F. Macleod, May 1935-December 1936
  18. Captain Kenneth H.L. Mackenzie, December 1936-March 1939
  19. Captain Cuthbert Coppinger, March 1939-February 1941
  20. Captain Irving M. Palmer, February 1941-January 1943
  21. Captain Walter C. Tancred, January 1943-March 1945
  22. Captain Edward F.B. Law, March 1945-March 1947
  23. Captain Cecil R.L. Parry, March 1947-November 1948
  24. Captain George V.M. Dolphin, November 1948-December 1950
  25. Captain Peter Skelton, December 1950-October 1953
  26. Captain P. Unwin, October 1953-October 1954
  27. Captain John H. Unwin, October 1954-? 1955
  28. Captain Archibald G. Forman, November 1955-April 1957
  29. Captain Robin H. Maurice, April 1957-May 1959
  30. Captain Bertie Pengelly, May 1959-May 1961
  31. Captain Francis P.Baker, May 1961-May 1963
  32. Captain John A. Marrack, May 1963-December 1965
  33. Captain Terence L. Martin, December 1965-November 1967
  34. Captain Kenneth H. Martin, November 1967-September 1968
  35. Captain Philip R.G. Smith, September 1968-July 1969

3) Sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMNB_Portsmouth
  2. https://threedecks.org/Master Shipwright, Portsmouth Dockyard - British
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