The English Navy 1688-1715

1 The English Navy before the 1680's

The tradition of the professional English navy dated back to at least the reign of Henry VIII (1491-1547). During the reign of Cromwell (1653-1658) the English navy then saw serious fighting in the first Anglo-Dutch war. During the reign of Charles II it was engaged in the second Anglo-Dutch war (1665-1667) and third Anglo-Dutch war (1672-1674).

After this last conflict the English started a large ship building program in the period 1679-1680. This expansion program was based on a thorough understanding of the relation between naval power and wealth. It aimed to outbuilt the Dutch and succeeded in that.

2 The English Navy in the 1680's

One might be tempted to think that in the 1680's England had the strongest navy of Europe, but this was not the case. On the contrary, a series of protracted conflicts between king and parliament led to a decline of the English navy in the 1680's. The navy still had a lot of ships, but these were not manned and many were laid up or rotting in the harbors. The consequences were shown in 1688. See Invasion of England 1688

3 The English Navy in the Nine Years War

3.1 In December 1688

State of the navy in December 1688
RateAt sea or Repaired RepairingTo beNewlyTotal Avg. no.
equipping repaired arrived of guns
1st - 5 3 1 - 9 98
2nd - 9 1 1 - 11 88
3rd 15 22 1 1 - 39 68
4th 31 3 3 - 4 41 46
5th 2 - - - - 2 30
6th 4 2 - - - 6 15
burners 26 - - - - 26 8

Most historians agree that William III wanted to take the English crown in order to engage the British army on the continent, but often overlook the fact that he held the same view with regard to the English navy. As soon as William had gained the crown he therefore started a large ship building program in 1690. This led to about 95 ships of the line being ordered between 1690 and 1700. Next to this a large number of existing ships was equipped and a Dutch squadron came over to support the English against the French fleet.

The deplorable state of the English navy on the day that James II abdicated was captured in a list by Pepys1. Of the 59 ships of the 1-3 rates only 15 were at sea or equipping. The rest was still undergoing repairs or had been repaired, but was not yet equipping.

3.2 The Battle of Bantry Bay

The Nine Years War started with an April 1689 encounter between an 18 ship fleet (8 3rd rates and 10 4th rates) under Admiral Herbert and a 24 ship French fleet. This happened in Bantry Bay on 11 May (1 May O.S.), when the French fleet was just landing supplies for James II. Admiral Herbert entered the bay to disturb this operation, but he was chased out of it by the French admiral Ch√Ęteau Renault. After having reached their objective the French broke of battle and returned to France. No ships had been lost on either side.

3.3 The 1690 expedition to the Mediterranean

Of course the late-seventeenth merchants of England and the United Provinces were interested in the outcome of battles. Their primary interest however, focused on more specific concerns like: 'Can I send my ships to the Mediterranean / Far East / West Indies / Greenland (Whaling!) etc.' I hope the chapter about the 1690 Mediterranean expedition gives some clarity.

3.4 The English fleet supplies Ireland

In the Irish theater a small English squadron succeeded in lifting the siege of Londonderry. The troops of Schomberg were also successfully supplied. In June 1690 another squadron protected William III's army when it crossed over to Ireland. One can say that up till June 1690 the English navy was doning fine, even while the French succeeded in supplying Ireland from their side.

3.5 The Battle of Beachy head or Bevesier

In June 1690 the French Mediterranean fleet had joined the fleet at Brest. Under Admiral Tourville this united fleet sailed into the Channel in June. On 10 July the the Dutch fleet under Evertsen and the English fleet under Herbert earl of Torrington fought this fleet in the Battle of Beachy head.

3.6 The Battle of Barfleur

In 1692 the Anglo-Dutch-fleet fought the French fleet in the Battle of Barfleur and the subsequent actions at Cherbourg and La Hogue. This battle later proved to have decided the balance of power at sea for over 200 years. See the page Battle of Barfleur.

