|London in the 1600s, showing a mainly rural |
Rotherhithe at far right
HMS Taunton is one of a handful of 17th Century ships built in Rotherhithe of which I have been able to find a record. She was the first warship known for certain to have been constructed at Rotherhithe and was launched by William Castle in 1654 and lasted for a truly impressive 65 years, seeing considerable naval action during her lifetime. Brothers William and Robert Castle appear to have been well established by the time that Taunton was built. HMS Taunton is the first of their ships to be recorded in Rotherhithe, but others were also built at the yard including three 8-gun yachts, Monmouth, Navy and Kitchen in 1666, 1666 and 1670 respectively, a 25-gun fireship called Griffin in 1690 and the 10-gun ketch Hart in 1691. The exact location for the shipyard remains elusive. The Castle Shipbreaking site has this to say on the subject:
The first we learn of the Castles occupying land on the Thames at Rotherhithe is from a map belonging to the Earl of Salisbury dated 1610. The exact location of the Yard is not easy to pinpoint but it is known to be a shipbuilding facility which William Castell was operating. Most of the land shown on the map is located to the east of the Neckinger thus placing it fairly close to the site of the well-known Cherry Garden Stairs. It is certainly clear that the family were probably active in the shipping business during the late Elizabethan era.
Research has shown that William Castle was born in 1590 and was probably responsible for building up the business at the Rotherhithe site. His father John who may have negotiated the terms of the tenancy in the early 1600s more likely achieved the acquisition of the site.
|HMS Taunton or HMS Dover, both built by|
The Castles were well attested in records of the time, and are mentioned several times in the diaries of Samuel Pepys, who considered William Castle to be an expert in the production of 3rd Rate ships of the line. Although perhaps most famous for his diaries, Samuel Pepys was Chief Secretary to the Admiralty, and his opinion mattered. William Castle's warships were characterized by the unusual feature of having one more port on the upper deck than the lower deck. The Castles were deeply embedded in the London shipping scene, and very well connected. William Castle married the daughter of Sir William Batten, Surveyor of the Navy. For more about the Castle shipbuilding and breaking family see the Castles History Project website.
HMS Taunton was originally designed as a 40-gun two-deck 4th-rate 545-ton full-rigged frigate, a ship of the line built in 1654, three years after the end of the English Civil War, a year into the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell and a year after the outbreak of the First Dutch War. She was one of the ships ordered in the "Thirty Ships Programme" issued by the parliament in 1652. HMS Taunton was 104ft long (measured along the keel), with a 31ft 8in beam and a hold depth of 13ft. She cost £3484 (according the the National Archives Currency Converter, in 1650, £3,484 0s 0d would have the same spending worth of 2005's £263,251.04). Like most ships of her time she was modified during her career, with alterations that significantly changed her vital statistics. Ships are often described in terms of the classes to which they belonged, a designation that refers to specific designs made by often famous ship designers, and Taunton was a Ruby Class ship. The first Ruby Class ship was HMS Ruby, built by Peter Pett II in Deptford in 1651. Taunton was the ninth of the Ruby Class Fourth Rates. The model of her above is a photograph from Riff Winfield's "British Warships in the Age of Sail 1603-1714" and is probably either HMS Taunton or HMS Dover. It shows an additional port on the upper deck mentioned above, a characteristic of William Castle's warships.
|This painting is actually from 100 years after Taunton was |
sunk and shows the Battle of Chesapeake, but is a useful
illustration of how ships engaged in the line of battle
|The Battle of the Texel, 11–21 August 1673 by Willem van de Velde I|
- With Sandwich's squadron at Tangier 1661
- With Lawson's squardon in the Mediterranean in 1662
- With Allin's squadron in the Mediterranean in 1665
- At the Four Days Battle in 1666, with 8 killed and 15 wounded
- At the Battle of Solebay in 1672
- At the Battle of Schoonveld 1673
- At the Battle of Texel, also in 1673
- In the Mediterranean 1674
- In the Mediterraneqan in 1680
- In home waters in 1685
- In the Turkey convoy in 1687
- Rebuilt at Woolwich in 1689
By 1666 she had been fitted with a further eight guns to take her up to a total of 48 and was manned by a crew of 170. She was rebuilt again in 1689. In 1704 following the outbreak of war in 1702 she was refitted at Deptford by shipwright Fisher Harding, and relaunched as a 552 long tons 4th-rate ship of the line with 50 guns, again a fourth-rate ship of the line. She was 126ft 8in (measured along the gundeck) with a 34ft 5.5in beam and a hold of 13ft 6in (4.1m) deep. She was again full-rigged. She sailed from Deptford under Captain Thomas Lyell and again travelled widely under a number of different commanders:
- In the North Sea 1704
- In Barbados 1706
- In 1708 with Baker's squadron on the Dutch coast
- In the Channel 1709, and from there to Lisbon and then Jamaica in the same year
- In Jamaica 1710
- Back to England in 1711
- In the Mediterranean in 1712
- Major repair at Woolwich in 1717 costing £2007.
- Recommissioned 1718
There is some confusion about who commanded HMS Taunton during which periods. Different accounts from the period place different commanders in charge of her simultaneously. It seems clear that she was launched under Captain Richard Lyons and was soon under the command of Captain Thomas Vallis when she was at Tunis with Blake's fleet in the Mediterranean. She came under Lyons again in 1655, after which he resigned and was than assigned once again to Blake's fleet under Capitan Nathaniel Brown. She was back on the Thames in 1656 but was once again under Blake, this time taking part in the Battle of Santa Cruz in 1657. She had numerous other commanders in her 65 year history, some of whom are listed on the threedecks website.
|The Four Days Battle of 1666, in which Taunton (by then HMS Crown)|
took part. By Pieter Cornelisz van Soest.