Royal Naval Dockyard

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H.M. Royal Naval Dockyard
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Atlantic Ocean
Home Waters
Mediterranean Sea
Indian Ocean
Pacific Ocean
TypeNaval Dockyard
Site information
OperatorNavy Royal
Royal Navy
Royal Australian Navy
Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Indian Navy
Royal New Zealand Navy
Controlled byOffices of the Clerks of the Kings Marine
Council of the Marine
Navy Board
Board of Admiralty
Navy Board (Ministry of Defence)
Site history
In use1496-1969
Installation information
OccupantsNaval Formations

Royal Naval Dockyard or Royal Navy Dockyard and formally called His or Her Majesty's Royal Naval Dockyard were harbour facilities where commissioned ships were either built or based, or where ships were overhauled and refitted. Historically, the former Navy Royal (1413-1649) then later the current Royal Navy (1660-present) maintained a string of dockyards around the world; these publicly owned establishments were officially designated Royal Dockyards or HM Dockyards until the July 1969 when changes in the naval shore command organisation in the United Kingdom resulted in the term Naval Base being used to reflect a change of emphasis from ship building and maintenance to accommodation and training of personnel. Today, the few shipbuilding/maintenance yards that remain operational have been privatised (though they are still often called 'Royal' dockyards in common, if not in official, parlance); and Babcock International, which in 2011 acquired freehold ownership of the working North Yard at Devonport from the British Ministry of Defence, has reverted to calling it Devonport Royal Dockyard.[1]


The origins of the Royal Dockyards are closely linked with the permanent establishment of a standing Navy in the early sixteenth century. The beginnings of a yard had already been established at Portsmouth with the building of a dry dock in 1496; but it was on the Thames in the reign of Henry VIII that the Royal Dockyards really began to flourish. Woolwich and Deptford dockyards were both established in the early 1510s (a third yard followed at Erith but this was short-lived as it proved to be vulnerable to flooding). The Thames yards were pre-eminent in the sixteenth century, being conveniently close to the merchants and artisans of London (for shipbuilding and supply purposes) as well as to the Armouries of the Tower of London. They were also just along the river from Henry's palace at Greenwich. As time went on, though, they suffered from the silting of the river and the constraints of their sites.

By the mid-seventeenth century, Chatham (established 1567) had overtaken them to become the largest of the yards. Together with new Yards at Harwich and Sheerness, Chatham was well-placed to serve the Navy in the Dutch Wars that followed. Apart from Harwich (which closed in 1713), all the yards remained busy into the eighteenth century - including Portsmouth (which, after a period of dormancy, had now begun to grow again). In 1690, Portsmouth had been joined on the south coast by a new Royal Dockyard at Plymouth; a hundred years later, as Britain renewed its enmity with France, these two yards gained new prominence and pre-eminence.

Furthermore, Royal Dockyards began to be opened in some of Britain's colonial ports, to service the fleet overseas. Yards were opened in Jamaica Dockyard (as early as 1675), Antigua Dockyard (1725), Gibraltar Dockyard (1704), Canada (Halifax Dockyard, 1759) and several other locations.[2]

In the wake of the Seven Years' War a large-scale programme of expansion and rebuilding was undertaken at the three largest home yards (Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth). These highly significant works (involving land reclamation and excavation, as well as new docks and slips and buildings of every kind) lasted from 1765 to 1808, and were followed by a comprehensive rebuilding of the Sheerness Dockyard (1815–23).[3]

Through the Napoleonic Wars all the home yards were kept very busy, and a new shipbuilding yard was established at Pater Yard, South Wales in 1814. Before very long, new developments in shipbuilding, materials and propulsion prompted changes at the Dockyards. Construction of marine steam engines was initially focused at Woolwich, but massive expansion soon followed at Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham. Portland Naval Base was built by the Admiralty in the mid-19th century to help protect ships taking coal on board; because of its key position, midway between Devonport and Portsmouth in the English Channel, Portland Dockyard was developed as a maintenance yard. A new maintenance yard was also opened on Haulbowline Dockyard in Cork Harbour. Meanwhile, the Thames-side yards, Woolwich and Deptford, could no longer compete, and they finally closed in 1869.

