Victualling Board

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Victualling Board
Flag of the Victualling Office and Victualling Service.gif
Flag of the Victualling Board used for illustrative purposes
Agency overview
Preceding agency
Superseding department
JurisdictionKingdom of England Kingdom of England Kingdom of Great Britain Kingdom of Great Britain United Kingdom United Kingdom
HeadquartersVictualling Office, London
Agency executive
  • Chairman of Commissioners for the Victualling of the Navy
Parent agencyNavy Office

The Victualling Board or formally known as the Commissioners for the Victualling of the Navy, was the executive board 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.[1] It existed from 1683 until 1832 when its function was first replaced by the Department of the Comptroller of Victualling and Transport Services until 1869 then that office was also abolished and replaced by the Victualling Department.[2][3][4]

The Victualling Board was headquartered at the Victualling Office.


In the sixteenth century under Elizabeth I, a Surveyor-General 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.[5] 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'.[6] At first a 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).[7] 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.[8]

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, 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[10]

Administration and 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).[11] 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 of which were components of the Navy Office moved into new accommodation in Somerset House.[12]

Principal Officers and Commissioners of the Victualling Board


Comptroller of Victualling and Chairman of the Victullling Board

  • 1803-1808 Captain. John Marsh
  • 1808-1821 Captain, Thomas Welsh
  • 1821-1822 Captain, John Clarke Searle
  • 1822-1832 Hon. Granville Anson Chetwynd Stapylton

Deputy Chairman of the Victualling Board

  • 1803-1822, Captain, George Philips Towry
  • 1822-1823, Captain, Hon. Courtenay Boyle
  • 1823-1832, John Wolley

Additional Comptrollers of the Victualling Board

  • Comptroller of the Brew House
  • Comptroller of the Cutting House
  • Comptroller of Dry Goods
  • Comptroller of Copperage
  • Comptroller of Hoytaking
  • Comptroller of Victualling Stores

Secretary to the Victualling Board

  • 1814. William Gooling. F.A.S.

Victualling Commissioners Included:[14]

  • 1683-1690. Nicholas Fenn
  • 1683—1690. Sir Richard Haddock
  • 1683-1690. John Parsons
  • 1683-1690. Anthony Sturt
  • 1690-1693. James How
  • 1690-1699. John Agar
  • 1690-1699 Humphrey Ayles
  • 1690-1702. Thomas Papillon
  • 1690-1702 Simon Mayne
  • 1693-1695. Israel Fielding
  • 1695-1702 John Burrington
  • 1699-1711 Thomas Colby
  • 1699-1711. Henry Vincent
  • 1702 Sir JJohn Houblon Kt.
  • 1702 William Carpenter
  • 1702-1703 William Wright
  • 1702-1704 John James
  • 1702-1706 Abraham Tilghman
  • 1703-1705 Thomas Jennings
  • 1704-1706 Samuel Hunter
  • 1704-1706 Henry Lee
  • 1704-1714 Kenrick Edisbury
  • 1705-1711 Thomas Harlow
  • 1706-1711 Denzil Onslow
  • 1706-1711 Thomas Reynolds
  • 1706-1725 Thomas Bere
  • 1711-1714 Henry Lee
  • 1711-1714 Sir Francis Marsham 3rd Bart
  • 1711-1718 Henry Vincent
  • 1711-1721 Samuel Hunter
  • 1712-1714 William Stephens
  • 1714-1717 Waller Bacon
  • 1714-1719 Robert Arris
  • 1714-1721 Denzil Onslow
  • 1714-1721 Thomas Reynolds
  • 1714-1723 Peter Jeyes
  • 1717-1720 Owen Buckingham
  • 1718-1720 Edward Eliot
  • 1719-1728 William Passenger
  • 1720-1721 Joshua Churchill
  • 1720-1727 Henry Cartwright
  • 1721-1722 Hugh Cholmley
  • 1721-1727 Sir George Saunders Kt.
  • 1721-1734 William Fisher
  • 1722-1727 Stephen Bisse
  • 1725-1729 George Huxley
  • 1725-1733 Edward Trelawny
  • 1727-1728 Sprig Manesty
  • 1727-1739 Henry Parsons
  • 1728-1734 John Berkeley
  • 1728-1747 Thomas Revell
  • 1729-1744 William Thompson
  • 1729-1747 Thomas Brereton
  • 1733-1738 George Crowle
  • 1734-1742 Francis Eyles (later Eyles Stiles)
  • 1734-1746 Stephen Bisse
  • 1738-1748 William Hay
  • 1741-1744 Thomas Trefusis
  • 1742 -1752 Richard Hall
  • 1742-1755 Thomas Cooper
  • 1744-1748 William Davies
  • 1745-1746 Arthur Stert
  • 1746-1747 John Russell
  • 1746-1778 James Wallace
  • 1747-1760 William Jenkins
  • 1747-1761 Francis Vernon
  • 1747-1762 Sir Francis Haskins Eyles-Stiles, 3rd Bart
  • 1747-1765 Hon. Horatio Townshend
  • 1748-1752 Tyrwhitt Cayley
  • 1752 Thomas Winterbottom
  • 1752-1780 Sir Roger Burgoyne (Bart)
  • 1755-1776 Robert Pett
  • 1760-1763 Robert Rule
  • 1761-1768 Tyringham Stephens
  • 1762-1784 Jonas Hanway
  • 1763-1772 George Marsh
  • 1765-1767 James Fortrey
  • 1767-1794 Alexander Chorley
  • 1768-1780 Thomas Colby
  • 1772-1776 William Gordon
  • 1776-1778 Henry Pelham
  • 1776-1785 Joah Bates
  • 1778-1787 James Kirke
  • 1778-1789 John Slade
  • 1781-1786 Montagu Burgoyne
  • 1781-1790 William Lance
  • 1784-1803 George Phillips Towry
  • 1785-1799 George Cherry
  • 1785-1811 William Boscawen
  • 1787-1793 Samuel Marshall
  • 1789-1790 William Bellingham
  • 1790-1798 Joseph Hunt
  • 1790-1805 Francis Stephens
  • 1793-1796 Francis John Hartwell
  • 1794-1809 Sadleir Mood
  • 1796-1803 Hon. John Rodney
  • 1798-1803 John Marsh
  • 1799-1807 John Harrison
  • 1803-1806 Rear-Admiral, Charles Cunningham
  • 1805-1808 William Budge
  • 1807-1822 Thomas Welsh
  • 1808-1822 John Aubin
  • 1808-1831 Nicholas Brown
  • 1809-1813 Hon. Edward Richard Stewart
  • 1811-1832 Frederick Edgcumbe
  • 1813-1825 Robert William Hay
  • 1817-1831 John Weir
  • 1821-1827 Richard Creyke
  • 1821-1832 Henry Garrett
  • 1822-1832 Sir William Burnett Kt. (ktd. 25 May 1831)
  • 1825-1829 Hon. William Lennox Bathurst
  • 1827-1832 Captain, Sir James Alexander Gordon Kt.
  • 1827-1832 Captain, John Hill
  • 1831-1832 John Thomas Briggs
  • 1839-1832 James Meek.


