Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 7, Navy Board Officials 1660-1832. Originally published by University of London, London, 1978.
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Principal Officers and Commissioners
Throughout the period 1660-1832 the members of the Navy Board were known both singly and collectively as Principal Officers and Commissioners of the Navy. (fn. 1) Until 1796 the Board was usually composed of officials of theoretically equal standing, some of whom supervised the conduct of specific areas of business, and some of whom, known as Extra Commissioners or Commissioners at Large, performed general duties. In 1660 the Board was composed of a Controller, a Surveyor, a Clerk of the Acts and two Extra Commissioners. (fn. 2) From then until 1686 its composition changed regularly and the number of its members fluctuated between five and ten. The Controller, Surveyor and Clerk of the Acts (fn. 3) were permanent members. In 1667 the offices of Controller of Treasurer's Accounts and Controller of Victualling Accounts were created to relieve the Controller of two of his duties, (fn. 4) and in 1671 a further reduction was made in his duties by the creation of the office of Controller of Storekeepers' Accounts. (fn. 5) In 1679 as a result of the decision to retrench naval expenditure the office of Controller of Treasurer's Accounts was abolished and its duties reverted to the Controller. (fn. 6) At the same time the Controller of Victualling Accounts was required to carry out the duties of the office of Controller of Storekeepers' Accounts which had been left vacant since 1676. This arrangement, however, proved unsatisfactory and in 1680 the office of Controller of Storekeepers' Accounts was revived. (fn. 7) From one to four Extra Commissioners were employed in the years 1660-8 and 1672-82. In the years 1668-72 and 1682-6 no Extra Commissioners were employed.
In 1686 temporary arrangements were made to remedy the declining condition of the fleet and to deal with the arrears of business which had accrued in all branches of naval administration. (fn. 8) Five special Commissioners, to whom no particular individual duties were assigned, were appointed for a period of three years to conduct the current business of the Navy at an annual expenditure of £400,000. (fn. 9) The former Controller, Surveyor and Clerk of the Acts were retained as separate Commissioners to bring up the arrears of old accounts. In August 1688 the Commissioners for Current Business reported that their work was almost complete, and in October 1688 the special Commission was dissolved. Two of the Commissioners, Deane and Hewer, were retained without salaries until May 1689 to wind up the business of the Commission and to deal with the accounts incurred during its existence. (fn. 10)
In October 1688 the former Controller, Surveyor and Clerk of the Acts were restored to their positions and the offices of Controller of Victualling Accounts and Controller of Storekeepers' Accounts were re-established. (fn. 11) The office of Controller of Treasurer's Accounts was re-established in 1691. (fn. 12) From then until 1796 these six officials were permanent members of the Board. Two Clerks of the Acts served in the years 1702-6, and two Surveyors in the years 1706-14, 1746-9, 1755-71, 1778-86, 1793-6. Extra Commissioners were again employed from 1692. Until 1714 their number varied between two and six. In 1714 the number was reduced to one and, with the exception of the years 1787-93 when two Extra Commissioners were employed, remained at this level during periods of peace. In periods of war one or two additional Extra Commissioners were usually employed. Following the recommendations of the Commissioners on Fees the office of Deputy Controller was created in 1793. (fn. 13)
In 1796 the offices of Clerk of the Acts, Controller of Treasurer's Accounts, Controller of Victualling Accounts and Controller of Storekeepers' Accounts were abolished and the Board was reconstituted to consist of ten Principal Officers and Commissioners: a Controller, in whom was lodged 'a general superintending and directing power, for the regular management of the business, and controlling the expense in every branch of the Office', a Deputy Controller, two Surveyors and six Commissioners. The business of the Office was placed under the supervision of three Committees, of Correspondence, Accounts and Stores, over all of which the Controller presided. Three of the remaining nine Principal Officers and Commissioners were