(Copied from the manuscript by Colin Penney.)
To men who had served a lifetime in the dockyard and the Royal Navy something seemed to out of their lives when an establishment closes its gates for the last time.
Enclosed in the
original geographical boundary of
Deptford had a known history from 1485 until closure in 1869 although it ceased activities for a period of 24 years 1818 to 1842 in the later year it was re-opened and saw the introduction of steam in the Royal Navy.
The first ship accepted as being specifically built as a man-of-war ,the Henry Grace A Dieu or Great Harry was laid down at Woolwich in 1512 to the design , it is believed , of Master Shipwrights brought from Florence by Henry VIII the principle being Brygandine and the design of ornate carvings remained for years to distinguish naval ships from private ones. It is not believed that Woolwich was a Royal Yard at the time of the building of the Great Harry because the shipwrights and the caulkers were pressed into service from Harwich and members of the Pett family began their connections with the Royal Dockyards at that time. The Woolwich Yard can be said to have existed under the Crown from 1516 to 1869 and throughout its history was known as the “ Mother Yard “ ,but this referred to the modern navy and the birthplace of the Great Harry. Southampton ,Burlseden, Hythe and Portsmouth had earlier connections dating from the reign of King John and the latter port had a dry dock of boats as early as 1490 .Deptford and Woolwich Dockyards ,although closed in 1869 retained naval connections until recent years and although utilised for various purposes both yards have original buildings and docks which remain as left in 1869.
In historical order
1667 was the year of
the establishment of the Royal Dockyard
of Sheerness although the site had been used by Chatham Dockyard for 30 years
before that time for the cleaning and caulking of the hulls of North Sea
vessels .Sheerness actually replaced Harwich in Essex as an offensive yard for the repair of the North Sea fleet
.Harwich was founded by Cromwell in 1650 and continued as a Royal Yard ( part
Royal , part private ) and private until transferred to the Post Office in 1827
in case it was said that it might be required again by the Navy. It was , but not
until 1940 when it was utilised for repairing minesweeping trawlers. With the exception of the small
Bert was a very keen and a very helpful historian . As a very senior Dockyard Foreman ,a post equilavalent, to say a Managing Director of a very large Business ,he had access to all Naval Dockyard records and after his retirement was allowed access to all Naval Establishments for his research . Most of his research he sent to The Maritime Museum who were very grateful for Bert’s interest ,he spent a lot of time there with his research.
He also researched his Family Tree , the Ratcliff family and many Queenborough Families. And he helped many people sort out their Family Tree problems.