4 New ships for the English Navy in the 1690's

As stated above William III expanded the English navy. The largest chunk of this expansion was provided for by what is often the 'twenty-seven ship' programme of 1691. In fact the contents of this program were decided and approved on 24 December 1690. The Commons then decided that the funds for an augmentation of the navy were approved and that these should be used to build 17 third rate ships of 80 guns each and 10 fourth rates of 60 guns2. It's very significant that these third rates counted 80 guns and the fourth rates 60 guns, because before this the maximum for these classes was 72 guns for third rates rates and 54 for fourth rates, meaning that these two-deckers were larger than the previous ones. There were also some smaller programms. The total overview of programs approved by parliament is like this3:

Funding for new ships by the Commons

  • Pre-1690 permission: at least 1 3rd rate and 4 4th rates;
  • 10 October 1690: 3 3rd rate ships, 8 fireships, 8 ketches and a dock at Plymouth for 88,008 Pounds;
  • 24 December 1690; The twenty seven ship programm for 570,000 pounds;
  • 2 December 1692: 8 4th rate ships of 48 guns for 68,400 pounds;
  • 30 November 1694: 4 2nd rate ships;
  • 6 December 1695: 4 3rd rate ships and 8 4th rate ships.

5 The English Navy in the War of the Spanish Succession

The war of the Spanish Succession would enable England to reap the benefits of the Blue Water policy. It had a navy which alone was stronger than the French, but this faced an enormous array of tasks. The most important of these was escorting Anglo-Dutch shipping to all corners of the world. Next to that it had to keep the French navy at bay, secure troop transports and logistics for the operations against Felipe V and even support attacks in the Mediterranean. The Royal navy was aided in this by the fact that the alliance with the Dutch continued on more or less the same footing.

The number of major battles during the war was quite small. The first was the battle of Vigo, were an Anglo-Dutch force captured or destroyed 18 Bourbon ships of the line and part of the treasure fleet. The capture of Gibraltar was not that bloody but proved to be a permanent strategic achievement. The subsequent battle of Malaga was in itself indecisive but confirmed the alliance in its possession of the Rock. One year later the battle of Cabrita point saw the end of French naval assistance in the attempts to recapture Gibraltar. In 1706 the fleet rendered a very important service when it lifted the Bourbon siege of Barcelona. The combined land and naval attack on Toulon failed, but led to about 15 enemy ships of the line getting permanently destroyed.

In general the Royal Navy succeeded in the abovementioned tasks and this is proven by the fact that English trade vastly increased during the war. The peace of 1713 secured the Mediterranean strong points of Gibraltar and Port Mahon for England. Next to that it confirmed the fact that its navy had given the United Kingdom commercial and military control of the Atlantic as well as the Mediterranean.

6 List of the English Navy in the War of the Spanish Succession

Below are several lists of the English navy in the period 1702-1714, ordered by rank. Ships do appear multiple times in these, because a rebuild (r) is considered to be the end of the ship. This is true, because a ship will only exist on paper during this rebuilding process and might be a very different vessel afterwards. The columns h. guns and guns differ in that the former designates official figures and the latter those found in less solid media like contemporary periodicals. Bur. stands for burthen, or size of the ship. Where a built at, by is given, it comes from a 1710 list of ships.

6.1 First Rates of the English Navy

Existing on 1 January 1702:
Ship menbur.h. gunsgunsBuild-endBuilt at, byRemarks
London 96 r1670-1702bu?
St. Andrew 96 ?1670-1703r
Royal William 1644 r1692-1714rChatham, R. Leeex Prince
Queen 1658100 r1693-1715rWoolwich, J. Lawrenceex Royal Charles
Victory 1486100 r1695-1721buChatham, R. Leeex Royal James
Britannia780 1721100 r1700-1715rChatham, R. Lee
Royal Sovereign7801882 100 r1701-1724rWoolwich, W. Lee
Built or rebuilt from 1-1-1702-1714
Royal Anne 780 1721 100 r1704-1757bu Woolwich, W. Leeex St Andrew
London 1685 r1706-1721rChatham, R. Lee

6.2 Second rates

Existing on 1 January 1702:
Ship menbur.h. gunsgunsBuild-endBuilt at, byRemarks
Royal Katherine 84 b1664-1702r
St. Michael 90 b1669-1706rLater Marlborough
Vanguard 90 b1678-1703ssunk great storm 1703
Duchess 90 b1679-1709rrenamed Anne, Blenheim
Sandwich 140690 b1679-1712rHarwich, I. Betts
Albemarle 90 b1680-1704r
Ossory 90 b1682-1711rrenamed Prince 1705?
Neptune ?90 b1683-1710r
triumph 710 1482 96 b1697-1742rChatham, R. LeeLater Prince
Barfleur 710 1476 96 b1697-1716rDeptford, F. Harding
Namur 680 1442 96 b1697-1723rChatham, B. Roswel
Association700 ? 96 b1697-1707swrecked 1707
Prince George640 1421 90 r1701-1719rChatham, R. Shortex Duke
St. George680 1470 96 r1701-1733rPortsmouth, E. Wasseex Charles
Built or rebuilt from 1-1-1702-1714
Royal Katherine7301395 96 b1703-1742rPortsmouth, E. Wasserenamed Ramillies 1706
Union 1403 b1704-1726rChatham, R. Shortex Albemarle
Marlborough 1579 b1708-1725rBlackwall, W. Johnsonex St. Michael
Blenheim 1557 b1709- Woolwich, R. Staceyex Duchess
Neptune 1448 r1710-1724rBlackwall, Mr. Johnsonr. same name
Vanguard 1442 r1710-1739rChatham, B. Roswellrenamed Duke 1739
Ossory 1390 r1710-1773buDeptford, J. Allensame name/Prince?
Sandwich r1712-1770bur. same name

