Assistant Clerk of the Acts and Secretary 1680-1832

Pages 26-27

Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 7, Navy Board Officials 1660-1832. Originally published by University of London, London, 1978.

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Assistant Clerk of the Acts and Secretary 1680-1832

The duties of the Clerk of the Acts included the taking of minutes and the keeping of records. The development of the office of Secretary to the Navy Board thus came to be intimately connected with the development of the Clerkship and of the Assistant Clerkship of the Acts.

The office of Assistant Clerk of the Acts, to which appointments were made by Admiralty warrant, was created in 1680 to provide for Thomas Turner, formerly Chief Clerk to the Controller, on his removal from the office of Storekeeper at Deptford. A salary of £200 was made available to Turner, who was instructed to assist the Clerk of the Acts in all his duties, and when necessary, to sit with the Principal Officers and Commissioners of the Navy at meetings of the Board. (fn. 1) The office was discontinued on Turner's death in 1681.

In 1686, following the temporary suppression of the Clerkship of the Acts, Charles Sergison, formerly one of the Chief Clerks to the Clerk of the Acts, was appointed by the Commissioners for Current Business to be their Secretary with a salary of £300. He retained the title of Secretary on the revival of the Clerkship of the Acts in October 1688, but in July 1689 was appointed Assistant Clerk of the Acts with the same salary. (fn. 1) From then until 1789, with the exception of the years 1698-9 when as a result of the decision to retrench naval expenditure the office was briefly discontinued, (fn. 1) the Assistant Clerkship of the Acts was held continuously by officials who had previously served as Clerks in the Navy Office. (fn. 1) Throughout this period the terms 'Assistant Clerk of the Acts' and 'Secretary' were used indiscriminately by contemporaries, and it is clear that the secretarial duties of the Clerk of the Acts devolved increasingly upon his Assistant. In 1788 the Commissioners on Fees, recognising that the duty of the Assistant Clerk of the Acts was the same as that of Secretary in any other government department, stated that the separation of the office of Secretary from that of Clerk of the Acts had become 'absolutely necessary' and recommended that the office of his Assistant should be converted into that of Secretary. (fn. 1) On the death of the then Assistant in 1789, Ambrose Serle, who had not previously served in the Navy Office, (fn. 1) was appointed Secretary to the Board. Following his resignation in March 1790, the office of Assistant Clerk of the Acts was revived and was again filled by a Navy Office Clerk, Margetson. On his death in July 1795, Samuel Gambier, who had no previous experience in the Navy Office, was appointed Secretary to the Board. (fn. 1)

The true conversion of the office of Assistant Clerk of the Acts into that of Secretary, however, only became possible in 1796 when the Board was reconstituted and the Clerkship of the Acts was abolished. It was then provided that the Secretary, in addition to presiding over the Secretary's Office and attending the Committee of Correspondence, should attend the Board, take minutes, see to the execution of the Board's orders, carry on the correspondence, take care of the Board's papers, and attend to their registration. (fn. 1) In 1796 the Secretary was accorded a fixed salary of £1000, which was raised to £1200 in 1807. (fn. 1)

1680 24 June Turner, T.
1689 6 July Sergison, C.
1690 9 March Lyddell, D.
1691 4 May Dale, W.
1699 22 Nov. Dale, W.
1717 10 April Percival, S.
1740 29 Aug. Pearse, T.
1743 23 July Burley, C.
1758 11 May Jackson, G.
1766 14 Nov. Stow, D.
1780 18 May Thomas, J.
1790 14 April Margetson, J.
1686 c. March Sergison, C.
1789 28 Dec. Serle, A.
1795 5 Aug. Gambier, S.
1796 31 Aug. Nelson, R. A.
1820 29 Sept. Smith, G.


  • 1. Adm. 106/46 no. 902.
  • 2. Sergison MS vol. 13, 10 July 1686; Adm. 106/3532 pp. 54-5; Adm. 2/3 p. 445.
  • 3. NMM Adm. A/1858 no. 2441; NMM Adm. A/1870 no. 4312.
  • 4. With the exceptions of Lyddell and Stow, all had served in the Office of the Clerk of the Acts.
  • 5. 5th Rept. on Fees, 173, 183.
  • 6. He had occupied the offices of Senior Clerk, Colonial Department, 1768-76 and Solicitor and Clerk of Reports, Board of Trade, 1776-9.
  • 7. Adm. 6/24 ff. 13-14, 23-4; Adm. 6/25 ff. 201-2.
  • 8. Order in council 8 June 1796 (17th Rept. on Finance, 331-2).
  • 9. ibid.; order in council 28 Oct. 1807 (4th Rept. Commrs. of Naval Revision, 4).