The massive naval rebuilding programme prior to the First World War saw activity across all the yards, and a new building yard opened at Rosyth. In contrast, the post-war period saw the closure of Pembroke Dockyard and Rosyth Dockyard, and the handover of Haulbowline to the new Irish government - though the closures were reversed with the return of war in 1939. A series of closures followed the war: Pembroke in 1947, Portland and Sheerness in 1959/60,[4] then Chatham and Gibraltar (the last remaining overseas yard) in 1984. In the 1990s the remaining Royal Dockyards (Devonport, Portsmouth and Rosyth) were privatised; they continue to be the main locations for building (Rosyth) and maintaining the ships and submarines of the Royal Navy.


Throughout its history, the Royal Navy has (when necessary) made extensive use of private shipyards and dockyards, both at home and abroad, and continues to do so. Nevertheless, since the reign of Henry VIII it has also made a point of establishing and maintaining its own dockyards. These Royal Navy dockyards have always had a dual function: shipbuilding and ship repair/maintenance; historically, most yards provided for both, but some specialised in one or the other.

Dockyards were often built around a number of docks and slips. Traditionally, slipways were used for shipbuilding, and dry docks (also called graving docks) for maintenance; (dry docks were also sometimes used for building, particularly pre-1760 and post-1880). Regular hull maintenance was important: in the age of sail, a ship's wooden hull would be comprehensively inspected every 2–3 years, and its copper sheeting replaced every 5.[5] Dry docks were invariably the most expensive component of any dockyard (until the advent of marine nuclear facilities).[3] Where there was no nearby dock available (as was often the case at the overseas yards) ships would sometimes be careened (beached at high tide) to enable necessary work to be done. In the age of sail, wharves and capstan-houses were often built for the purpose of careening at yards with no dock: a system of pulleys and ropes, attached to the masthead, would be used to heel the ship over giving access to the hull.

Royal Dockyards were generally established close to harbours or anchorages where Royal Navy ships were based. In addition to their docks and slips they had various specialist buildings on site: storehouses, woodworking sheds, metal shops and forges, roperies, pumping stations (for emptying the dry docks), administration blocks and accommodation for the resident officers.

Wet docks (usually called basins) often accommodated ships while they were being fitted out. The number and size of dockyard basins increased dramatically in the steam era. At the same time, large factory complexes, machine-shops and foundries sprung up alongside for the manufacture of engines and other components (not to mention, in due course, the metal hulls of the ships themselves).

One thing generally absent from the Royal Dockyards (until the 20th century) was the provision of naval barracks. Prior to this time, sailors were not usually quartered ashore at all, they were expected to live on board a ship (the only real exception being at some overseas wharves where accommodation was provided for crews whose ships were being careened). When a ship was decommissioned at the end of a voyage or tour of duty, most of her crew were dismissed or else transferred to new vessels. Alternatively, if a vessel was undergoing refit or repair, her crew was often accommodated on a nearby hulk; a dockyard often had several commissioned hulks moored nearby, serving various purposes and accommodating various personnel, including new recruits Things began to change when the Admiralty introduced more settled terms of service in 1853; nevertheless, thirty years were to pass before the first shore barrack opened, and a further twenty years before barracks at all three of the major home yards were finally completed.[3] Through the course of the 20th century these barracks, together with their associated training and other facilities, became defining features of each of these dockyards.

While the term 'dockyard' implies a yard with a dry dock, not all dockyards possessed one; for example, at Portland Dockyard a dock was planned but never built. Where a dock was neither built nor planned (as at Harwich and many of the overseas yards) the installation was often called 'HM Naval Yard' rather than 'Dockyard' in official publications, though the latter term was used informally; they are included in the listings below.


On the creation of the Council of the Marine in 1545 oversight of the royal dockyard system originally lay with the Surveyor and Rigger of the Navy (1524–1611), and in 1578 the council was renamed the Navy Board. In 1611 the former's title then changed to Surveyor of the Navy as the volume of work increased, this lead to the creation of a Department of the Surveyor of the Navy which remained in place until 1832 when the Navy Board was abolished and control of the dockyards passed to the Board of Admiralty. The surveyor's department continued until 1859 when his title was altered to Controller of the Navy. In 1869 the controllers office merged with the office of the Third Naval Lord. In 1872 a Surveyor of Dockyards was created to relive the Third Naval Lord and Controller of the Navy of one of his responsibilities. The Department of the Surveyor of Dockyards was renamed Department of the Director of Dockyards in 1885. The department underwent a number name changes becoming the Department of the Director of Dockyards and Works (1892-1913), then Department of the Director of Director of Dockyards and Repair (1913-1957) and finally Directorate-General Dockyards and Maintenance (1957-1969). From 1873 until 1917 the departments were superintended by a civilian official appointed by the Board of Admiralty after 1917 until 1969 the departments responsible for management of the royal dockyards was usually vested in a Rear-Admiral, or Vice-Admiral or Admiral who bore the title of either Director or Director-General.


