The Fleets at the Battle of Beachy Head, 1690: Part 2

Guest blogger Frank Fox presents the second half of his important new assessment of the fleets that fought in the Battle of Beachy Head. Next week, I’ll be reporting on the Oxford Naval Conference in honour of John Hattendorf, which I’m attending.


The Dutch squadron, commanded by Cornelis Evertsen, Lieutenant-Admiral of Holland and Westfriesland, formed the van of the allied fleet.  The twenty-two ships, commanders, and their armament are given in Evertsen’s letters written after the battle and published in Hollandsche Mercurius, pp. 202-208.  The manning figures are intended complements and not the actual numbers aboard.  Most are from a list in J C M Warnsinck, De Vloot van den Koning-Stadhouder 1689-1690 (1934), p. 82; and from the appendices in J C De Jonge, Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Zeewezen, v. 3 (1869), pp. 730-739.  The letters in the ADM column indicate the admiralties to which the ships belonged; ‘A’ is Amsterdam, ‘M’ is the Maas (Rotterdam), ‘N’ is the Noorderkwartier (North Quarter), and ‘Z’ is Zeeland.  The Dutch squadron was in three divisions, with the flagships and division commanders shown below in bold type.  The ships of the van division flew a pendant at the fore, those of the centre division a pendant the main, and those of the rear division a pendant at the mizzen.  Dutch flag-officers all flew the national tricolour as command flags.  These were at the main for lieutenant-admirals, at the fore for vice-admirals, and at the mizzen for schout-bij-nachts (rear-admirals).  In previous Dutch sea-battles, the ships had worn various combinations of several flags as ensigns and jacks to signify their admiralty affiliations, but whether this applied in 1690 is not clear.

The sources for the Dutch squadron note that there were four fireships, but do not identify them other than giving the names of three of the commanders.  Dutch researcher Carl Stapel found the fourth commander and two of the fireship names (matched to commanders) in admiralty reports from April 1690, and a third fireship  and commander (Van Brakel’s Suikermolen) turned up in the vast data compiled by James Bender for his soon-to-be-published Dutch Warships in the Age of Sail 1600-1714, which he graciously made available.  The remaining fireship, expended in action under Commandeur Thameszoon of Amsterdam, I have tentatively identified as the Kroonvogel; she was the only Amsterdam fireship in 1690 aside from the Suikermolen which does not appear in later Dutch fleet lists.  Perhaps uniquely for a Dutch fleet in battle in the seventeenth century, there were no light frigates present, as noted in one of Evertsen’s letters appearing in Hollandsche Mercurius, 1690, p. 206.

The published lists of the Dutch squadrons do not give the forenames of the commanders.  I have filled in most of these from Mr Bender’s data; by chance, two that he could not supply appear in English warrants for travel to the Netherlands for officers of ships that were lost on the English coast after the battle – Jan van der Poel and Cornelis Calis (NA, ADM 44/339, pp. 307 and 314).  Only two of the flag-captains (noted below) have so far been identified.

ADM       SHIP                            GUNS       MEN             COMMANDER

Van Division                                                                                    

A         Wapen van Utrecht           64           315             Pieter Claassen Decker

N         Alkmaar                           50           200             Jan Kalff

Z          Tholen                             60           330             Cornelis Calis

N         Westfriesland                 82           450             Vice-Adm. Gerard Callenburgh

A         Prinses Maria                    92           500             S.b.N. Gilles Schey

A         Castricum                          52           240             Ferdinand Joan Kuyper

A         Agatha                               50           210             Willem van der Zaan


Centre Division

A         Stad en Lande                    52           210             Abraham Taalman

N         Maagd van Enkhuizen        72           370             Jan van der Poel

A         Noord Holland                      44           190             Rudolf Swaan

M        Maagd van Dordrecht          60           300             Anthonij Pieterson

A         Hollandia                           70           360             Lt-Adm. Cornelis Evertsen /

Capt. Hendrik van Toll

M        Veluwe                                 60           375             S.b.N. Jan van Brakel /

Capt. Matthias De la Cave

M        Provincie van Utrecht          50           210             Jan van Convent

