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Chatham Dockyard

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0064 CHA
Held at: National Maritime Museum
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Full title: Chatham Dockyard
Date(s): 1669-1900
Level of description: Collection level (fonds)
Extent: 31 linear m
Name of creator(s): Chatham Dockyard


Administrative/Biographical history:

Chatham was formally established as a Royal dockyard by Queen Elizabeth I in 1567, although for some time there had been an establishment at Gillingham. It assumed importance because of its strategic position in the Dutch wars and by the late seventeenth century it was the largest of all the yards. From that time, although it grew in area and in the size of its workforce, it lost its predominance to Portsmouth and then to Plymouth, partly because the main naval enemy was then France and the Western approaches became the main theatre of operations, and partly because the Medway silted and navigation became more difficult. Chatham thus became a building yard rather than a refitting base. In the eighteen-sixties there was a large building programme and St Mary's basin was constructed for the steam navy. With the closure of Deptford and Woolwich in 1869, it again became relatively important. During the mid to late twentieth century Chatham was redeveloped for the fitting and maintenance of nuclear submarines. The last warships built were conventional submarines. Many of the eighteenth-century yard buildings survive today, and the yard remained operational as H.M. Naval Base, Chatham, under the command of Flag Officer, Medway until 1984. The yard is now a tourist attraction, owned by the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Chatham Dockyard comprising 1,063 letterbooks containing the correspondence between yard officials, the Admiralty and Navy Boards, 1669 to 1900, together with internal yard records. There is also a collection of sixty-seven plans of the yard, 1718 to 1867. The volumes can be divided into three main groups: those relating to the Resident Commissioner; to the Commissioner's administrative successor, the Admiral Superintendent; and to the yard officers.

RESIDENT COMMISSIONER'S RECORDS: These consist of: Admiralty letters to the yard Commissioner, 1716 to 1764, 1788 to 1817 (13 vols); two copy letterbooks record in-letters during the period 1754 to 1788; Navy Board letters to the Commissioner, 1697 to 1698, 1791 to 1792, 1797, 1800 to 1829 and 1832 (57 vols); abstracts of Board orders to the Commissioner, 1788 to 1803 (1 vol); letters to the Commissioner from the yard officers, 1802 to 1808 (1 vol); local in-letters, 1809 to 1810, 1813 to 1815, 1818 to 1819, 1820 (5 vols). Out-letters from the Resident commissioner consist of: letters to the Admiralty, 1716 to 1733, 1774 to 1817 (6 vols); to the Navy Board, 1689 to 1695, 1696 to 1702, 1703 to 1757, 1760 to 1764, 1789 to 1794, 1795 to 1817, 1818 to 1822, 1826, 1828 to 1829 (51 vols); warrants to the yard officers, 1781 to 1817 (4 vols); memoranda to the officers, 1810 to 1821 (5 vols); in- and out-correspondence with sea officers, including the Port Admiral, 1793 to 1819, is recorded in four letterbooks.

ADMIRAL SUPERINDENDENT'S RECORDS: These consist of: abstracts of Admiralty orders to the Commissioner and Admiral Superintendent, 1766 to 1829, 1831 to 1867, 1870 to 1872, 1873, 1874 to 1875, 1876 to 1877 and 1882 to 1883 (25 vols); Admiralty letters (originals) to the Superintendent, 1832 to 1852, 1853 to 1900 (651 vols). Fifteen volumes contain indexes to Admiralty letters and orders, 1852 to 1854, 1878 to 1879, 1880 to 1882, 1884 to 1887 and 1890; one, memoranda from the Superintendent to the yard officers, 1846 to 1853.

DOCKYARD OFFICERS RECORDS: These consist of: copies of Navy Board orders to the yard officers, 1796 to 1801, 1803 to 1814, 1814 to 1815, 1816 to 1817, 1818 to 1819 and 1820 to 1821 (32 vols); letters and warrants (originals) from the Board, 1672 to 1675, 1717 to 1781, 1783 to 1795, 1796 to 1822 and 1829 to 1831 (154 vols); copies of officers'letters to the Navy Board, 1695 to 1698, 1790 to 1792, 1796 to 1801, 1802 to 1809, 1810, 1811 to 1820 (30 vols); and one letterbook containing copies of letters to the Superintendent, March to May 1869.

MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS: Three volumes record orders and letters to the officers at Sheerness from the Navy Board, 1690 to 1691; from the Chatham Commissioner, 1694 to 1697; and from both Board and Commissioner, 1769 to 1772. Further single volumes include records of stores issued and received, 1669 to 1770; of contracts, 1792 to 1823; of charts received and issued, 1809 to 1832; and a survey book of sails of ships, 1764 to 1788.

PLANS: These include nine general plans of the yard and surrounding land, 1733 to 1846; twenty plans of docks and slips, 1747 to 1861; and thirty-eight plans of yard buildings, 1718 to 1750.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Three main groups of letter books: those relating to the Resident Commissioner; to the Commissioner's administrative successor, the Admiral Superintendent; and to the yard officers. With misc papers and plans.

Conditions governing access:

Please allow 4 working days to process your order for viewing (see website for full details).

Conditions governing reproduction:

Contact the Archives.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the National Maritime Museum website.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records were transferred from Chatham dockyard in 1931 by arrangement with the Admiralty, although a number of volumes have since been added.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Entry transcribed from the National Maritime Museum website by Geoff Browell, August 2010.

Rules or conventions:
General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), 2nd edition, 1999 and National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
August 2010

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