Before 1832

Senior Officers of the Yard

Management of the yards was in the hands of the Navy Board until 1832. The Navy Board was represented in each yard by a resident commissioner (though Woolwich and Deptford, being close to the City of London, were for some time overseen directly by the Navy Board). The resident commissioners had wide-ranging powers enabling them to act in the name of the board (particularly in an emergency); however, until 1806 they did not have direct authority over the principal officers of the yard (who were answerable directly to the board). This could often be a source of tension, as everyone sought to guard their own autonomy.[6]

Senior Officers of the Yard
# Title Dates Description Ref
1. Master-Shipwright (1550-1631) He was in charge of shipbuilding and management of the yard workforce until 1631.
2. Resident Commissioner of the Navy (1631-1832) Replaced the master-shipwright as senior officer and superintended the principal officers of the yard
Principle Officers of the Yard
Principle Officers of the Yard
# Title Dates Description Ref
1. Master-Shipwright (1531-1875) He was in charge of shipbuilding, ship repair/maintenance and management of the associated workforce.
2. Master-Attendant (1630-1903) He was in charge of launching and docking ships, of ships 'In-Ordinary' at the yard, and of ship movements around the harbour.
3. Storekeeper (1531-1875) He was in charge of receiving, maintaining and issuing items in storage.
4. Clerk of the Cheque (1531-1830) He was in charge of pay, personnel and certain transactions.
5. Clerk of the Rope Yard (1531-1875) He mustered the men, and received and issued stores.
6. Clerk of the Survey (1531-1822) He was in charge of maintaining a regular account of equipment and the transfer of goods.
Officers of the Yard
Officers of the Yard
# Title Dates Description Ref
1. Master-Boatbuilder (1705-1832) He was in charge the boat building workforce [6]
2. Master-Caulker (1671-1832) He was in charge of those who used oakum (teased old rope) and pitch to seal the ship’s seams. [6]
3. Master-Mastmaker (1630-1903) He was in charge of those who worked in long mast houses constructing the masts and spars [6]
4. Master-Ropeworker (1689-1832) He was in charge of those producing quantities of rope needed by sailing vessels from hemp in the roper. [6]
5. Master Sailmaker (1705-1832) He was in charge of those making and repairing sails. [6]

In Dockyards where there was a ropewalk (viz Woolwich, Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth) there was an additional officer, the Clerk of the Ropeway, who had a degree of autonomy, mustering his own personnel and managing his own raw materials. Ships in commission (and along with them the majority of Naval personnel) were not under the authority of the Navy Board but rather of the Admiralty, which meant that they did not answer to any of the above officers, but rather to the Port Admiral.

After 1832

Senior Officers

Following the abolition of the Navy Office in 1832, the Department of Admiralty took over the dockyards and the commissioners were replaced by a Captain-Superintendent or an Admiral-Superintendent.[2]. The Clerk of the Survey post had been abolished in 1822.[2] The office of Clerk of the Cheque was likewise abolished in 1830 (its duties transferred to the Storekeeper), but then revived as the Cashier's Department in 1865.[7]

Senior Officers of the Yard
# Title Dates Description Ref
1. Admiral-Superintendent (1832-1971) He was usually a Flag Officer in charge of large dockyards and its workforce, later renamed Port Admiral
2. Captain-Superintendent (1832-1971) He was usually in charge of small to medium sized dockyards and its workforce
Principle Officers

With the development of steam technology in the 1840s came the senior Dockyard appointment of Chief Engineer. In 1875, the Master-Shipwrights were renamed Chief Constructors (later styled Manager, Constructive Department or MCD).[8] In the latter half of the 19th century, those being appointed as Master Attendants (in common with their namesakes the Sailing Masters) began to be commissioned. They began to be given the rank and appointment of "Staff Captain (Dockyard)" (modified in 1903 to "Captain of the Port). In several instances, the appointment of Master Attendant or Captain of the Dockyard was held in common with that of King's or Queen's Harbour Master.

