Naval anchorages on the English coast

England had a number of naval anchorages situated around its coastline, where vessels could dock when not out at sea or engaged in combat.

England has a long and highly respected naval history. There were many anchorages situated around her coastlines for both the merchant navy and the Royal Navy to anchor when not at sea.

The Downs

The Downs is the area of sea lying between the Kentish town of Deal and the Goodwin Sands, and was a very important anchorage for merchant shipping during the age of sail. Ships would lie at anchor, sometimes for weeks, sheltered from the East by Goodwins and from the North by the mainland between the North and South Forelands, as they waited for a favourable wind to carry them down the English Channel to the West.

From Elizabethan times, the presence of Downs helped to make Deal one of the main ports in England, and in the 19th century, it was equipped with its own telegraph and timeball tower, to enable ships to set their marine chronometers.


Spithead is a stretch of water in the Eastern Solent of Great Britain, between the entrance to Portsmouth harbour and the Isle of Wight. Historically it was one of the most important anchorages of the British fleet, and was the scene of the indecisive action between the English and French in 1545 when the Mary Rose capsized, the first of the great naval mutinies of 1797 and many of the great celebratory Royal Naval Reviews of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Nore

The Nore is a sandbank in the Thames estuary, near the entrance to the River Medway, the site of former naval bases at Sheerness and Chatham. For hundreds of years it was an important naval anchorage and assembly point.