Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Grove Street yard under Barnard, Dudman and Adams 1763 - 1795

The Grove Street Yard in 1827, 32 years after the death
of William Barnard, but showing its position in
relation to Greenland Dock (just on the edge of the image
at the top) and the victualling offices to the south.  It is
still referred to as Mr Dudman's Yard, after Barnard's
senior partner.  Thanks to the worldgeneaology.blogspotblog for
posting the image
The Barnards were one of the most prominent of Rotherhithe'S ship builders. The earliest of their enterprises on the Thames began with William Barnard and his partners, building ships mainly for the Royal Navy and the East India Company.   Although it was possible to determine which ships were built in the Grove Street yard when it was the sole base of operations, this detail became lost when William Barnard purchased a lease on the Deptford Green yard.  None of the ships built by the Barnards are assigned to either of the yards in the documentation, making it impossible to determine which yard produced which ships.

The Grove Street yard was just over the former border between Surrey and Kent, now the border between Rotherhithe (Southwark) and Deptford (Lewisham).  That border lies immediately upriver from South Dock, and follows a line that used to be marked by a river called the Earl's Sluice, now covered over and emptying into the Thames under a yellow sign that reads "Sewer Outlet 30 metres Out From This Board"  Perhaps more tangibly, there is now a piece of freestanding wall along that section of the Thames Path that marks the former boundary, and was one of the walls of the bridge that crossed the Earl's Sluice.  Even though the site is strictly speaking off Rotherhithe turf, I've included it because it is so near that it makes precious little difference.

In the 18th Century, when William Barnard and his partners began to work at the Grove Stret Yard, it was located not far from the Royal Dockyard and was sanwiched betweeen the victualling office and Greenland Dock, making it a very convenient location. It was  bound to the south by the victualling offices, to the west by Grove Street itself and to the north by Plough Way, which terminated in the George Stairs.  Grove Street still exsits, but the yard is long gone.  The George Stairs also still exist, but they have been replaced probably several times since the 1700s, in the original location.

From John E. Barnard's "Building Britain's Wooden
Walls" 1997. Page 52, showing the large wet dock
at the Grove Street yard.
The Grove Street yard was the first presence of the Barnards into the Thames area as shipbuilders.  Formerly, John Barnard had been a shipwright and shipbuilder in Ipswich and Harwich.  His son, William (born in 1735) followed in his father's footsteps and may have served his apprenticeship at Deptford.   He worked at the Harwich yard from around 1756, during the Seven Years War.  He married his wife Frances in 1760.  In partnership with William Dudman, an experience shipwright and shipbuilder 15 years his senior, he built seven vessels at his father's Ipswich yard

In 1763 William Barnard, William Dudman and a third partner, Henry Adams who owned a yard in Hampshire, took a 30 year lease on the 9-acre Grove Street yard with its 450ft frontage, also known as the Lower Wet Dock and later the Dudman yard.  It had one large wet dock, two dry docks and three building slips, as well as a house, and was therefore well equipped for the newly established business. William Dudman and his family took up residence in the yard's residential building.  The business opened in 1764, and appears to have operated under a number of names.

French Corvette Boyonnaise boarding HMS Ambuscade
during the action of 14th December 1798
by Louis-Philippe Crépin 1798
(Source:  Wikipedia)
The lease on the yard had been taken out for a 30 year period, during which the partnership was maintained.  For the first decade the partnership specialized in East Indiamen, althouth they also received Naval contracts.  Between 1763 and  1772 alone they launched seven East Indiamen - Ponsbourne, Grangy, Bridgewater, Resolution, Royal Henry, Royal Charlotte and Ankerwick.  In his 1997 book "Building Britian's Wooden Walls" John E. Barnard says that it was customary for East Indiamen to to return to the yard that built them for refitting and repairs, so each ship built represented ongoing business for the yard. In 1771 the Navy began to once again allocate contracts to private shipyards, and the Grove Street Yard received orders for two 74-gun Ships of the Line named Hector and Sutlan

In 1772 the 52 year-old William Dudman died, leaving the 37 year-old William Barnard in charge.  He seems to have recovered quickly from the loss of the senior partner, overseeing the buils of 12 ships between 12 vessels, which included 8 naval contracts. The Naval vessels built between 1771 and 1779 were Ambuscade (a 5th rate / 32 gunes), Hector (a 3rd rate / 74 guns), Experiment (a 4th / 50), Hound (a 40-gun sloop), Pelican (a 6th / 24, which has a role in the Mutiny on the Bounty story), Zephyr (a 14-gun sloop) and Pandora (a 6th / 24).  Hydra and Zephyr were both purchased on the stocks.