For much of the twentieth century,[9] the Principal Dockyard Departments were overseen by:[10]

Principle Officers of the Yard
# Title Dates Description Ref
1. Master-Shipwright (1832-1875) In charge of shipbuilding, and management of the associated workforce renamed Chief Constructor.
2. Master-Attendant (1832-1875) In charge of berthing ships In-Ordinary at the dockyard was renamed Staff Captain (Dockyard)
3. Chief Engineer (1840-1905) In charge of the engineering staff of the dockyard renamed Manager, Engineering Department
4. Chief Constructor (1875-1905) In charge of shipbuilding, and management of the associated workforce renamed Manager Constructive Department
4. Staff Captain (Dockyard) (1875-1903) renamed Captain of the Dockyard
5. Captain of the Dockyard (1903-1969) renamed Captain of the Port
6. Captain of the Port ( 1969-1994) Successor title to Captain of the Dockyard
7. Manager, Constructive Department (1905-1969)
9. Manager, Engineering Department (1905-1969)
9. Senior Electrical Engineer (1905-1969)
10. Senior Naval Stores Officer (1905-1969)

Home Yards

Royal Dockyards were established in Britain and Ireland as follows (in chronological order, with date of establishment):

English Channel

  • Devonport Dockyard (1843-1971), — The preeminent yard, alongside Portsmouth, during the wars with France (1793 onward). previously known as Plymouth Dockyard. Significant expansion for steam engineering, 1844–53 and 1896-1907. Shipbuilding ceased in 1971, but the Yard remains active as a Naval Base for maintenance and repairs.[11][12]

  • Dover Dockyard, (1606-1920, 1939-1945) — In 1847 the government began construction on Dover's Admiralty Pier, envisaged as forming the western arm of a protected haven. This project was only completed after work began on the eastern pier in 1898; the Admiralty Harbour was formally opened in 1909. During both World Wars Dover served as a ship repair station and was listed as a Naval Dockyard.

  • Portsmouth Dockyard, (1496-1969) — Rose to prominence during the wars with France, late 18th century. Expanded significantly in the nineteenth century with new facilities for steam engineering and ironclad shipbuilding.[2] Privatised 1993. In November 2013 the operator BAe Systems announced that it was closing its shipbuilding facility at Portsmouth; part of the shipyard will remain open for repair/maintenance.[13]

  • Plymouth Dockyard (1690-1843), — The pre-eminent yard, alongside Portsmouth, during the wars with France (1793 onwards). Known as Devonport since 1843.[14] Significant expansion for steam engineering, 1844–53 and 1896-1907. Shipbuilding ceased in 1971, but the Yard remains active as a maintenance and repair facility.[15]

  • Portland Dockyard, (1845) — Previously in use as an anchorage, the yard was originally established to provide coal for the new steam-powered ships of the Navy. In the 1850s there were plans for dry-docks and building slips, but these were not carried through. Very active through two World Wars, the dockyard closed in 1959; site taken over as a commercial port. (Adjacent Naval Base and RN Air Station closed in 1995-99).[4]

Irish Sea

  • Haulbowline Dockyard, (1869-1923) — The dockyard was established in 1869 at Haulbowline Island, Cork, Ireland but the Royal Navy had acquired the land in 1806 upto the period the dockyard was built it was a supply base with an ordnance and victualling yard.

  • Pater Yard, (1814-1832) — was a Royal Naval Dockyard of the Royal Navy located at Pater (village) or Paterchurch near Pembroke, Wales. The dockyard opened in 1814 and was administered by a Resident Commissioner of the Navy of the Navy Board who was responsible for supervising the principal officers of the yard. In 1832 Pater Dockyard was renamed Pembroke Dockyard.

  • Pembroke Dockyard, (1832-1926) — Unlike all the previous yards, Pembroke was built purely for shipbuilding rather than for repair and maintenance. It was successor yard to Pater Yard located at Pembroke, Wales.

  • Milford Dockyard, (1797-1814) — It was leased by the Navy Board for shipbuilding since the late eighteenth century and represented by a Resident Commissioner of Navy who was responsible for supervising the principal officers of the yard. It opened in 1797 and closed in 1814 when the work and staff of dockyard was transferred to Pater Yard. It was located with the vast Milford Haven Harbour. Milford Haven, Wales.

