Navy Board, In-Letters And Orders, 1688-1815

The records were transferred to the Museum in 1938 by arrangement with the Admiralty and consist of I ,582 volumes of letters and orders to the Navy Board from the Admiralty, 1689 to 1815. 1,559 volumes contain those specifically for the Board's attention and relating to the construction and equipment of ships, dockyard affairs, appointments, the settlement of accounts and naval finance, 1689 to 1692, 1692 to 1695, 1695, 1696 to 1732, 1732 to 1737, 1737 to 1815 (class mark, ADM/A); seventeen volumes and one box contain letters to the Navy Board relating to the hire, employment and management of transports, 1741 to 1742, 1747 to 1748, 1749 to 1750, 1757 to 1759, 1763 to 1773, 1775 to 1776, 1778 to 1781, 1793 to 1797 (ADM/N, ADM/RP); four volumes contain matters relating to the work of the Inspector-General of Naval Works, 1795 to 1808 (ADM/Q); and one volume contains letters to the Office for Stores, 1783 to 1788 (ADM/P). There is one exception; one volume contains orders from the Treasury concerning transports, 1783 to 1789 (ADM/OT).

Administrative / biographical background
The Navy Office occupied various sites in the vicinity of Tower Hill prior to 1654. At this time the office moved to a building at the junction of Crutched Friars and Seething Lane. This building was burnt down in 1673 but a new office on the same site was completed in 1682. The Navy Office remained at Tower Hill until 1786 when it was moved to more spacious accommodation at Somerset House. The Navy Board was composed of sea officers and civilians known as the 'Principal Officers and Commissioners of the Navy'. The Comptroller of the Navy presided over the Board, generally superintended the business of the Navy Office, and was responsible for the offices dealing with bills, accounts and wages; though theoretically of equal standing, the Comptroller tended to exercise seniority over his colleagues owing to the variety of business which he conducted. The Clerk of the Acts arranged the business of the Board and conducted its correspondence. The Surveyor, appointed from among the Master Shipwrights at the dock-yards, examined all survey reports on ships at the yards, considered what to repair, was responsible for the design and construction of ships and ensured the yards had sufficient stores and equipment. The Comptrollers of Victualling Accounts, of Storekeepers' Accounts and of Treasurers' Accounts respectively examined the accounts of bills made out by the Victualling Board, of the stores received in the dockyards and of the money received and paid by the Treasurer of the Navy. In 1796 the offices of Clerk of the Acts and the three Comptrollers of Accounts were abolished and the Board reconstituted, the business of the Navy Office being placed under the supervision of three Committees, of Correspondence, Accounts and Stores. Sir Charles Middleton (q.v.) and Sir Thomas Byam Martin (1773-1854) each held the office of Comptroller. Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) and Charles Sergison (1654-1732) each held the position of Clerk of the Acts whilst notable Surveyors included Sir Thomas Slade (d.1771) and Sir Robert Seppings (1767-1840). The number of clerks in the Navy Office fluctuated according to the pressure of business and especially to whether the country was at war. The clerical establishment nevertheless grew steadily from the time of the Restoration until the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Until 1796 the great majority of clerks were employed in one of eight Offices: the Offices for Bills and Accounts and for Seamen's Wages, the Ticket Office (q.v.), the Surveyor's Office, the Clerk of the Acts Office, the Offices for Examining Treasurer's Accounts, for Examining Victualling Accounts and for Examining Storekeepers' Accounts. The reorganization after 1796 involved the formation of several new offices: a Secretary's Office in 1796, an Office for Stores in 1796, an Allotment Office in 1797, a Contract Office in 1803 and an Office for Foreign Accounts in 1807. In 1808 the Naval Works Department was transferred to the Navy Office to become until 1812 the Office of the Architect and Engineer. A Ticket and Wages Branch was formed in 1829.

Record Details

Item reference: ADM/A&N&RP&Q&P&OT; ADM ADM/A ADM/A&N&RP&O&P&OT
Catalogue Section: Public records: records of the central administration of the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy
Measurements: Overall: 95 m
Date made: 1688-1815
Creator: Navy Board, In-Letters And Orders
Credit: © Crown copyright. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

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