M        Maas                                   64           340             Jan Snellen


Rear Division

A         Friesland                               68           350             Philips van der Goes

A         Elswout                                 50           210             Adriaan Noortheij

A         Reigersbergen                       74           360             Abraham Ferdinand van Zijll

Z          Gekroonde Burg                62           350             Vice-Adm. Karel van de Putte

N         Noord Holland                       72           320             S.b.N. Jan Dick

Z          Veere                                    60           325             Cornelis Jansz. Mosselman

Z          Kortgene                              50           240             Andries de Boer



Fireships (not in line)

    A             Suikermolen                       4              25             Abraham van Brakel

A             Kroonvogel?                           6              22             Thameszoon

N             Maagd van Enkhuizen            6              22             Muijsevanger

Z              Burg Etna                              4              25             Cornelis Antheuniszoon

The aftermath of the battle: Richard Endsor's painting of the burning of the third rate Anne at Pett level, where her remains can still be seen (see previous posts on this blog)

The aftermath of the battle: Richard Endsor’s painting of the burning of the third rate Anne at Pett level, where her remains can still be seen (see previous posts on this blog; thanks to Richard for giving permission for the use of his work)

The English fleet was under Admiral Arthur Herbert, Earl of Torrington (1648-1716), who was the overall allied commander.  The usual source for the English order of battle is Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy . . . , v. 2, p. 335.  But this is incomplete in omitting light frigates and the stations of the fireships.  A lesser known alternative that does give the approximate stations of the fireships is Memoirs Relating to the Lord Torrington, ed. J K Laughton, (Camden Society, 1889), p. 50.  The Torrington referred to in this work is not Arthur Herbert, but George Byng, Viscount Torrington from 1721 and captain of the third-rate Hope in 1690.  These sources disagree slightly in that Clowes states that the fourth-rate Constant Warwick was not in the line, while Byng assigns her a station (as shown below).

The light frigates and small warships omitted by the published sources are identified in the Admiralty’s monthly fleet distribution lists (NA, ADM 8/2).  The presence of several not mentioned in accounts of the battle were verified from their logs, preserved in NA, ADM 52/87 (Portsmouth), ADM 51/384 (Garland), ADM 52/69 (Milford), ADM 51/3963 (Salamander), and ADM 51/214 (Concord).  I have taken the minutely detailed data in ADM 8/2 as the most reliable authority for captains, guns, and complements of all ships.

The English had an overall strength of thirty-five men-of-war of the fourth rate or larger, seven light frigates and small warships, sixteen fireships, and one hospital ship.  In addition, the fleet was accompanied by a swarm of small ketches and smacks which had been hired as tenders and utility craft for the men-of-war.  They are not listed here because those actually present seem unrecorded.  But these vessels, their masters, and the ships to which they were assigned can be found in NA, ADM 1/3560, fo. 805; and ADM 49/29, fos 39v-52r and 61v-62r.

The English formed the centre and rear squadrons of the allied fleet, with the flagships indicated below in bold type.  The centre, designated the Red Squadron, was in three divisions; while the rear, designated the Blue Squadron, was undivided (two expected flag-officers were missing; Sir Clowdesley Shovell had not returned from escorting King William III to Ireland, and Henry Killigrew’s squadron was delayed in coming home from the Mediterranean).  In the Red Squadron, Torrington flew a Union flag at the main, his vice-admiral in the van division a red flag at the fore, and the rear-admiral a red flag at the mizzen.  The ships of this squadron displayed a red pendant at the main and wore the red ensign.  In the Blue Squadron, the only flag-officer, Rear- Admiral Delavall, flew a blue flag at the mizzen.  All of his ships had a blue pendant at the main and wore the blue ensign.  As usual, all the English ships wore a small Union flag as the jack.

Several vessels just missed inclusion in this list.  The fourth-rates Assurance, Foresight, Phoenix, and Mary Galley, along with the fifth-rate Play Prize (plus an unidentified Dutch man-of-war) came to the fleet the day after the battle; the sixth-rate Julian Prize was two days late (NA, ADM 52/110, Suffolk master’s log; NA, ADM 52/66, Mary Galley master’s log; and NA, ADM 51/494, Julian Prize captain’s log).

