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ROYAL NAVY ESTABLISHMENTS

VICTUALLING OFFICE

Updated:  11 March 2011 

The Royal Navy has always needed food and supplies.  Originally these were provided by private contractors but these were found to be wanting.  Poor standards abounded and eventually this method of supplying the Royal Navy was superseded by one which the Government had total control over.

The water-front buildings that formed part of the Victualling Office and later the Emigration Depot.

The water-front buildings that were once the
Royal Navy's Victualling Offivce in Plymouth.

In 1654 one Captain Henry Hatsell was appointed as Captain Commissioner of the Navy and Victualling, with an office on Lambhay Hill, overlooking Plymouth's Barbican and the Cattewater.  New warehouses were built on land leased from Mr William Strode.  Unfortunately it was not long before the country was hit by food shortages brought about by the war with the Dutch and Plymouth's victualling office began to suffer from an inability to find replacement sources.

Captain Hatsell was replaced as Commissioner in May 1660 by Mr John Lanyon, one of two local brothers.  This was at the time the Royal Citadel was being constructed and some of the Victualling Office buildings were demolished to make space for it. 

Then, in 1694, the Royal Dockyard was commenced but it was over in the Hamoaze, far from the site of the Victualling Office and its storehouses.   As the Royal Naval vessels moved from the Cattewater and Sutton Harbour to the new facility, it became clear that the Victualling Office was no longer in the right location for easily supplying the ships.  It was now necessary to transfer food and stores by boat from the Barbican to the Dockyard around the front of Plymouth Hoe, which was not at that time protected by the Breakwater.  Plans were made to construct a new victualling depot near Millbrook, on the Cornish side of the Hamoaze but the merchants of Plymouth petitioned Queen Anne and the plan was dropped.  They did, however, build the King's Brewery over at Southdown, to the north of Millbrook.

The facilities at the bottom of Lambhay Hill were growing and being improved.  In 1734 the freehold of the land there was purchased for the sum of 6,784.  This enabled expansion to take place and a new bake house was built, with a wharf for loading and unloading.  In the following years a slaughter house, several storehouses and a second wharf were built.  The King's Bakehouse was destroyed by fire in November 1744 but was rebuilt and enlarged the following year.

Our first published description of the facilities at on the Barbican is dated 1812  [0]:

'The Victualling Office is situated near the citadel, being an extensive range of buildings lying by the side of the Cattwater harbour.  After passing the entrance-gate you come to the office, workshops, and yards, belonging to the cooper's department, where the barrels for the beer for the use of the navy are repaired and put into order; on the other side are extensive warehouses; next to these are the offices of the Agent Victualler, Clerk of the Cheque, and Clerk of the Stores, and their respective clerks; the Agent Victualler is head of the department, and he has a commodious dwelling-house (with gardens attached to it) for his residence.  The most interesting object to strangers are the ovens, where the biscuits are baked for the use of the navy, and is well worthy of a minute inspection.  The bake-houses are only two, but each contains four ovens, which are heated eight times a day, and in the course of that time bake a sufficient quantity of bread for 16,000 men.  The remaining buildings are granaries and storehouses for different articles; and the visitors will observe huge piles of faggots for heating the ovens.  A small pier terminates the Victualling-office; from hence you command a pleasing view, on a less scale than that you have seen from the walls of the citadel.  The slaughter-houses, which were formerly situated here, have been removed of late years to another part of the harbour.'

The same source gives the names of the officers in 1812 as: Agent, Mr Thomas Miller; Clerk of the Cheque, Mr Robert Bulcock; and Store-keeper, Mr John Slight.  [0]

By the beginning of the 19th century, the need had far outgrown the facilities at Lambhay Hill and the Admiralty decided that a new, purpose-built depot was needed in a more convenient location.  The result was the Royal William Victualling Yard at Stonehouse.

On Tuesday August 9th 1831 the old victualling office was sold by auction at Plymouth's Royal Hotel, Mr Hoggart, of London, being the auctioneer:

Lot 1 - comprised the Long Wharf, with a frontage to the harbour of 110 feet, and a range of buildings at the back, comprising the present slaughter-house, fat-house, vegetable-house, with lofts and rooms over, and two extensive cellars with lofts over.  This was purchased by Mr Paramore, a Devonport coal merchant, for 900.

Lot 2 - comprised the remainder of Long Wharf, with a frontage to the harbour of 160 feet, and warehouses, consisting of the cutting-room, the adjoining slop-room, with lofts over.  This was purchased for 1,760 but was afterwards sold by private contract to Mr Paramore.

Lot 3 - known as the Middle Yard, comprised the Commissioner's and Superintendent's offices, with rooms over and cellars, and a range of buildings immediately abutting on the wall of the sea, with a frontage of 115 feet.   This was purchased by Mr Frean, corn factor, for 830.

Lot 4 - known as the Crane Wharf, with a frontage to the harbour of 110 feet, several storehouses, with lofts over, and extensive cellars.   This was bought in at 1,300 but sold soon afterwards by private contract to Mr Paramore.

Lot 5 - known as the Bavin Yard, with a frontage to the Cattewater of 135 feet, and a four-storey building, also included the bake house, with four ovens, drying rooms and lofts over, and boat-houses.  This was bought in at 2,600 but sold soon afterwards by private contract to Mr Gill, of Milllbay.

Lot 6 - was a leasehold estate immediately adjoining the Barbican pier, held on lease from Plymouth Corporation, with a frontage to the harbour of 133 feet, and consisting of the Barbican Cellars, with granaries over, storehouses with lofts over.  The lease had nine years to run as Midsummer 1831 and the rent was 50 per annum.  This was bought in but later sold to Mr Frean for 20.

On the following day the building materials of the premises standing on the ground surrendered to the Board of Ordnance were sold to the same parties.

Later, some of the above-mentioned premises became the Emigration Depot


Sources:

[0]  "The Picture of Plymouth", Messrs Rees and Curtis, Plymouth, 1812.

[1]

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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