Victualling Board
Victualling Office
Type Government Office
Preceded by Surveyor of Marine Victuals
Country United Kingdom
Founded 1653
Abolished 1832
Headquarters Somerset House, Whitehall, London, England
Role Victualling
Part of Department of Admiralty
Succeeded by Comptroller of Victualling and Transport Services

The Victualling Board also called the Victualling Office or theCommissioners for the Victualling of the Navy, was the body responsible under the Navy Board for victualling ships of the British Royal Navy. It oversaw the vast operation of providing naval personnel (140,000 men in 1810) with enough food, drink and supplies to keep them fighting fit, sometimes for months at a time, in whatever part of the globe they might be stationed. It existed from 1683 until 1832 when it was abolished. It was first replaced by the Office of Comptroller of Victualling and Transports until 1869 when that office was also abolished and replaced by the Victualling Department.

1) History

Under Elizabeth I, a General Surveyor of Victuals had been appointed in 1550 a principal officer of the Navy Board to oversee contracts for food and other provisions for the Navy. In 1550 he was listed as one of the seven members of the Board of Principal Officers and Commissioners of the Navy; he was required to 'take care always to have in store a stock of victuals to supply a thousand men at sea for one month at a fortnight's notice'.] At first the Victualling Office was accommodated in the Tower of London, but it soon spread outside the precincts to the east (on to the site of the recently dissolved and demolished Abbey of St Mary Graces). The complex included storehouses, ovens, brewhouses and bakeries. (Milling took place across the river at Rotherhithe, and in 1650 a slaughterhouse was acquired in Deptford). Officials of the Victualling Board were to remain accommodated here until the nineteenth century; however, the constraints of the site (and difficult riverside access) led to the establishment of a new manufacturing facility at the Deptford site (the future Deptford Victualling Yard) in 1672.

By the mid-seventeenth century the established arrangement was for a single contractor to be engaged to make all necessary victualling provisions, with the Navy Board laying down strict criteria on the quality of the provisions it required. In the 1660s, Samuel Pepys, who was then Clerk of the Acts of the Navy, reformed the system of having a Purser assigned to each ship to oversee the distribution of supplies, and obliged each one to lodge a cash surety, and to keep complete accounts of every item issued. By the time of the Anglo-Dutch Wars, however, the system was breaking down (the government complaining that sufficient provisions had not been delivered, and the contractor complaining that payment had not been made). As a result of this, a salaried Board of Commissioners was established in 1683, and this body retained oversight of victualling for the next 150 years.

Though nominally under the direction of the Navy Board (which had its headquarters nearby on Tower Hill), the Victualling Board was effectively independent. The Victualling Board took over certain functions, including medical services, from the Transport Board on its dissolution in 1817. The Victualling Board itself was abolished in the Admiralty reforms of 1832, victualling then became the responsibility of the Comptroller of Victualling and Transports, who was superintended by the Fourth Sea Lord. In 1862 transport duties passed to a separate Transport Department and in 1869 the office of Comptroller of Victualling was abolished. His former duties were divided between the newly formed Contract and Purchase Department, under the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, which became responsible for purchasing, management of the victualling stores facilities were under the control of the Superintendent of Victualling and the Victualling Department under the control of the Director of Victualling.

2) Structure of the Board.

On the Board, each Commissioner had responsibility for a key area of victualling activity: the Brewhouse department, the Cutting House department, the Dry Goods department, Cooperage, Hoytaking and Stores. There were seven Commissioners; the aforementioned six, plus the Chairman (who had direct oversight of the Cash department). The Victualling Board proceeded to build breweries, slaughterhouses, mills and bakeries near to the Royal Navy Dockyards to provide beer, salted meat, ship's biscuits and other supplies under its own quality control. In 1725, the Victualling Commissioners, the Navy Board, the Sick and Hurt Commissioners and the Navy Pay Office all moved into new accommodation in Somerset House.

3) Key Officials

Principle officers

  1. Comptroller of Victualling Accounts,(1683-1832)
  2. Comptroller, Brew-House, (1683 – 1832)
  3. Comptroller, Cutting-House, (1683 – 1832)
  4. Comptroller, Dry Goods, (1683 – 1832)
  5. Comptroller, Copperage, (1683 – 1832)
  6. Comptroller, Hoytaking, (1683 – 1832)
  7. Comptroller, Stores, (1683 – 1832)

4) Victualling Yards

Home Victualling Yards

  1. Commissioner, Victualling Yard Deptford, (1683-1832)
  2. Commissioner, Victualling Yard Dover, (1683-1831)
  3. Commissioner, Victualling Yard, Harwich, (1683-1832)
  4. Commissioner, Victualling Yard, Haulbowline, (1683-1832)
  5. Commissioner, Victualling Yard, Portsmouth, (1683-1826)
  6. Commissioner, Victualling Yard, Plymouth, (1683-1825)
  7. Commissioner, Royal Clarence Victualling Yard, Gosport (1683-1832)
  8. Commissioner, Royal William Victualling Yard, Plymouth, (1683-1832)

Overseas Victualling Yards

  1. Commissioner, Victualling Yard, Jamica, (1683-1832)
  2. Commissioner, Victualling Yard, Malta, (1683-1832)
  3. Commissioner, Victualling Yard, Rio de Janeiro, (1683-1832)
  4. Commissioner, Victualling Yard, Cape of Good Hope, (1704-1832)
  5. Commissioner, Victualling Yard, Heligoland, (1704-1832)
  6. Commissioner, Victualling Yard, Gibraltar, (1704-1832)
  7. Commissioner, Victualling Yard Antigua, (1723-1832)
  8. Commissioner, Victualling Yard Bermuda, (1723-1832)

5) Timeline

Note: Below is a timeline of responsibility for victualling for the Royal Navy.

  1. Navy Board, Surveyor of Marine Victuals, 1550-1679
  2. Navy Board, Victualling Board (Board of Victualling Commissioners), 1683-1832
  3. Board of Admiralty, Comptroller of Victualling and Transport Services, 1832-1862
  4. Board of Admiralty, Comptroller of Victualling, 1862-1870
  5. Board of Admiralty, Contract and Purchase Department, 1869-1964
  6. Board of Admiralty, Superintendent of Victualling, 1870-1878
  7. Board of Admiralty, Director of Victualling, 1878-1964

6) Sources


7) Attribution

  1. Flag of the Victualling Board: by Navops47
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