Note: Below is a timeline of responsibility for victualling for the Royal Navy.[15] As listed under headings in Royal Navy Lists:

  • Navy Board, Surveyor-General of Victuals, 1550-1679
  • Navy Board, Victualling Board (Board of Victualling Commissioners), 1683-1832
  • Board of Admiralty, Department of the Comptroller of Victualling and Transport Services, 1832-1869
  • Board of Admiralty, Victualling Branch, 1870-1878
  • Board of Admiralty, Victualling Department, 1878-1964
  • Ministry of Defence, Navy Department, Victualling Department, 1964-1970


  1. "Sustaining the Empire". National Maritime Museum. 2014. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  2. MacDonald, Janet (1 June 2009). "Documentary Sources Relating to the Work of the British Royal Navy's Victualling Board during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1793–1815". International Journal of Maritime History. 21: 239–262. doi:10.1177/084387140902100111.
  3. Saint, J. C. "Commissioners: Victualling 1683-1832, Institute of Historical Research". University of London, February 2003. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  4. "Victualling Board - Oxford Reference, in The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea Volume 2". oxfordreference. Oxford University Press, 2017. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  5. Hamilton, Sir Vesey (1896). "Chapter VI: The Director of Victualling". Naval Administration.
  6. Wheatley, Henry Benjamin (2010) [1880]. Samuel Pepys and the world he lived in. Cambridge.
  7. Coad, Jonathan (2013). Support for the Fleet. Swindon: English Heritage. p. 299.
  8. Davies, J. D. (2008). Pepys's Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare 1649-89. Seaforth.
  9. "Admiralty Collection: Overview of maritime archives in Greenwich". National Maritime Museum. 2014. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Archives, The National. "Records of Victualling Departments". National Archives, 1660-1975, ADM Division 3. Retrieved 29 March 2017.30px This article contains quotations from this source, which is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.
  11. Lavery, Brian (1989). Nelson's Navy. London: Conway.
  12. "The Great Institutions". Somerset House. 2014. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  13. Clowes, W. Laird (William Laird); Markham, Clements R. (Clements Robert) (1897). "The Royal Navy : a history from the earliest times to the present, Vol 5, 1802-1815". p, 4 London : Sampson Low, Marston. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  14. Sainty, J.C. (February 2003). "Commissioners: Victualling 1683-1832 | Institute of Historical Research". Institute of Historical Research, School of Advance Study, University of London.
  15. Archives, The National. "Records of Victualling Departments". National Archives, 1660-1975. Retrieved 6 June 2017.