North Sea

  • Chatham Dockyard, (1567-1984) — The leading Royal Dockyard during the 16th-17th centuries, when the Fleet was principally based in and around the River Medway.[16] Began to suffer from silting in the eighteenth century, but remained active. During the nineteenth century, other more accessible yards led on fleet repairs and maintenance, while Chatham focused more on shipbuilding. The following century, it specialized in building submarines. In 1960 the adjacent Royal Navy barracks and facilities were closed; the Dockyard itself closed in 1984. (Today the site is preserved as Chatham Historic Dockyard.)[2]

  • Erith Dockyard, (1512-1521) — The dockyard was used as an advance base for routine maintenance before ships were transferred to Deptford Dockyard.[17] It closed due to persistent flooding in 1521.[18] However according to naval historian Nicholas A. M. Rodger although Erith dockyard closed it was an important center of naval administration of the English Navy from 1514 into the 1540's.[19]

  • Deptford Dockyard, (1512-1869) — It was an important shipbuilding center, 16th-17th centuries. Experimental yard for new technology, early nineteenth century. Closed 1869. (The adjacent victualling yard, which supplied the Thames and Medway yards, remained open for a further 98 years.)

  • Harwich Dockyard, (1546–1829) — The dockyard was active during the Anglo-Dutch Wars; closed 1713 (a small Naval yard remained on site, with refit/stores facilities, until 1829.)[2]

  • Rosyth Dockyard, (1909-still active) — Built with a strategic view to countering the threat from Germany. Closed after World War One, reopened 1939, and has remained open since. Privatized in 1993, but continues to build and maintain Britain's warships.

  • Sheerness Dockyard, (1665-1960) — Originally built for storing and refitting; for much of its history served as a support yard for Chatham. Shipbuilding began in 1720 (mostly smaller ships). Entire dockyard rebuilt to a single design by John Rennie Jnr in 1815-26. Closed 1960 (site taken over as a commercial port).

  • Woolwich Dockyard, (1512-1869) — Important shipbuilding center, 16th-17th centuries. Became a specialist steam yard 1831. Closed 1869.[2]

Other Yards

Minor yards (with some permanent staff and minor repair/storage facilities, but without dry docks etc.) were established in a number of locations over time, usually to serve a nearby anchorage used by Naval vessels.

A different (and, within the U.K., unique) establishment was Haslar Gunboat Yard. Gunboats were small, shallow-draft vessels, developed after the Crimean War, which benefitted from being stored ashore rather than left afloat, to help preserve their light wooden hulls. From 1856 Haslar provided the means to house, launch and haul them ashore by means of a steam-driven traverse system. Overseen by a Master-Shipwright, the Yard stayed in use until 1906, after which it remained in Naval hands as a base for coastal craft until 1973.[22]

Overseas Yards

North America

North Atlantic

  • Bermuda Dockyard (1795–1951) — Bermuda was the principal base of the Royal Navy in the Western Atlantic between American independence and the Cold War.

It was located on Ireland Island, Bermuda.

  • Freetown Dockyard (1759-1905) — It was located at Freetown, Sierra Leone on the West Coast of Africa.

  • Halifax Dockyard (1759-1905) — Operated as HM Dockyard from 1759 to 1905 and sold to Canada in 1907. It became a RCN facility in 1910 and is now known as HMC Dockyard and is a component of CFB Halifax.

  • Lisbon Dockyard (1704-1814) — It was located at Lisbon, Portugal on the Atlantic coast in the West Indies. It served as the primary shore establishment for both the Lisbon Station, the Portugal Station. It was in operation from 1704 to 1725, 1795 to 1799 and finally from 1808 to 1814.

  • New York Dockyard (1775-1784) — It was located a Turtle Bay in New York, British North America. It was initially a repair, maintenance and supply base of the North America Station from 1775 to 1784. The yard was managed by the Navy Board and operated by the Royal Navy.

Canada Great Lakes

The Great Lakes, as largely self-contained bodies of water, required their own dockyards to service the Provincial Marine. Several substantial ships were built at these yards during the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

  • Amherstburg Dockyard (1796-1813) — It was a Provincial Marine and then a Royal Navy yard from 1796 to 1813 in Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada situated on the Detroit River.

  • Grand River Naval Depot (1816-1834) — It was planned dockyard facility and naval base at Port Maitland, Ontario but the yard was never built, however work on the base did continue starting in 1816 but was gradually wound down. In 1820 it was reactivated following an Navy Board survey but the base was finally closed in 1834.