6.3 Third rates

Existing on 1 January 1702: third rates with 74-80 guns max.:
Ship menbur.h. gunsgunsBuild-endBuilt at, byRemarks
Shrewsbury520 12578080b1694-1713rPortsmouth, W. Slygant
Somerset 500 126280b1698-1715hChatham R. Lee; Hulked 1715
Cornwall 124180b1692-1706rSouthampton, J. Winter,
Chichester 127880b1694-1706rChatham Robert Lee
Humber 80 30 March-16934-1708r
Boyne 500 8080May 1692-1708r
Ranelagh 476 119880b1697-1731rDeptford, F. Harding
Russel 500 8080June 1692-1709r
Newark 476 12168080b1695-1717rHull J. Fame
Torbay 500 12028080b1693?-1719rDeptford, F. Harding
Lancaster 119880b1693-1722rBusleton, W. Wyat
Cambridge 500 11948080b1694-1715rDeptford, F. Harding
Norfolk 500 1184808028 March 16935-1728rSoutha., J. Winter
Dorsetshire 476 11768080b1694-1712rSouthampton, J. Winter
Devonshire 80 April 1692-1704r
Sussex April 1693-1 March 1694Sunk at Gibraltar 1704
Cumberland476 8080Nov. 1695-1707Capt. 20 Oct 170716
Royal Oak 500 11547474r1690-1713r
Built or rebuilt from 1-1-1702 till 1714
Humber 520 129480r1708-1723rDeptford, Wickerr. same name
Boyne 1301r1708-1739rBlackwall, W. Johnsonr. same name
Russel 1293r1709-1729rRotherhith, Wells
Devonshire 500 80 r1704-1707ssunk 10 Oct 170724
Devonshire 520 80 b1710-1740h
Existing on 1 January 1702: third rates with 70 guns max.:
Ship menbur.h. gunsgunsBuild-endBuilt at, byRemarks
Restoration 70 b1678-1702r
Elizabeth 70 b1679-1704r
Northumberland 70 b1679-1702r
Captain 70 b1687-1708r
Bredah 109470b1692-1730buWoolwich, J. Lawrence
Ipswich 440 10497070b1694-1730rHarwich, N. Barrat
Content c1695-1703htaken 1695hulked 1703
Yarmouth440 70701695-1707r
Bedford 440 107370b1698-1736rDeptford, F. Harding
Orford 440 105170b1698-1713rDeptford, E. Snelgrove
Stirling Castle440 70 r1698-1703s sunk in great storm 1703
Resolution 70 r1698-1703s sunk in great storm 1703
Nassau 440 70 b1699-1706swrecked 1706
Expedition 1110r1699-1714rChatham, D. Furzer
Eagle 440 70 r1699-1707wwrecked 1707
Revenge 440 106570b1699-1727hDeptford, S. MillerRen. Buckingham 1711
Burford 440 111370r1699-1719sDeptford, E. Snelgrove
Kent 400 106470r1699-1722rRotherhith, mr. Wells
Suffolk 440 107570r1699-1718r Blackwall, H. Johnson
Berwick 440 109070r1700-1715hDeptford, E. Snelgrove
Edgar 440 70 r1700-1709r
Essex 440 109070r1700-1713rRotherhith, J. and R. Wells
Grafton 440 70 r1700-1707c captured 1 May 170714
Lenox440 108970r1701-1721rDeptford, E. Popley
Hampton Court440 70 r1701-1707c captured 1 May 170715
Built or rebuilt from 1-1-1702 till 1714
Restoration r1702-1703s sunk in great storm 1703
Firme446 128870c1702taken at VigoNote the burthen!
Northumberland r1702-1703ssunk great storm 1703
Elizabeth 70r1704-1705r. same name, capt. 12 Nov 170513
Northumberland 1105b1705-1721rDeptford, J. Allen
Stirling Castle440 112270b1705-1720r Chatham, B. Rosewell
Resolution440 70 b1705-1707s wrecked 1707
Elizabeth 1110b1706-1733rWoolwich, R. Stacey
Nassau 1104b1706-1736rPortsmouth, T. Podd
Restoration 1106b1706-1711s Deptford, J. Allensunk Livorno 1711
Captain 1121r1708-1722rPortsmouth, T. Poddr. same name
Resolution 1118b1708-1711sDeptford, J. Alllenwrecked 1711
Edgar440 112070r1709-1711wRotherhith, mr. Burchetr. same name, exploded 171125
Yarmouth 1110r1709-1740h Chatham, Wicker
Grafton 109570b1709-1722rRotherhith, Fowler and Sw.26
Hampton Court 1136b1709- Rotherhith, mr. Taylor
Existing on 1 January 1702: third rates with less than 70 guns:
Ship menbur.h. gunsgunsBuild-endBuilt at, byRemarks
Mary 64 r1688-1703s Sunk in Great Storm 1703
Defiance 948r1695-1707r Woolwich, J. Lawrence
Swiftsure 440 98770r1698-1718rDeptford, E. Snelgrove
Monmouth440 94470r1700-1718rWoolwich, F. Harding
Built or rebuilt from 1-1-1702 till 1714
Assurance440 110260c1702-1712buTaken at Vigo
Rupert365 84364r1702-1736r Plymouth, B. Rosewellreduced to 4th 1716
Warspite440 95270r1702-1721r Rotherhith, mr. Burchet
Defiance r1707-1743h reduced to 4th 1716