allotted to each Committee. (fn. 14) In 1808 the membership of the Board was increased to twelve by the addition of the former Inspector General of Naval Works with the title of Civil Architect and Engineer, and a seventh Commissioner, who supervised the payment of wages to seamen at the Pay Office, to the crews of ships in the Thames and to the officers of Deptford and Woolwich Yards. The Controller was relieved of the chairmanship of all Committees and was replaced by the senior Commissioner in each Committee. (fn. 15) As the result of various changes made between 1812 and 1814 the number of Principal Officers and Commissioners was reduced to eleven. The office of Civil Architect and Engineer was abolished in 1812, (fn. 16) and that of Pay Commissioner discontinued in 1814. (fn. 17) A third Surveyor with special responsibility for the dockyards was added to the Board in 1813. (fn. 18) In 1816 the office of Deputy Controller was discontinued and a seventh Commissioner was added to the Board. (fn. 19) A fourth Committee was created in 1817 to conduct transport business following the abolition of the Transport Board. (fn. 20) The membership of the Board was reduced to nine in 1822 by the reduction of one Surveyor and one Commissioner. (fn. 21)
In 1829 the Committee system was abandoned, and the Board was again composed of specialist officers with individual responsibility for the work formerly supervised by the Committees. The number of Principal Officers and Commissioners was reduced from nine to seven: a Controller, who retained his predominant position, a Deputy Controller, two Surveyors, an Accountant General, a Storekeeper General, and a Superintendent of Transports. (fn. 22) In 1831 the Superintendent of Transports and one of the Surveyors were superannuated and not replaced, thus reducing the Board to five members, the lowest level since 1691. (fn. 23)
The Principal Officers and Commissioners were appointed during pleasure by letters patent under the great seal. On one occasion a reversionary interest was granted. (fn. 24) Until 1700 it was the normal practice for the issue of the letters patent to be preceded by the issue of an Admiralty warrant allowing the Principal Officer and Commissioner to act until his patent passed. Thereafter the letters patent were usually preceded by the issue of a warrant allowing the official to inspect books and papers in the Navy Office in order to qualify himself when his patent passed. In the lists the periods of office of the Principal Officers and Commissioners have usually been dated by reference to the letters patent. (fn. 25) However in some cases the duty of a Principal Officer and Commissioner was changed by Admiralty warrant and new letters patent were not issued to confirm the change of duty. In these cases the periods of office have been dated by reference to the warrant, when it has been traced, or to the day on which salary was first paid. (fn. 26)
In 1660 salaries of £500 were made available to the Controller and the Extra Commissioners, of £490 to the Surveyor and of £350 to the Clerk of the Acts. (fn. 27) The salaries of the Surveyor and of the Clerk of the Acts were increased to £500 from 1672 and 1682 respectively. (fn. 28) Thereafter the salaries of all Principal Officers and Commissioners remained at £500 until 1794. (fn. 29) In 1779 additional annual allowances of £300 were made available by the Treasury to all members of the Board to reward them for their labour in providing transports for army provisions. (fn. 30) On the creation of a distinct Transport Board in 1794, these allowances ceased and salaries were increased, the Controller receiving £1000 and all other Principal Officers and Commissioners £800. (fn. 31) In 1796 the salaries of the Controller and Deputy Controller were increased to £1500 and £1200 respectively, and those of all other Principal Officers and Commissioners to £1000. (fn. 32) The Controller's salary was further increased to £2000 in 1801. (fn. 33) In 1831 the salary of the Deputy Controller was reduced to £1000. (fn. 34) From 1831-2 Dundas, who also held the office of Second Naval Lord of the Admiralty, served as Controller without salary. (fn. 35)
|1686||17 April||Deane, Sir A.|
|1686||17 April||Narbrough, Sir J.|
|1686||17 April||Berry, Sir J.|
|1686||17 April||Godwin, Sir J.|
|1686||17 April||Hewer, W.|
|1688||20 Feb.||Booth, Sir W.|
|1686||17 April||Tippetts, Sir J.|
|1686||17 April||Haddock, Sir R.|
|1686||17 April||Sotherne, J.|
|1688||12 Oct.||Deane, Sir A.|
|1688||12 Oct.||Hewer, W.|