  • Quebec Naval Shipyard (1812 to 1834) — Located at Île aux Noix, it was the principal yard for Lake Champlain (replacing an earlier establishment at St-Jean). Gunboats were built here. Fort Lennox historic site is now preserved. Rest of island is naturalized as parkland.[23]

  • Naval Shipyards York (1798-1813) — was a royal naval dockyard facility and naval base on Lake Ontario at York, Upper Canada. It was established in 1790 and remained operational until 1813 when it was abandoned by the Royal Navy.[24] It later became commercial hub for shipyards and wharfs.

South America and South Atlantic Ocean

  • Ascension Dockyard (1816-1922) and naval base was established in Georgetown, Ascension Island following Napoleon's imprisonment on Saint Helena; it went on to serve as a victualling, repair and supply station for the West Africa Squadron. A Naval Hospital was established on site in 1832, and new facilities for servicing steam warships were added in the 1860s.[3] Naval activity had substantially decreased by the end of the 19th century, but the island remained under Admiralty control until 1922. Still partially supports Falklands' Garrison at Mare Harbour since the 1980s.

  • Cape Town Dockyard (1795-1814) or formally H.M. Dockyard, Cape Town was a Royal Naval Dockyard located at Table Bay, Cape Colony, Southern Africa. It served as the primary shore establishment for both the Cape of Good Hope Station. It was in operation from 1795 to until 1814 when the Department of Admiralty chose develop a new naval base and dockyard at Simon's Town Bay which provided an all year round safe anchorage. The dockyard was managed and controlled by the Navy Board through its Resident Commissioner Cape Town until 1814.

  • Simonstown Dockyard (1914-1967), was a navy dockyard located at Simons Town Bay, Simonstown, South Africa orginally called the Cape of Good Hope Dockyard it was renamed in the early 20th century and remained in operation under British control until 1957 when the dockyard and naval base was handed over to the South African government, the British however kept a resident naval officer at Simonstown until 1967.

Europe and Mediterranean Sea

  • Ajaccio Dockyard (1794-1799) — The French naval base and dockyard was seized from the France during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1794,[25] when British forces occupied the island of Corsica. It was briefly a naval base and facility of the Mediterranean Station. The yard was managed by the Navy Board through its Resident Commissioner, Corsica until 1799 when the island of Corsica fell back into French hands.

  • Gibraltar Dockyard (1704-1984) — A small base served the Royal Navy in this strategically important location throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. At the start of the 20th, HM Dockyard, Gibraltar was dramatically expanded and modernised, with the addition of three dry docks (one an unprecedented 852 ft (260 m) in length).[3] HM Dockyard was closed in 1984. It is now operated as a commercial facility by Gibdock, although there is still a Royal Navy presence, which provides a maintenance capability. Gibraltar's naval docks are an important base for NATO. British and US nuclear submarines frequently visit the Z berths at Gibraltar. (A Z berth provides the facility for nuclear submarines to visit for operational or recreational purposes, and for non-nuclear repairs.)

  • Malta Dockyard (1800-1959) — It was located in Valletta, Malta previously operated by the Knights of Malta, became the main base for the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet. The Royal Dockyard closed in 1959; a private yard operated on site thereafter. The Royal Navy did however retain Naval Base, Malta until 1979.

  • Port Mahon Dockyard (1708-1802) — The dockyard was established at Port Mahon, Minorca, Spain and one of the world's deepest natural harbours. It was the Royal Navy's principal Mediterranean base for the Mediterranean Fleet for much of the eighteenth century and into the early 19th century; however the territory changed hands more than once in that time, before being finally ceded to Spain in 1802. The yard is still used by the Spanish Navy.[3] One of the first Royal Naval Hospital's was established here in 1711.

  • Toulon Dockyard (1793-1794) — During the French Revolutionary Wars the British forces including the Royal Navy occupied the city and Port of Toulon the dockyard was used briefly for repairs and maintenance.

West Indies and Caribbean Sea

  • Antigua Dockyard — (1728-1882) — It was established at English Harbour, Antigua which had been used by the Navy since 1671 as a place for shelter and maintenance.[2] A number of buildings were constructed, and several remain (mostly from the 1780s). It served as Admiral Nelson's base in the West Indies during the Napoleonic Wars. The yard closed in 1882 and left abandoned until 1951, but has since been restored and is open to the public as a cultural centre and public marina called Nelson's Dockyard. It serviced the Royal Navy's Leeward Islands Squadron as part of the Leeward Islands Station.

