Captain William King RN, the Admirality Packet Service and the Hydrographic Office, 1823-1829

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Author: Adrian Webb
Published Date: Oct 1 2009

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By the 1820s the Admiralty controlled both the Falmouth Packet Service, delivering mails to the growing empire, and the Hydrographic Service, responsible for supplying all the navigational charts required by naval vessels. This paper investigates several aspects of the relationship between these Admiralty departments and uses as a case study the publication of the first Admiralty chart of Bermuda which was requested by Captain King for use by the Packet Service; William, Duke of Clarence, then Lord High Admiral was instrumental in its publication. The paper also investigates the role Clarence played with regard to both the Hydrographic Office and the Packet Service.

Adrian Webb joined the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office in 1988 and spent six years working in its Archives amongst a unique (but now dispersed) collection of charts, surveys, reports, correspondence, books, coastal views, copper plates and the supporting records of 200 years of chart production. He is currently studying for a PhD at Exeter University; his thesis is entitled ‘The Expansion of British Hydrographic Administration, 1808-1829’. Adrian has been instrumental in developing and editing the first volume of studies into the maritime history of Somerset. He is a member of the council of the Navy Records Society and is editing a volume on the administration of the Hydrographic Office during the period 1823-1829. He has edited two volumes for the Somerset Record Society, is a trustee of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society and Somerset editor of Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries.