Mutiny is described as an 'open revolt against constituted authority' by the Oxford English Dictionary, and could be applied to any act of insubordination or defiance by an individual, or collectively by a ship's crew.

In April 1797, 16 ships-of-the-line of the Channel fleet refused to sail, and mounted a collective mutiny at Spithead. Their demands were concerned with improved pay and conditions, and better treatment in general. Some officers considered to ill treat their crews were sent ashore, and their permanent removal demanded. The mutiny at Spithead was conducted in a peaceful and organised manner and within a few weeks their demands had been met and a Royal Pardon granted.

The mutiny at the Nore in May 1797 was potentially more serious, as the mutineers attempted to go beyond the demands made at Spithead. They wanted more shore leave, fairer distribution of prize money, and changes to the Articles of War. When they attempted to blockade the Thames, an important trade route to London, it took a much more serious turn. The Admiralty, which must have felt it had been lenient and generous with the Spithead mutineers, was determined not to accede to any more demands. When the government demanded the suppression of the mutiny and the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, brought in a bill to outlaw the mutineers, disagreements amongst them rose to the fore. Finally, the Nore mutiny fell apart and the mutineers paid the price. The leader of the delegates was court-martialled and hanged from the yardarm of HMS Sandwich, followed by a number of his fellow mutineers, and many others were imprisoned or flogged.


(Reference numbers in italics refer to the Museum's Library catalogue)

  • Bullocke, J G, Sailors' Rebellion (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1938) 355.133(42)"17"
  • Colpoys, Edward Griffith, Sir, A Letter to Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Byng Martin . . . Containing an Account of the Mutiny of the Fleet at Spithead in the Year 1797 in Correction of that Given in Captain Brenton's Naval History of the Last War (London, 1825) 355.133(422.7)"1797"(093.2):094
  • Cunningham, Charles Sir, A Narrative of Occurrences that Took Place During the Mutiny at the Nore in the Months of May and June 1797, with a Few Observations on the Impressments of Seamen . . . (William Burrill, 1829) 355.133(422.3)"1797":094
  • Dugan, James, The Great Mutiny (Putnam, 1965) 355.133(422)"1797"
  • Gill, Conrad, The Naval Mutinies of 1797 (Manchester University Press, 1913) 355.133(422)"1797"
  • Guttridge, Leonard F, Mutiny: a History of Naval Insurrection (United States Naval Institute, 1992) 355.133
  • Herbert, David, Great Historical Mutinies: Comprising the Story of the Mutiny of the 'Bounty', Mutiny at Spithead, Mutiny at the Nore. . . . (WP Nimmo, 1876) 355.133
  • Hughes, David T, Sheerness and the Mutiny at the Nore (Sheppey Local History Society, 1997) Pamphlet 355.133(422.3)"1797"
  • James, Lawrence, Mutiny in the British and Commonwealth Forces, 1797–1956 (Buchan and Enright, 1987) 355.133"17/19"
  • Lavery, Brian (editor), Shipboard Life and Organisation, 1731–1815 (Navy Records Society, 1998) 061.22NRS
  • Lavery, Brian, Nelson's Navy: the Ships, Men and Organisation, 1793–1815 (Conway Maritime, 1989) 355.49"1793/1815"(42:44)
  • Manwaring, G E and Dobree, Bonamy, The Floating Republic: an Account of the Mutinies at Spithead and the Nore in 1797 (G Bles, 1935) 355.133(422)"1797"
  • Memoirs of Richard Parker, the Mutineer, together with an Account at Large of his Trial by Court Martial, Defence, Sentence, and Execution and a Narrative of the Mutiny at the Nore and Sheerness (George Cawthorn, 1797) 355.133(422.3)"1797":094
  • Neale, Jonathan, The Cutlass and the Lash: Mutiny and Discipline in Nelson's Navy (Pluto Press, 1985) 355.133(42)"17/18"
  • Neale, William Johnson, History of the Mutiny at Spithead and the Nore with an Enquiry into its Origin and Treatment and Suggestions for the Prevention of Future Discontent in the Royal Navy (T Tegg, 1842) 355.133(422)"1797":094
  • Pope, Steve Hornblower's Navy: Life at Sea in the Age of Nelson (Orion, 1998) 355.49"1794/1805"(42)
  • Rodger, N A M, The Wooden World: an Anatomy of the Georgian Navy (Collins, 1986) 355.353(42)"17"
  • Yexley, Lionel, Our Fighting Seamen (Stanley Paul, 1911) 355.133(42)"16/19"

Manuscripts & articles


  • Captain Alexander Hood 1758-1798, Official papers. Papers relating to Spithead Mutiny, including correspondence with Admiral Lord Bridport. MKH/15
  • Sir Edward William Campbell Richard Owen, Admiral 1771–1849, Official Papers. Reflections on the Mutiny at Spithead 1797. COO/2/a
  • Logbook of the Clyde, Captain Charles Cunningham, kept by John Smith, 1796–1800. With an account of the mutiny at the Nore. BRK/15
  • Journal of the mutiny at the Nore 1797, probably kept by Captain W.J.Gore, aide de camp to Sir Charles Grey. HSR/B/12
  • Memorandum from Sir Charles Grey to Mr Dundas on the mutiny at the Nore dated 25 June, 1797. AGC/24/5


  • Craig, Hardin, 'Black Dick Howe, the sailor's friend', Mariner's Mirror Vol 35, 1949, p18.
  • Lloyd, Christopher, 'New light on the mutiny at the Nore', Mariner's Mirror Vol 46, 1960, p286.
  • Smith, D Bonner, 'The mutiny at the Nore 1797', Mariner's Mirror Vol 33, 1947, p199.
  • Smith, D Bonner, 'The naval mutinies of 1797', Mariner's Mirror Vol 21, 1935, p428.

Prints, drawings & ship plans

Prints and drawings

(The reference number in brackets is the item's catalogue id and can be used to obtain a reproduction.)

  • Print of Richard Parker. (PAD3034). Engraving published 21 July 1797.
  • Richard Parker President of the Delegates in the late Mutiny in his Majesty's Fleet at the Nore For which he suffered Death on board the Sandwich The 30th June 1797. (PAH5441). Engraving. Harrison and Co. 8 July 1797.
  • HMS Queen Charlotte. (PAF5838). Drawing by Robert Cleveley, 1790.

Ship plans

The Museum collection includes plans of some ships involved in these mutinies:

  • Plans of the Queen Charlotte, including inboard profile and figurehead.
  • Plans of the Royal George.

Next steps

For general research help see:

Although care has been taken in preparing the information contained in this document, anyone using it shall be deemed to indemnify the National Maritime Museum from any and all injury or damage arising from such use.