  • Cape Nicholas Naval Yard — (1798), was a minor facility of the Royal Navy located at Cape Nicholas, Saint Domingue (modern day Haiti) in West Indies. It was established for just one year only in 1798.[26]

  • Jamaica Dockyard or called Port Royal Dockyard — (1675-1905), was established at Port Royal, Jamaica. A naval official was stationed in Port Royal from the seventeenth century, and Naval vessels were careened there for maintenance from that time. Following the Port Royal earthquake of 1692, and In 1729 the Royal Navy moved operations to Port Antonio Dockyard. From 1735 wharves, storehouses and other structures were built anew at Port Royal, and these were updated through the nineteenth century. In 1749 the navy abandoned Port Antonio and moved back to Port Royal. The Jamaica yard closed in 1905.[2] Now Naval Heritage Center.

  • Martinique Naval Yard — (1775-1815), was a shore establishment of the Royal Navy located at Saint-Pierre, Martinique in the West Indies. It was first established in 1775 but the island was captured and recaptured between France and Britain until it came under permanent British control from 1794 to 1815, and was a forward refitting and supply base of the Leeward Islands Station.[27]

  • Port Antonio Dockyard — (1729-1749), was established at Port Antonio, Jamaica due to a succession of damaging hurricanes affecting the Jamaica Dockyard, a concerted attempt was made from 1729 to relocate Jamaica's naval yard to Port Antonio, it was however an unsettled bay on the opposite side of the island; the climate there was not agreeable, however, there were high levels of sickness and the Royal Navy abandoned Port Antonio in 1749.[28][29]

South Asia and Indian Ocean

  • Bombay Dockyard (1811-1949) — During the Napoleonic Wars the Royal Navy took over Bombay Dockyard (1811), both of which had been dockyards of the East India Company long before the Navy took charge. Several warships were built under contract in these yards in the early eighteenth century, as was HMS Trincomalee (launched in 1817 and still afloat). Naval Dockyard, Mumbai, is now in the custody of the Indian Navy; the Madras yard closed in 1813, transferring to Ceylon (q.v.). There is also the substantial British built naval base at Cochin. Other facilities were located in Calcutta, and several other places in the Indian Empire - e.g. Aden.

  • Kidderpore Dockyard (1870-1949) — also known as Calcutta Dockyard was originally a naval dockyard developed by the East India Company from 1780. It was formally established as a Royal Naval Dockyard overseas in 1870 and a base of the East Indies Station when the Department of Admiralty in London took over it. The yard was managed by the Board of Admiralty, it was closed in 1949.

  • Madras Dockyard (1796-1813) — During the Napoleonic Wars the Royal Navy took over Madras Dockyard (1796), both of which had been dockyards of the East India Company long before the Navy took charge. Several warships were built under contract in these yards in the early eighteenth century, as was HMS Trincomalee (launched in 1817 and still afloat). Naval Dockyard, Mumbai, is now in the custody of the Indian Navy; the Madras yard closed in 1813, transferring to Ceylon (q.v.). There is also the substantial British built naval base at Cochin. Other facilities were located in Calcutta, and several other places in the Indian Empire - e.g. Aden.

  • Trincomalee Dockyard (1813-1957) — It was located at Trincomalee Naval Base, Ceylon. The naval dockyard at Trincomalee began as a simple careening wharf, with a capstan house and storehouse. It gradually grew, though the Admiralty was also investing in commercial facilities in Colombo. Trincomalee was threatened with closure in 1905 as the Admiralty's focus was on Germany, but it remained in service, and was headquarters mainly of the East Indies Station then later the Eastern Fleet for a time during World War II and East Indies Fleet after the second world war. In 1957 it was handed over to the Royal Ceylon Navy;[4] today it is the SLN Dockyard of the Sri Lanka Navy.