RATE       SHIP                              GUNS        MEN             COMMANDER

Red Squadron (centre) – three divisions

Van Division

    3          Plymouth                             60           340             Richard Carter

4          Deptford                                   50           280             William Kerr

3          Elizabeth                                  70           460             David Mitchell

2          Sandwich                              90           660          Vice-Adm. Sir John Ashby /Capt.William Bridges

fs              Wolf                                        8              45             Thomas Urry

fs              Vulture                                  8              45             James Moody

3          Expedition                                70           460             John Clements

3          Warspite                                   70           420             Stafford Fairborne

4          Woolwich                                 54           280             James Gother

3          Lion                                          60           340             John Topley


Centre Division

4          Constant Warwick                   42           180             John Beverly

3          Rupert                                      66           400             George Pomeroy

2          Albemarle                                 90           660             Sir Francis Wheeler

3          Grafton                                     70           460             Henry, Duke of Grafton

fs              Roebuck                                 8              45             Isaac Townsend

1          Royal Sovereign                 100            815        Adm. Earl of Torrington /Capt. John Neville

fs              Dolphin                                   8              45             William Vickers

fs              Owner’s Love                      10             40             Thomas Heath

2          Windsor Castle                         90           660             George Churchill

fs              Speedwell                             8              45             John Mason

3          Lenox                                       70           460             John Granville

3          Stirling Castle                          70           460             Anthony Hastings


Rear Division

3          York                                           60           340             Thomas Hopson

3          Suffolk                                       70           460             Wolfran Cornwall

3          Hampton Court                         70           460             John Layton

2          Duchess                                    90           660         Rear-Adm. George Rooke /Capt. Thomas Gillam

fs              Hound                                     8              45             Thomas Fowlis

fs              Spy                                         8              45             Frederick Weighman

3          Hope                                          70           460             George Byng

3          Restoration                              70           460             William Botham


Blue Squadron (rear) – undivided

3          Anne                                           70           460             John Tyrrell

fs              Fox                                           8              45             William Stone

fs              Thomas & Elizabeth                10             40             Thomas Marshall

4          Bonaventure                               48           230             John Hubbard

3          Edgar                                          72           445             John Jennifer

3          Exeter                                         70           460             George Meese

3          Breda                                          70           460             Matthew Tennant

1          St. Andrew                                  96           730             Robert Dorrell

fs              Charles                                    6              25             Anthony Roope

2          Coronation                              90           660             Rear-Adm. Sir Ralph Delavall /

Capt. John Munden

fs              Griffin                                      8              45             Peregrine Clifford Chamberlain

fs              Hawk                                       8              45             William Harman

2          Royal Katherine                         84           540             Matthew Aylmer

fs              Cygnet                                   10             40             Robert Wilmot

3          Cambridge                                  70           420             Simon Foulks

3          Berwick                                      70           460             Henry Martin

4          Swallow                                     48           230             Benjamin Walters

3          Defiance                                     64           400             John Graydon

fs              Hunter                                     8              45             Thomas Kercher

fs              Cadiz Merchant                     12             45             David Greenhill

3          Captain                                      70           460             Daniel Jones



Light Frigates – not in line, stations unknown

5               Portsmouth                         32           135             Francis Wyvell

5               Milford                                  32           135             Charles Hawkins

5               Garland                                 30           130             Thomas Robinson

6               Sally Rose                             22             80             Thomas Gardner

6               Saudadoes                           16             75             Roger Newton

6               Fubbs yacht                         12             40             John Guy

6               Salamander bomb               10             35             William Martin


Hospital Ship

5               Concord                                  —               —             Ralph Crow



 I wish to thank James Bender and Carl Stapel for helping to fill out details of the Dutch squadron, and Richard Endsor for photographing numerous documents in the National Archives and for his painting that accompanies the blog.  Dr Peter Le Fevre kindly supplied other useful documents.







%d bloggers like this: