1633, John Waterman seeks the post of Master Carpenter on a new ship

John Waterman. SP 16/231 f. 31 (1633)

To the right honourable the lordes and others commissioners for the Navie and Admiraltie of England.

The humble peticion of John Waterman cappenter of his majesties shipp the Mary Rose.

Sheweth that your petitioner from his youth hath bene brought upp in his majesties service under one of his majesties master shipwrightes, wherein hee alwaies dilligently and faithfully demeaned himselfe, and is knowne to be a very able well deserving man, and sufficient and fitt to be master carpenter of a ship of greater burthen. As by the certificates annexed apeare.

Forasmuch as the master carpenters place of his majesties new shipp the Henryetta Maria which was built by your petitioners maister is yet void. And that the officers of his majesties Navie are willing to enter him into the said place, if your honours wilbe pleased to give order for the same. And for that your petitioner hath a great charge of wife and 3 children whose maintenance doe onely depend upon his indeavours.

Your petitioners humble suite therefore is. That your honours will vouchsafe to take his long and faithfull services with his desertes and abilities into your honourable consideracions, and be pleased to give order that hee may be admitted master carpenter of his majesties said shipp the Henrietta Maria in liew of the place which now hee hath wherein hee will continue his faithfull services to his majestie

And be daily bound to pray for your honours eternall prosperities.

Report by Mary Wiggins

In his petition John Waterman asked to be appointed master carpenter in the new ship Henrietta Maria. Waterman was the master carpenter, listed as a Warrant Officer, on the Mary Rose (with a complement of 120 men). On 15 April 1633, in response to his petition, he was granted the same role on the Henrietta Maria, a much bigger ship with a complement of 300 men. At the same time, Thomas Day was moved into the master carpenter role on the Mary Rose vacated by John Waterman.[1]

The Mary Rose was acquired in 1623, a fourth-rate ship, launched at Deptford Dockyard. It was wrecked in a storm off the Flanders coast in 1650.[2]

The Henrietta Maria was acquired 1632/33, it was a second-rate ship of the English navy, launched at Deptford Dockyard in 1633. In 1650 it was renamed Paragon in the navy of the Commonwealth. Its final posting was to the West Indies where in 1655 it caught fire, blew up and sank near Havana with the loss of about 100 lives, a little under half its complement.[3]

The carpenter was a craftsman who built and repaired ships.  He could work ashore, independently or for an employer, or he could be part of the crew, in which case he could also have a mate or an assistant.[4] Carpenters were warranted by the Admiralty and answerable to the Navy Board.  Their duties consisted of the care and preservation of the ship’s hull and mast.  In battle, carpenters had to be particularly vigilant to spot any damage from shot and to have ready shot boards and plugs of wood to stop any leaks. Many carpenters worked for the Navy Board as civilian employees (shipwrights) in the dockyards before going to sea.  Carpenters were known as standing officers as they were responsible for ship-maintenance.[5]

The petition was submitted to the Commissioners of the Navy and Admiralty. The first Navy Board was established for Henry VIII’s navy in 1546 to administer the Royal Navy. It was set up to organise the business of the navy and advise the Lord Admiral.  Until the middle of the 17th century it covered all aspects of naval administration.[6]

There was no full-time navy when both King James I and King Charles I were on the throne which meant that the British coastline was vulnerable to attack. When James became king in 1603, he inherited a naval system from Queen Elizabeth I but there was no full-time standing force. If any emergencies arose, a few royal ships and privately owned merchant ships were joined together loosely. Neither king was willing or able to invest in a stronger navy.[7]


[1] ‘Charles I – volume 236: April 1-15, 1633’, in John Bruce (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1633-4 (1863), pp. 1-21. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1633-4/pp1-21.

[2] ‘British Fourth Rate ship Mary Rose (1623)’, Three Decks – Warships in the Age of Sail, https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=show_ship&id=5312.

[3] ‘British Second Rate great ship Henrietta Maria (1633)’, Three Decks – Warships in the Age of Sail, https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=show_ship&id=60.

[4] ‘Sailing into Modernity/Tables of Roles’, University of Exeter, Centre for Maritime Historical Studies, http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/history/research/centres/maritime/resources/sailingintomodernity/roles/.

[5] ‘Trafalgar Ancestors’, The National Archives, https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help/trafalgarancestors/glossary.htm.

[6] ‘Research Guide B6: The Royal Navy: Administrative Records’, Royal Museums Greenwich, https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/researchers/research-guides/research-guide-b6-royal-navy-administrative-records.

[7] ‘The Stuart navy’, Royal Museums Greenwich, https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/Stuart-navy.


This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles I and the Civil Wars’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.