Between 1777 and 1778 four East Indiamen were built at Grove Street:  Mount Stuart, Royal Admiral (later converted to a Naval 3rd rate), Royal Bishop and General Barker

Painting by Louis Le Breton showing Tonnant in the
foreground and Majestic in the background.
National Maritime Museum (Source:  Wikipedia)
At some point, William took William Dudman's son John into partnership, allocating a one fifth share to him.  John had worked at the Grove Street Yard, and continued to live in the family home at the yard.  In 1779 William Barnard rented, in his own name, a yard in Deptford Green in Butt Lane, another substantial enterprise with a dry dock and two slips as well as two dwellings and gardens.  His family moved there to make their home in the bigger of the two dwellings. The lease originally ran until 1786 but was renewed at that point to run until 1859.   However, he continued to run the Grove Street Yard.  It is at this point where it becomes difficult to tell which yard built which ships; although Naval vessels were recorded according to yard, the East Indiamen were not.  It is known that eight naval vessels were built at Grove Street during this period:  Orpheus (a 5th rate / 32 gun), Africa (a 3rd / 64), Andromache (a 5th/ 32), Carnatic (a 3rd / 74), Iris (a 5th / 32), Solebay (a 5th  / 32), Majestic (a 3rd / 74) and Orion (a 3rd / 74). 

A story that John Barnard tells in Building Britain's Wooden Walls shows how private shipbuilders were at the mercy both of the Navy Board and the political situation.  The conclusion of hte American War of Independence in 1771 and the subsquence Peace of Paris in 1783 meant that naval ships were no longer in such high demand.  The Deptford Green yard had two ships ready for launch in late October and late November 1784 respectively on their slips, but the Naval Board wanted to delay the launch until 1785, which would have tied up the yard's slips and prevented future shipbuilding work at the yard.  A flurrly of correnspondence followed, and it was eventually agreed that the ships could be launched, freeing up the slips, but that payment would be delayed until a later date.   Although Tremendous was launched on the date originally planned, Majestic remained in situ until February 1785.   These and the 1785 Zelous (Deptford Green) and the 1787  Orion (Grove Street) were the last ships to be luanched for the Navy by William Barnard, but he continued to build East Indiamen - 28 in both yards between 1780 and 1790.

William Barnard became an expert on the subject of rescuing ships that had run aground, a sort of 18th Century salvage expert.  In the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London he wrote An Account of a Method for the Safe Removal of Ships That Have Been Driven on Shore, and Damaged in Their Bottoms, to Places (However Distant) for Repairing Them. By Mr. William Barnard, Shipbuilder, Grove Street, Deptford; Communicated by Nevil Maskelyne, D. D. F. R. S. and Astronomer Royal (January 1, 1780), an insight both into the task that he undertook on this occasion, and into the language of the day.

Model of HMS Orion at the Vancouver
Maritime Museum (photo by "The High Fin Sperm Whale"
(Source:  Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0).
John Barnard also tells the sad story of the last five years of William Barnard's life, which was marked by conflict with his partners, a disagreement that reached the courts.  The least on the Grove Street yard was due to expire on 25th December 1793, and both Henry Adams and John Dudman wished for renewal;  Barnard, however, wished to dissolve the parnership and work alone at his Deptford Green yard.   He wrote a letter of resignation to the other two partners but this was contested by Adams who claimed that Deptford Green was part and parcel of the business owned by the partnership.  Barnard was forced to take the matter to the Court of the Chancery to have his case heard.  Although the case was settled out of court in February 1794, and the partnership had been dissolved by the time the Grove Street yard lease was due for renewal.  Few ships were built during this period, and Barnard died in March 1795.

William Barnard was survived by his wife Frances and their two sons, William and Edward George (shipwright apprentices), and three daughters, Ann, Frances and Elizabeth.  The business passed into their control and they continued to run it out of Deptford Green and later the former Wells yard north of Greenland Dock in Rotherhithe.  Frances eventually died in 1825 at the age of 88.

The story of the Barnards in Rotherhithe continues, already covered on an earlier post.

Some of the ships mentioned in this post will be looked at in greater detail in future posts.

As with the previous post, this piece was almost entirely dependent upon the research of John E. Barnard, captured in his book Building Britian's Wooden Walls:  The Barnard Dynasty c.1697-1851 (Anthony Nelson 1997).


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