Sandbox 2
Department of Admiralty (1800-1899)
Type Government Department and Military Command
Preceded by Admiralty And Marine Affairs Office
Country United Kingdom
Founded 1707
Abolished 1964
Headquarters London, England
Political Head First Lord of the Admiralty (1679-1964)
Chief Naval Adviser First Naval Lord (1771–1903)
Role Naval Administration, Law and Operations
Affiliations Royal Navy
Part of Government of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by navy-department-mod

The Department of Admiralty was different from other British service departments in that it functioned as an operational authority, sometimes actually issuing direct orders to ships at sea. In 1800 Russia, Sweden and Denmark agreed to resist British warships searching neutral shipping for French goods and in 1801 the Danes closed their ports to British shipping. This caused Britain to attack ships and the fort at the Battle of Copenhagen. The Royal Navy was superior to any other two navies in the world, combined. Between 1815 and the passage of the German naval laws of 1890 and 1898, only France was a potential naval threat. By 1899 saw structural changes brought about by the First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher, who retired, scrapped or placed into reserve many of the older vessels, making funds and manpower available for newer ships. He also oversaw the development of HMS Dreadnought and the beginning of the Age of the Battleship, later launched in 1906.

1) History

After losing the American colonies in the American Revolution, Britain turned towards Asia, the Pacific and later Africa with subsequent exploration leading to the rise of the Second British Empire (1783–1815). The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in the late 1700s and new ideas emerged about free markets, such as Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776). Free trade became a central principle that Britain practiced by the 1840s. It played a key role in Britain's economic growth and financial dominance.

From the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 until World War I in 1914, the United Kingdom played the role of global hegemon (most powerful actor). Imposition of a "British Peace" on key maritime trade routes began in 1815 with the annexation of British Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Under the British Residency of the Persian Gulf, local Arab rulers agreed to a number of treaties that formalised Britain’s protection of the region. Britain imposed an anti-piracy treaty, known as the General Maritime Treaty of 1820, on all Arab rulers in the region. By signing the Perpetual Maritime Truce of 1853, Arab rulers gave up their right to wage war at sea in return for British protection against external threats. The global superiority of British military and commerce was aided by a divided and relatively weak continental Europe, and the presence of the Royal Navy on all of the world's oceans and seas. Even outside its formal empire, Britain controlled trade with many countries such as China, Siam, and Argentina. Following the Congress of Vienna the British Empire's economic strength continued to develop through naval dominance and diplomatic efforts to maintain a balance of power in continental Europe.

In this era, the Royal Navy provided services around the world that benefited other nations, such as the suppression of piracy and blocking the slave trade. The Slave Trade Act 1807 had banned the trade across the British Empire, after which the Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron and the government negotiated international treaties under which they could enforce the ban. Sea power, however, did not project on land. Land wars fought between the major powers include the Crimean War, the Franco-Austrian War, the Austro-Prussian War and the Franco-Prussian War, as well as numerous conflicts between lesser powers. The Royal Navy prosecuted the First Opium War (1839–1842) and Second Opium War (1856–1860) against Imperial China. The Royal Navy was superior to any other two navies in the world, combined. Between 1815 and the passage of the German naval laws of 1890 and 1898, only France was a potential naval threat.

Britain traded goods and capital extensively with countries around the world, adopting a free trade policy after 1840. The growth of British imperial strength was further underpinned by the steamship and the telegraph, new technologies invented in the second half of the 19th century, allowing it to control and defend the empire. By 1902, the British Empire was linked together by a network of telegraph cables, the so-called All Red Line.

The Pax Britannica was weakened by the breakdown of the continental order which had been established by the Congress of Vienna. Relations between the Great Powers of Europe were strained to breaking point by issues such as the decline of the Ottoman Empire, which led to the Crimean War, and later the emergence of new nation states in the form of Italy and Germany after the Franco-Prussian War. Both of these wars involved Europe's largest states and armies. The industrialisation of Germany, the Empire of Japan, and the United States contributed to the relative decline of British industrial supremacy in the late 19th century.

2) Organization

2.1) Direction, Operations and Policy

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 England

  1. Office of the Lord High Admiral of England, (1610-current)

Immediately below the Lord Admiral of England initially were the four admirals commanding regional admiralties until their offices were unified with his office to create a single centralized command in 1414, In 1410 preempting the abolition of the regional admirals a deputy commander-in-chief was created the Vice-Admiral of England.

2.2.1) Office of the Vice-Admiral of England

In former days, the Vice-Admiral of England (or 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.

  1. Office of the Vice-Admiral of England, (1410-1709)
2.2.3) Office of the Rear-Admiral of England

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 England, (1683-current)

2.3) 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

2.4) 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 (1827-1828)
2.4.1 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

Main Article Departments of the Admiralty (1800-1899)

2.4.2) 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, Lisbon Station (1779–1782, 1795-1841)
2.4.3) 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)

Royal Naval Barracks

  1. Royal Naval Barracks Chatham (1891-1961)
  2. Royal Naval Barracks Devonport (1896-?)
  3. Royal Naval Barracks Portsmouth (1906-?)

3) Civil administration, finance and logistical support

Civil administration of the English Navy lay with the Navy Office. A separate Navy Pay Office was also established that was semi-autonomous of the Navy Office.

3.1) 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
3.1.1) 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.

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

3.2) 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.

3.3) 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

3.3.1) 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)

3.3) Armoury Office

The Armoury Office was established in 1423 it was part of the supply chain of armour and edged weapons to the armed forces but was autonomous from the Office of Ordnance. In 1671 the Armoury Office was abolished and its duties transferred to the Board of Ordnance.

4) 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.

4.1) 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)
4.1.1) 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

5) Footnotes

  1. Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 4, Admiralty Officials 1660-1870, ed. J C Sainty (London, 1975), British History Online [accessed 7 November 2018].

6) Sources

  2. [[[ |https://www.british-history
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