Library Item of the Month: Navy Board In-Letters Project, 1689-1701

Archivist, Mike Bevan, shares some discoveries made by our Navy Board In-letters volunteers - who've added 12,000 new records to our archive catalogue. 

‘Illumination at the Admiralty’ National Maritime Museum
‘Illumination at the Admiralty’ PAD1371
The Navy Board was the junior department who were directed by their seniors the Admiralty Board. They would be responsible for carrying out the day to day business of the Navy including liaising with the dockyard commissioners (shipbuilding, ship repairs) and victualling department (food, drink and supplies). The Archive at the National Maritime Museum (NMM) holds an extensive series of letterbooks dating from 1689 up until 1815, which comprise over one thousand volumes. 
Since July 2013, our team of six Navy Board In-letters volunteers: Derek, Roger, Terry, David, John and Fred, have so far provided full page summaries to thirty-five of our volumes from the archive. These are calendars/brief descriptions of the content of the letters for the years 1689 to 1696 (ADM/A/1758 – ADM/A/1834), during the reign of William III and beginning with the departure of Samuel Pepys as Secretary to the Admiralty, soon after the Glorious Revolution. The project is intended to be on-going and we will see more volumes being summarised as the project progresses. The aim is to have the letterbook page summaries uploaded for the period 1689-1701. We have so far uploaded 12,607 records.

The page level descriptions are now available via our archive catalogue. To browse all of the page level records within the ADM/A collection, type ADM/A* in the search box AND tick the finding reference box AND select ‘page’ from ‘Level’. This will locate all ADM/A page level records. Then click ‘search within results’ and type in a keyword such as ‘war’ (162 results).

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The Navy in the War of William III, 1689–1697

William III in coronation robes at the National Maritime Museum
William III in coronation robes
The summaries provide a useful insight into the administration of the Navy during this time of major change. It is interesting to see the names of important individuals such as Admiral Arthur Herbert, First Earl Torrington, 1648-1716; Daniel Finch, Second Earl of Nottingham and Secretary of State, 1647-1730 and Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, 1650-1707. Also revealed are the names of many ships of the period such as the Royal Charles and also the Charles Galley. These searches can be carried out by typing, for example, ‘adm/a AND Royal Charles’ into the search and browse box. Other useful keyword search results are victuals (1081); repairs (178); beer (55); yacht (162); deserted (53); impressment (36); killed (16 results) and storm (13). 

A few items of interest from the project so far

Samuel Pepys at the National Maritime Museum
Samuel Pepys, 1633-1703
One of the letters from the first volume is by Samuel Pepys and has been summarised as:
At the request of Mr. Fletcher, Carver to the Navy at Deptford and Woolwich, this serves to accompany a Bill by him some time since lodged in my hands, for work done for the use of this Office by command of the late King. The first particular whereof, namely a Shield with the Imperial Crown and Anchor of Admirals, has been erected a year or two; the other, viz; the King's whole Arms designed for the Pediment, being not finished till a little before the late great Revolution, has been prevented in being set up in its place, and so remained in Mr. Fletcher's own hands, ready (as he tells me) to be placed wherever you shall be pleased to direct it.
His late Majesty's Warrant to your Board for Mr. Fletcher's satisfaction for this work having been long in my hands for his calling for, I do herewith also at his request transmit to you and remain.
Your most faithful and humble servant. 
 ADM/A/1758/355  [dated 27 April 1689], Caird Library and Archive
ADM/A/1758/355 [dated 27 April 1689]
Pepys is essentially finally getting round to returning the warrant to the Navy Board, having been removed from office as Secretary to the Admiralty in February 1689.
Our volunteers have singled out a few page entries which are yet to be uploaded to the archive catalogue. 
This relates to the ‘redeeming of slaves’ from the Barbary pirates in 1701:
Notwithstanding any former Orders for hiring a 60 Ton Vessel to carry some Powder to Barbary towards the redemption of Slaves, we direct you to hire by the month a Ship of nearly 200 Tons to carry the Powder and other things to Barbary, and to bring back the Slaves. You are to cause to be put onboard this Ship two months' Provisions at whole allowance for two hundred and fifty Men, and to solicit the Treasury for these Services.
You are to give Orders for the manning of the TILBURY to her middle Complement and furnished with four months' Provisions for her Complement at whole allowance, to be kept complete till she sails to Barbary.
National Maritime Museum Archives, ADM/A/1884/5 [dated 1 July 1701]
ADM/A/1884/5 [dated 1 July 1701]
The next example highlights some of the poor administration and mismanagement of the Navy during the 1690’s:
Those of the 3rd rate and contracted ships are falling to pieces. I know the Navy Board take great care in making the contracts but they ought to know that some of the carpenters appointed deserve hanging, especially those ships built in the Hampton River, the CORNWALL, NORFOLK, DEVONSHIRE and SOUTHAMPTON have not a bolt fastened in any part and the HUMBER complains very much for want of iron works. Signed Edward Russel commanding the fleet at Cadiz.
Caird Library and Archive, ADM/A/1815/113 [2 December 1694]
ADM/A/1815/113 [2 December 1694]