Admiralty Office

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Admiralty Office
Coat of Arms Kingdom of England 1509 to 1547.svg.png
Seal of HM Government 1509 to 1547
Office overview
Preceding Office
Superseding department
JurisdictionEngland Kingdom of England
HeadquartersWar Office building
Office executives
Parent OfficeHM Government

The Admiralty Office also known as the Office of Admiralty was the government office of the Kingdom of England responsible for the administration of the Navy Royal. The office was administered by the High Admiral of England later called Lord Admiral of England from 1414 to 1546 when it was replaced by the Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office.


Prior to the formation of this office the administration of English Navy was divided between geographical regional admiralties each responsible for one of the Three Seas that surrounded England and Wales and the coastline. In 1326 the Southern Admiralty was subsumed into the Western Admiralty. In 1364 the Northern and Western admiralty's and fleets are unified commanded by the Admiral of the North and West, and remain so on an ad hoc basis until 1414. Dealing with the matter of naval administration during the 15th century the most significant development was the establishment of the first Admiralty of England this was gradually brought about between 1408 and 1414 when the remaining regional-admiralty's the Northern Admiralty, and Western Admiralty were unified to create the Northern and Western Admiralty. In 1414 the last of these regional admiralty's were abolished and their functions were unified under a single administrative and operational command called the Admiralty Office . In 1546 it was renamed the Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office.


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.

Office of the High Admiral/Lord Admiral of England

  1. High Admiral of England, (1360-1513)
  2. Lord Admiral of England, (1513-1610)

Immediately below the High/Lord Admiral of England initially a deputy commander-in-chief was created the Vice-Admiral of England and an assistant to the Lord Admiral, the Lieutenant of the Admiralty responsible for administration and legal affairs.

Office of the Lieutenant of the Admiralty

  1. Lieutenant of the Admiralty, (1397-1440)

Office of the Vice-Admiral of England

  1. Vice-Admiral of England, (1399-1536)
Operational Commands
  1. Aquitaine Fleet, (1153-1422)
  2. Bayonne Fleet, (1130-1451)
  3. Cinque Port Fleet, (1260-1588)
  4. Gascony Fleet, (1204-1458)
  5. Irish Fleet, (1297-1414)
  6. Narrow Seas Squadron, (1412-1688)
  7. Channel Squadron, (1512-1601)
  8. Irish Squadron, (1539-1707)
  9. North Sea Squadron, (1543-1563)
Shore Commands

The Wardens of the Coast originally called the Keeper's of the Coast or Keepers of the Sea, were officials assigned to each regional admiralty's jurisdiction on behalf of the King. They were established from the early 13th century that would later eveolve into the Vice-Admiralties of the Coast.

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. Wardens of the Coast, (1228-1536)
  2. Vice-Admiralties of the Coast, (1536-1890)

Civil administration, finance and logistical support

From the early 14th century until the creation of the Kings Council of the Marine, the Clerks of the Kings Marine were individually responsible for the civil administration of the English Navy, this included superintending dockyards and facilities, shipbuilding and repairs and victualling of the navy. By 1545 there was four separate clerks that were collectively brought together to form the Council of the Marine. On 24 April 1546 three more officials each designated specialist roles were created making a total of seven and the council was formally established by letters patent were they were styled as the Chief Officers of the Admiralty.

Offices of the Clerks of the Kings Marine

  1. Offices of the Clerks of the Kings Marine, (1320-1545)

Council of the Marine

  1. Council of the Marine, (1546-1576)

Navy Office

  1. Navy Office (1576-1832)
Dockyards and shore facilities

The first naval dockyards were constructed towards the end of the 15th century and first decade of the 16th century. Management of the various yards was initially vested in keepers. Later it would be Master Attendants and Master-Shipwrights who would jointly manage the yards until the introduction of resident commissioners of the navy in the early seventeenth century, the Master Shipwright then became their deputy.

  1. Portsmouth Dockyard (1496 – present)
  2. Woolwich Dockyard (1512 – 1869)
  3. Deptford Dockyard (1513 – 1869)
  4. Erith Dockyard (1514 – 1521), failed yard: due to persistent flooding

Navy Pay Office

A Navy Pay Office was established in 1545 as the main finance department of the Admiralty Office, 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 was responsible for all naval finance but it received funds directly from HM Treasury.

  1. Navy Pay Office (1545-1832) also known as the Navy Treasury.

Office of Ordnance

The Office of Ordnance was created in 1460 headed by the Master of Ordnance it later became known as the Board of Ordnance it was autonomous of the Admiralty Office it was responsible for coordinating with the admiralty, managing ordnance stores and supplying the navy with weapons and gunpowder.

  1. Office of Ordnance

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

  1. Board of Ordnance
Ordnance Yards and Stores

Home ordinance yards

  1. HM Gunwharf Portsmouth (1496 – present)
  2. HM Gunwharf Woolwich (1512 – 1869)
  3. HM Gunwharf Deptford (1513 – 1869)
  4. HM Gunwharf Erith (1514 – 1521)

Gunpowder magazines stores

  1. Tower of London, London (1461 – 1855)
Armoury Office

The Armoury Office was a specialist office of the ordnance office yet autonomous of it established in 1423 and based at the Tower of London. It was part of the supply chain of armour and edged weapons to the armed forces. In 1671 the Armoury Office was abolished and its duties transferred to the Board of Ordnance.

  1. Armoury Office

Judicial/Legal 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 1360 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.

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
Vice Admiralty Courts

Until 1835 there were local courts of admiralty in the maritime counties of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In addition there were also Vice-Admiralty Courts established in colonial possessions 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