6.4 Fourth Rates

Ships of the English Navy on 1 January 1702: fourth rates with 56-64 guns max:
Ship menbur.h. gunsgunsBuild-endBuilt at, byRemarks
Plymouth 60 r1677?-1705r*check pepys
Dunkirk 60 r1677?-1705r
York 60 r1677?-1703wwrecked 1703
Monck 60 r1677?-1701r
Dreadnought 91064b1690-1722r Blackwall, H. Johnston
Sunderland365 91560b1693-1715hSouthampton, J. Winter
Medway316 9146060Sep 16936-1718rSheerness-D. Furzes
Canterbury346 90360Dec 1693-1722rDeptford E. Snelgrove
Carlisle Feb 1693-1696wrecked 1696
Winchester April 1693-1695sunk 1695
Pembroke360 60 Nov 1694-1709Captured 1709
Windsor365 90960b1695-1725rDeptford, E. Snelgrove
Gloucester365 6060Feb 1695-1706Reserve 1706
Kingston365 9236060b1696-1719rHull, J. Frame
Exeter360 9486060b1697-1744rBlackwell, H. Johnston
Montague360 90560r1698-1716rWoolwich, F. Harding
Built or rebuilt from 1-1-1702 till 1714
Monck365 80764r1702-1720wRotherhith, mr. Burchet
Nottingham 365 92460b1703-1719rDeptford, F. Harding
Lion ? b1703-1735rChatham, B. Rosewell
Mary365 91464b1704-1736rChatham, R. Short
August 932c1705- Taken in 1705
Plymouth r1705-1705ssunk 1705
Dunkirk365 90660r1705-1729rBlackwall, W. Johnson
York 987b1706- Plymouth, J. Lock
Plymouth 992b1708-1720rPlymouth, J. Lock
Rippon b1712-1730r
Exising on 1 January 1702 and or (re)built till 1714: fourth rates with 46-54 guns max:
Shipmen bur.h. gunsgunsBuild-endBuilt at, byRemarks
Advice b1712-1749v ren. Milford 1744
Anglesea 62048 b1694-1725rPlymouth, E. Wasse
Anthelope280 68454 b1703-1738rRotherhith, J. Taylor
Assistance b1713-1720r
St. Albans 687 b1706-1718r Rotherhith, mr. Burchet
Blackwall 50 b1696-1705c capt. 20 Oct 1705 20
Bonaventure r1711-1720r ren. Argyll 1715
Bristol 48 b1693-1709c captured 1709
Burlington 68048 b1695-1733bu Blackwall, H. Johnson
Centurion280 6144850 b1690-1728buDeptford, F. Harding
Chatham 68650 b1691-1719rChatham, R. Lee
Chester 50 b1691-1707ccapt. Oct 170722
Chester280 70354 b1708-1743h
Colchester 48 b1694-1704s sunk 1704
Colchester 682 b1706-1719rDeptford, J. Allen
Coventry 4850 b1695-1704ccapt. 24 July 170418
Crown 48 b1677?-1704r
Crown 652 r1704-1719wDeptford, F. Hardingwrecked 1719
Deptford 669 r1700-1719rWoolwich, F. Harding
Dartmouth 681 b1698-1716rSouthampton, J. Pasher
Dragon 46 r1690-1707r
Dragon 719 r1707-1712w?, Taylorwrecked 1711
Falmouth 4850 Jun 1693-1704ccapt. 4 Aug 170419
Falmouth 700 b1708-1724r Woolwich, R. Stacey
Falkland 637 r1702-1720rChatham, R. Shortis
Gloucester b1711-1733r
Greenwich 785 r1695-1724rPortsmouth, E. Wasse
Guernsey 680 b1696-1717rBlackwall, H. Johnson
Hampshire226 69048 b1697-1739buRotherhith, J. Taylor
Jersey 676 b1698-1731hCows, Moor and Ney
Kingfisher r1699-1706h
Litchfield226 6824848 b1694-1730rPortsmouth, W. Slygant
Leopard280 68354 b1704-1721r Rotherhith, E. Swallow
Lincoln 48 b1695-1703s sunk 1703
Moderate365 83760 c1702-1713v Taken at VigoSold 1713
Newcastle 54 b1677?-1703s sunk great storm 1703
Newcastle274 67654 b1704-1728r Sheerness, J. Allen
Norwich 61848 b1693-1718r Deptford, R. and J. Castle
Nonsuch 676 b1696-1740h Deptford, R. and J. Castle
Oxford 675 r1702-1723r Deptford, F. Harding
Ormonde b1711-1733bu
Pembroke b1710-1726r cf. Pembroke above
Pendennis 4850 b1695-1705c capt. 20 Oct 170521
Portland 636 b1693-1723r Woolwich, J. Lawrence
Panther280 68354 b1703?-1716r Deptford, J. Allen
Reserve222 b?-1703ssunk great storm 1703
Reserve 675 b1704-1741Deptford, J. Allenren. Sutherland 1716
Rochester 67048 b1692-1716rChatham, R. Lee
Romney 48 b1694-1707w wrecked 1707
Romney 710 b1708-1723r Deptford, Jos. Allen
Ruby 48 b1677?-1706r
Ruby 50 r1706-1707c capt. Oct 170723
Ruby 707 b1708-1748v Deptford, Jos. Allensold 1748
Salisbury 50 b1698-1703ccapt. 10 April 170317
Salisbury Prize 681 c1708-1739rretaken 170827ren. Preston 1716
Salisbury 703 b1707-1717rChatham, B. Rosewell
Southampton 636 r1700-1728hDeptford, S. Miller
Severn 68348 b1695-1734rBlackwall, H. Johnson
Swallow280 67250 b1703-1719rBlackwall, F. Harding
Tilbury280 69150 b1699-1726buChatham, D. Furzer
Vigo b1693-95/03wrecap. 1702ex Dartmouth, wre. 1703
Weymouth 673 b1693-1719rPortsmouth W. Slygant
Woolwich 761 b1701-1736rWoolwich, W. Lee
Warwick b1696-1709r
Warwick 686 b1709-1726bu Rotherhith, mr. Burchet
Winchester226 67348 b1697-1717r Rotherhith, J. and R. Wells
Worcester 689 b1698-1714r Southampton, R. Winter
Existing on 1 January 1702 and (re)built till 1714: fourth rates with 46-54 guns max, and max 250 men :
Ship menbur.h. gunsgunsBuild-endBuilt at, byRemarks
Assistance 607r1699-1713r Deptford, S. Miller
Dover226 6044848r1695-1716r Portsmouth, W. Bagwell
Bonaventure 597r1699-1711r Woolwich, F. Harding
Advice 55148r1698-1711c Woolwich, F. HardingCaptured 1711
Tyger233 61348r1702-1722r Rotherhith, J. Wellswrecked 1742

7 Sources for the English Navy

In order to defend his conduct Samuel Pepys wrote: Memoires relating to the State of the Royal Navy of England printed in 1690 it has lists of the Royal navy at the end of the reign of James II.

Brian Lavery wrote The ship of the line. It is the original source for a lot of information on the internet. Some of the launch dates, r dates (rebuilt) and bu (broken up) dates no doubt have their origin in this book.

A very available and nice source for this period is: A new list of all the ships and vessels of his majesties royal navy, printed in London, 1710.

8 Notes

1) Histoire Naval d'Angleterre Lyon 1751 vol. 3, page 3 has this 18 December 1688 list of the state of the English navy
2) This 27 ships programm can be found in the Journal of the House of Commons for 24 December 1690.
3) An overview of the new ships built from 1690 till 1697 can be found here House of Commons journal for 17 February 1708
4) The present state of Europe for 1692 page 156 has the launch of the Humber at Hull at the same time as the Norfolk
5) The present state of Europe for 1692 page 156 has the launch of the Norfolk at Southampton on 27 March 1692
6) The present state of Europe for 1692 page 404 has the launch of the Medway at Sheerness at the end of September 1693
7) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Elizabeth taken southward of Scilly on 12 November 1705
14) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Grafton taken near Beachy head on 1 May 1707
15) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Hampton Court taken near Beachy head on 1 May 1707
16) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Cumberland taken in the Soundings on 20 October 1707
17) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Salisbury taken at her return from Holland on 10 April 1703.
18) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Conventry taken west of Scilly on 24 July 1704.
19) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Falmouth taken south of Scilly on 4 Aug 1704.
20) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Blackwall taken coming from Fleckery on 20 October 1705
21) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Pendennis taken coming from Fleckery on 20 October 1705
22) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Chester taken in the Soundings in October 1707
23) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 148, has the Ruby taken in the Soundings in October 1707
24) History of the reign of Queen Anne vol. 6, page 150, has the Devonshire blown up in battle on 10 October 1707
25) Histoire naval d'Angleterre, page 547 has the Edgar exploding at Spithead on 15 October 1711
26) A brief historical relation etc. by Luttrell, 1709, page 477, has: 'Friday last (i.e. 12 August 1709) a new 3d rate ship of 70 guns was launched at Limehouse, and called Grafton.'
27) A brief historical relation etc. by Luttrell, has for 20 March 1708 that: On the 13th Sir George Bing was in view of the French fleet, chased them to the northward of Buccanesse, but in the night they all got out of sight, except the Salisbury of 50 guns, which we took etc..