East Asia and Pacific Ocean

  • Esquimalt Dockyard (1842-1905) — It was a British Royal Navy yard on Canada's Pacific coast from 1842 to 1905, In 1865, the Royal Navy relocated its Pacific Station headquarters from Valparaíso, Chile, to Esquimalt Harbour (site of a small naval hospital and coaling station since the mid-1850s). In 1887, a naval base was located at Work Point. In 1905, the Royal Navy abandoned its base. It next served as the headquarters of the new Royal Canadian Navy. It was located at Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada.
  • Garden Island Naval Yard (1858-1913) — It was located ijn Sydney, Australia, in 1858 the Admiralty acquired land on Garden Island in Sydney Harbour, and established a small naval base there. In the 1880s it was substantially expanded (though no dry docks were built, as the Navy had use of the facilities at nearby Cockatoo Island Dockyard operated by the Government of New South Wales). In 1913 HM Naval Yard, Garden Island was handed over to the nascent Royal Australian Navy which is based there to this day.

  • Prince of Wales Island Yard (1798-1816) — It was founded by the British East India Company located on Prince of Wales Island, (later renamed Penang Island), the Straits Settlements. The yard was used for minor refitting of ships but was mainly used for supplies it had a resident Naval Storekeeper, Prince of Wales Island Yard.[30]

  • Singapore Dockyard (1923-1968) — It was established in the 1920s at Sembawang, Singapore, Malaya. It was built around the King George VI Graving Dock (which when opened was the world's largest dry dock). Singapore Naval Base and dockyard fell into Japanese hands during World War II, and became the target of Bombing of Singapore (1944–45. The naval base and dockyard was transferred to the Singapore government in 1968.

  • Wei Hai Wei Dockyard (1898-1930) — The Royal Navy inherited a small dockyard on Liugong Island when this territory was leased from China at the end of the nineteenth century. The yard was expanded, and served as a regular summer anchorage up until the Second World War (though the territory, and with it control of the base, was returned to China in 1930).[3] Used by Japanese forces during World War II and after by People's Liberation Army, some historic buildings remains today.

Associated Naval Establishments

Ships' ordnance (guns, weapons and ammunition) was provided independently by the Board of Ordnance, which set up its own Ordnance Yards alongside several of the Royal Dockyards both at home and abroad. Similarly, the Victualling Board established Victualling Yards in several Dockyard locations, which furnished warships with their provisions of food, beer and rum. In the mid-eighteenth century the Sick and Hurt Board established Naval Hospitals in the vicinity of Plymouth Dock and Portsmouth; by the mid-nineteenth century there were Royal Naval Hospitals close to most of the major and minor Naval Dockyards in Britain, in addition to several of them overseas (the oldest dating from the early 1700s). As the age of steam eclipsed the age of sail, Coaling Yards were established alongside several yards, and at strategic points around the globe.

In addition to naval personnel and civilian workers, there were substantial numbers of military quartered in the vicinity of the Royal Dockyards. These were there to ensure the defence of the yard and its ships. From the 1750s, naval yards in Britain were surrounded by 'lines' (fortifications) with barracks provided for the soldiers manning them. A century later these 'lines' were superseded by networks of Palmerston Forts. Overseas yards also usually had some fort or similar structure provided and manned nearby. Moreover, the Royal Marines, from the time of the Corps' establishment in the mid-18th century, were primarily based in the dockyard towns of Plymouth, Portsmouth and Chatham (and later also in Woolwich and Deal) where their barracks were conveniently placed for duties on board ship or indeed in the Dockyard itself. In addition men of the Reserve Fleet were accommodated in Royal Naval Barracks which were also used as training facilities.

Associated Naval Shore Establishments
# Title Dates Description Ref
1. Royal Marine Barracks (1776-1956) These were established to house the Royal Marine Divisions at Chatham, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Woolwich.
2. Royal Naval Coaling Station (1870-1914) These were established worldwide in use from 1870 to 1914.
3. Royal Naval Barracks (1890-1969) Located at the major yards of Chatham, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Sheerness to house reserve fleet personnel
4. Royal Naval Armament Depot (1920-1905) Located close to the Royal Navy Dockyards, for the transfer of armaments between the depots and warships.
5. Ordnance Yard (1668-1832) These were controlled by the Board of Ordnance
6. Royal Naval Victualling Yard (1875-1905) These were located worldwide and controlled and initially by the Victualling Board then finally the Victualling Department.
7. Royal Naval Hospital (1875-1903) These hospitals were initially controlled by the Sick and Hurt Board for the care of and treatment of sick and injured naval personnel and finally by the Department of the Medical Director-General of the Navy


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