The Warship Anne

This week, I’m delighted to welcome Richard Endsor as my guest blogger! Richard will be known to many of you as the leading authority on the design and construction of seventeenth century British warships. His book The Restoration Warship, focusing on the Third Rate Lenox of 1677, has justly become a classic, and has, indeed, inspired an ongoing campaign to build a modern replica of that great ship at Deptford, on the site of the dockyard where the original was built. He has a new ‘big book’ coming soon, as he explains at the end of this post, but he’s also found the time to produce a new work about the Lenox‘s sister ship Anne, the remains of which, exposed at particularly low tides at Pett Level on the Sussex coast, constitute the largest survival of King Charles II’s navy. I’ve visited the site myself and have blogged about it more than once on this website – have a look here and here. So now, over to Richard to explain more about his new book on the Anne!


Inspired by David Davies’s recent blog about his new book, Kings of the Sea, I asked him if he would be so kind and gracious enough to allow me to do a similar bit of blatant self-promotion for my own new book about the seventeenth century navy. Although we have long been friends with a similar interest, we are in no way rivals. He will, in his new book, brilliantly grasp the overall view of the Navy as if he were himself, a long serving Lord of the Admiralty. [Note: I’ve paid him absolutely nothing for this bit, honestly – D] I on the other hand, am down in the dirty dockyard worrying about scarphing of futtocks and how ships were built. Our previous non-fiction works, Pepys’s Navy and Restoration Warship, which came out at about the same time a few years ago, complemented each other.

My new book, The Warship Anne, will similarly complement Kings of the Sea. Work started on it a couple of months after a conference “All about the Anne” was held in July last year at St Clement’s Church, Hastings. Needless to say, David Davies attended and was a sparkling speaker at the event. [Nor for this bit – D] The Warship Anne book is 160 pages long and 250mm square, or nearly 10 inches in old fogies’ terms. It contains about images 150 images, all in full colour of which about 100 were created by me.  I completed the book in only nine months and my publisher, Bloomsbury, with whom it has been such a pleasure to work with, reckon they will have it on the bookstands by 25 February next year. Please don’t gasp in admiration at this remarkable productivity as I have been researching and painting the Anne over a period of some 25 years. I am involved in the Anne as the technical historian for the Warship Anne Trust which owns her, a subsidiary of the Nautical Museum’s Trust. The Trust also runs the Shipwreck Museum in Hastings. The book was written to publicise the surviving remains of the ship as widely as possible. I am so grateful to Bloomsbury who have helped a great deal by keeping the retail price down to only £25 a copy.

The Anne is sometimes visible at low tide at Pett Level, near Hastings and is one of the most important shipwrecks along the southern coast of England. The whole of the lower hull survives intact, as shown in the second image, and is the most substantial known remaining shipwreck from the Navy of Charles II and Samuel Pepys. She was lost in 1690 after the Battle of Beachy Head, while defending the country from invasion. Sadly, her remains and the men who died aboard her are now largely forgotten. The battle prevented a French invasion which, had it been successful, would have dramatically and permanently changed English and European history.  The exiled Catholic King James II would have been restored to the throne, his Catholic faith almost certainly imposed and the country dominated by the French.

Although the importance of Beachy Head ranks alongside the Armada Campaign and the Battle of Trafalgar, it was not a glorious victory to celebrate and be remembered. In fact the outnumbered English and Dutch allies were forced into ignominious retreat during which the dismasted Anne was run ashore between Rye and Hastings.  She became the only English loss when she was burnt to prevent capture.

My book follows the history of the Anne in chronological order. The first chapter deals with the events that led up to her building in 1678 as part of a new fleet of 30 ships. A fleet that would see the start of the British Navy’s domination the world’s oceans until the end of the days of sail. The ships were built a few years after the end of the third Dutch war. A war that was pursued by King Charles after the Dutch made their famous raid on Chatham dockyard at the end of the second Dutch war. The Dutch raid on Chatham followed the less famous English attack on the Dutch merchant fleet in the Vlie, known as Holmes’s bonfire. If you’re Dutch, it might be best if you skip the rest of this chapter as I found, to my surprise, that the damage done by Holmes’s bonfire was much greater than the damage done by the Dutch raid on Chatham. Not only that, but it caused the enraged Charles II to join the French and pursue the third Dutch war to the ruin of the Dutch economy. I reckon the Chatham raid was the Dutch ‘Pearl Harbor’ and it turned out to be as much a disaster for them as it was for the Japanese. A controversial view I know, but I examined the losses in terms of the well documented value of ships, something which appears not to have been done before.

In the second chapter, Phineas Pett II who built the Anne, offers himself as a character whom a fiction author would have difficulty inventing. [We’ll see! – D] A likeable rogue who lets his perceived success go to his head to the annoyance of all those about him: except King Charles, with whom he has much in common. He receives an amusing come-uppance came at the hands of Mrs Elizabeth Brooker to whom his wife owed money. Just as interesting is the building of the Anne. The delays and difficulty Pett had in finding keel pieces were found in the extensive historic record as were many, many other details of the ship’s construction. The most rewarding discovery for me, was recently finding and being able to interpret the actual recorded lines of a sister ship of the Anne, built by Pett to the same draught. From them a reconstructed draught of the Anne was made, which is of course included in the book.  Also printed across two pages is an image of the contemporary model of another sister ship, probably the Elizabeth. The image is photographic but all the distortions of perspective have been removed so that it is a true draught. Also included are the ship’s recorded hull lines traced from the models frames. The book also includes the complete draughts of another of the 30 ships made by Thomas Fagge in about 1680.

Chapter three and four takes the reader through the history of the Anne up until 1688. After launch, she and all the other new ships suffered from decay and repairs were made led by a commission under Samuel Pepys. There followed a voyage in 1687 when she acted as the flagship of a small fleet taking a German princess to Lisbon to marry the King of Portugal. From there she went on into the Mediterranean to confirm peace treaties with the Barbary States and negotiate the release of slaves. With the serious business finished, she visited the Grand Harbour, Malta, a view of which is shown on the book cover painting. During her voyage all sorts of stories emerge: King James’s fascination with Anne’s troublesome experimental pumps, special moveable steps made for the queen to leave Anne with dignity, John Shaw from the Pearl being tried aboard for murder, and a girl slave named Sarah Hawkins freed and her name entered into the Anne’s pay book. The most significant series of events for the ship was the continuing failure of her rotten masts and rigging. Some of the most important ropes stretched and became an inch thinner in circumference. The tops of the masts split for which special iron hoops had to be made to strengthen them. Pepys was ultimately responsible as his commission had supposedly repaired the ship. It resulted in a bitter dispute between him and Cloudesley Shovel, the Anne’s captain, which reveals how devious Pepys could be. He set up his own enquiry, which unsurprisingly found that no ship could be better fitted out.

The following chapter, chapter five, concerns the Battle of Beachy Head. It is painful to read of the damage inflicted on both the French and English ships near the head of the Blue squadron where the Anne was stationed.  Exposed and outnumbered, she was gradually shot to pieces until her masts were lost. Twenty nine men were killed while awful wounds were inflicted on 41 others. Even after all this time, some of the sadness suffered by the men’s families can still be felt. Barbra Cunningham from Jarrow was pregnant when her husband, Thomas, joined the Anne as an Able Seaman. He was killed in the battle before Barbra gave birth. Barbra named her baby daughter Thomasin, in honour of her dead father.

I was lucky in that so much documentation remains concerning the guns of the Anne. Magnificent brass guns were given to her when she went to the Mediterranean with a reduced armament of 62 guns. The 70 iron guns used at Beachy Head are also recorded and I have produced many drawings showing them and their gun carriages, as well as drawings showing where the guns were mounted. Two guns survive today that probably served aboard her.

Finally, the last chapter deals with the Anne today, the archaeology and the hopes for preserving her. I also cover the extent of her remains and ownership by the Warship Anne Trust. Lengthy appendices give details of all the timbers used in ships of her type, together with the transcription of a contract for building a similar ship.

With The Warship Anne book completed, I have returned to my long term project. This is The Master Shipwright’s Secrets, a work dealing with the practices used by the master shipwrights when designing ships. The book is very nearly finished and with any luck, will also be out next year.


  1. Daniel Caramagno says:

    Definitely a must have for me. Will these three books be carried by Naval Institute Press here in the U.S.? They carried both authors’ non fiction works in the past. Unfortunately 17th century Naval history is a very minor interest here.


    • J D Davies says:

      I will have to check re Richard’s books, but I suspect the Shipwright one, at least, certainly will be. My book on Kings of the Sea should also be on their list as they carry all Seaforth titles, who are publishing KoS here in the UK.


  2. Kroum Batchvarov says:

    I am eagerly awaiting both of Richard’s books and Kings of the Sea. Now if only Battle of the Texel cold be written…


  3. Frank Fox says:

    Thanks to both David and Richard; look forward to both books.


  1. […] boek over het wrak van het oorlogsschip Anne, voor de kust van […]


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