Harwich Dockyard

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HM Royal Dockyard Harwich
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Part of Nore Station
Harwich, England in Kingdom of England Kingdom of Great Britain United Kingdom
Site information
OperatorNavy Royal
Royal Navy
Controlled byCouncil of the Marine
Navy Board
Site history
In use1546–1829
Installation information
Resident Commissioner

Harwich Dockyard was a Royal Navy dockyard at Harwich in Essex. It was originally established during the reign of Edward II, in 1326, and was enlarged during the reign by Elizabeth I of England.[1] The dockyard closed in 1829.


The Royal Navy Dockyard was originally established during the reign of Edward II in 1326, and was enlarged during the reign by Elizabeth I of England. By 1652 it was ideally positioned for readying the fleet in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the seventeenth century. Thereafter its importance waned; it ceased to operate as a Royal Dockyard in 1713, but was leased to a succession of private operators under whom naval and commercial shipbuilding continued. The Navy maintained a small storage and refitting base there until 1829.[2] One unusual structure surviving from the dockyard is a very rare treadwheel crane of 1667, which was in use until the early twentieth century before being re-sited on Harwich Green in the 1930s.

A wooden board on the dockyard gate lists some 58 Men-of-war built at the Old Naval Yard there from 1660-1827.[3] During the First World War a flotilla, the Harwich Force, was based at the port. During the Second World War parts of Harwich were again requisitioned for naval use, and ships were based at HMS Badger, a shore establishment on the site of what is now Harwich International Port. Badger was decommissioned in 1946, but the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service maintained a headquarters on the site until 1992.[4]

Administration of the Dockyard

The first naval administrators of dockyards during the early Tudor period were called Keepers of the Kings Marine, John Hopton was Keeper of the Kings Storehouses for Deptford and Erith dockyards. By the late 16th century the master shipwright was the senior official. The dockyards were run entirely by naval officers who were civilian employees of the Council of the Marine later called the Navy Board, not sea officers.

The senior officials of each dockyard from the early 17th century was the commissioner, who was supported by a deputy the master shipwright -responsible for building and repairs. Other senior officers of the yard included the clerk of cheque and storekeeper - responsible for finance and administration. The master attendants and boatswain -supervised yard craft and boats in ordinary (on reserve) and The master ropemaker -responsible for the ropeyard. This remained the organisation of the yards until 1832.[5]

After 1832 the Navy Board was abolished and all yards and establishments, except gun wharves, were amalgamated under a single authority the Board of Admiralty. The victualling yards, however, continued to be practically independent. The senior official was now a serving sea officer – the superintendent, admiral or captain-superintendent – who was often also the port admiral, or flag officer.[6] This remained the system until 1971 when all Flag Officers of the Royal Navy holding positions of Admiral Superintendents at Royal Dockyards were restyled as Port Admirals.

Principal Officers of the Yard

Resident Commissioner of the Navy, Harwich Dockyard

  1. 1664-1668, Captain John Taylor [7]

Other Key Officers of the Yard

Master shipwright, Harwich Dockyard

Clerk of the Cheque, Harwich Dockyard

Post holders included:[8]

  1. 1722 Jan-Jun, Charles Aleyn
  2. 1722-1728, James Banks
  3. 1728 Mar-Sep, Thomas Colby
  4. 1728-1756, George Bagnold
  5. 1756-1765, George Purvis

Storekeeper, Harwich Dockyard

Post holders included:[9]

  1. 1665-1678, Captain, Silas Taylor.[10]
  2. 1722 Jan-Jun, Charles Aleyn
  3. 1722-1728, James Banks
  4. 1728 Mar-Sep, Thomas Colby
  5. 1728-1756, George Bagnold
  6. 1756-1765, George Purvis
  7. 1765-1766, Charles Howard

Ships built at the dockyard

Date Ship Notes Ref
1678 HMS Restoration third rate, 70 guns. [11]
1679 HMS Breda third rate, 70 guns. [11]
1679 HMS Sandwich second rate, 90 guns. [11]
1680 HMS Albemarle second rate, 90 guns. [11]
1694 HMS Ipswich third rate, 70 guns [11]
1696 HMS Yarmouth third rate, 74 guns. [11]
1810 HMS Vengeur third rate, 74 guns. [11]
1812 HMS Scarborough third rate, 74 guns. [11]


  1. Carry, L. H. ST C. (January 1927). "HARWICH DOCKYARD". The Mariner's Mirror. 13 (2): 167–171. doi:10.1080/00253359.1927.10655415.
  2. "Research guide B5: Royal Naval Dockyards". National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  3. "The Old Naval Yard Harwich Quay". Geograph. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  4. "The First World War 1914-1918". Harwich & Dovercourt. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  5. Archives, The National. "The National Archives - Royal Naval dockyard staff". The National Archives. Kew, London: National Archives UK. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  6. National Archives UK
  7. Carry p. 167.
  8. Harrison, Simon (2010–2018). "Clerk of the Cheque at Harwich Dockyard". threedecks.org. S. Harrison. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  9. Harrison, Simon (2010–2018). "Storekeeper at Harwich Dockyard". threedecks.org. S. Harrison. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  10. Pepys, Samuel (2001). The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Vol. 10: Companion. Berkeley, California, United States.: University of California Press. p. 429. ISBN 978-0-520-22715-6.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 Carry pp. 170–171.