Support for the Fleet

BookSupport for the Fleet

Support for the Fleet

Architecture and engineering of the Royal Navy's bases 1700-1914

English Heritage


June 15th, 2013





This major new book traces for the first time the architectural and engineering works in the Royal Navy’s shore bases at home and overseas and the political imperatives and technologies that helped shape them up to the First World War. Based on detailed archival research, it concentrates on the remarkable legacy of surviving structures. The varied requirements of the sailing navy and its steam-driven successor are reflected in successive dockyard remodellings and expansions.

The book reveals the close links that developed with a rapidly industrialising Britain at the end of the eighteenth century, showing contributions of figures such as Samuel Bentham, Thomas Telford, Henry Maudslay, the Rennies, the Jessops and James Watt. The influence of the Royal Engineers is traced from early beginnings in the 1700s to their major role in the dockyard expansions from the late 1830s into the twentieth century. The architectural development of victualling and ordnance yards, naval hospitals, schools and coaling stations are all described, together with their key contributions to Great Britain’s long naval supremacy.

Copiously illustrated with maps, plans and photographs, this important and lively work will appeal to naval historians, industrial archaeologists and students of British history.

'a richly illustrated and enthralling volume which completes a lifetime of fieldwork'

The Times

'For those interested in the largely untold story of how Royal Naval bases were the innovation centres of their time, Support for the Fleet provides a comprehensive, and lavishly illustrated, account of this glorious past.'

Enginneering & Techology

'The vast number and excellent quality of the illustrations are a major contribution to the enjoyment of this book ... there are many hitherto unreproduced contemporary photographs and plans - most of the latter in colour, as well as colour photographs of surviving buildings, that together make this book a fine work of art as well as the new standard work on the subject.'

Michael Duffy

South West Maritime History Society

SW Soundings No. 93

... And what a beautifully produed and scholarly written book it is - the text is enlivened by approximately 500 informatively captioned illustrations and backed by over 2,000 copiously detailed endnotes ... This is a superbly produced and very important book. It may be the culmination of over 45 years of hard work, but it is also very much a labour of love - the author has the enviable distinction of visiting all of the bases mentioned, with the exception of Ascension Island, and this personal familiarity with the subject permates the whole book. In the period covered, the role of the Royal Navy was crucial to the development, maintenance and security of the British Empire, and Jonathan Coad ends his Epilogue with the quote: 'together the navy's ships and bases helped shaped much of this country's modern history'. His magisterial book amply justifies the claim.

Keith Falconer

The Association for Industrial Archaeology

No-one has done more than Jonathan Coad to try to bring naval buildings and their designers out of obscurity. Since the mid-1960s he has devoted himself to charting their history, and Support for the Fleet is his third and most magisterial book on the subject. ... It is hard to think that this immaculately referenced and illustrated book will ever be surpassed as a history of the naval bases.

Robert Thorne

The Victorian

There is no one more erudite and articulate to explain the history and significance of the Royal Dockyards than Jonathan Coad. ... Support for the Fleet is an outstanding achievement, the pinnacle of his work. It is unlikely to be surpassed. ... Support for the Fleet combines richness of content with clarity of style. The quality of illustrations is excellent. They include fascinating contemporary drawings, paintings and later photographs ... this wonderful book is worth every penny.

Ken Monk

Context 133, March 2014

... Jonathan Coad's passion and eye for detail have produced a fluent and nuanced narrative. An outstanding breadth of original drawings and maps adds to the quality of this superb publication.

Ann Coats

University of Portsmouth

Landscape History, Volume 35, Issue 2

... an epic publication which will be an enduring one. ... the book is thoughtfully written with a wealth of pictures and an accessible tone that will attract the lay reader. ... it is lavishly and beautifully illustrated throughout, and Coad is to be congratulated on bringing together so many previously unseen prints, drawings and plans. Indeed, it might be said that the publication's real value lies not only in communicating this important history, but also in illuminating to contemporary audiences the rich and remarkable architecture of the yards, many of which remain with us today.

James Davey

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

The Authors, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, The Nautical Archaeology Society, 2014

... this book ... ought to be seriously considered not only by ship buffs, but also by anyone interested in the history of engineering. Almost every page contains something wonderful, from the unexpected abstract sculpture of an access staircase diagonally crossing the curved, stepped inner face of a dry dock to the flanged columns of the baker at Stonehouse, designed to allow grain bins to be formed by the slotting-in of boards.

John Harris

Fort, Volume 42, 2014

... massive and beautifully produced book ... Almost every page contains something wonderful ...

John Harris

Warship 2015

Author Information

Author, Robertsbridge.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
1. The Royal Dockyards in Great Britain, 1700–1835
2. The Royal Dockyards in Great Britain, 1835–1914
3. Planning and Building the Royal Dockyards to 1795
4. Planning and Building the Royal Dockyards, 1795–1914
5. Engineering Works of the Sailing Navy, 1700–1835
6. Buildings of the Sailing Navy
7. Dockyard Housing, Offices and Chapels
8. Buildings and Engineering Works of the Steam Navy, 1835–1914
9. Growth of Empire: The Overseas Bases of the Sailing Navy, 1700–1835
10. Heyday of Empire: The Overseas Bases, 1835–1914
11. The Mediterranean Bases: Buildings and Engineering Works,1700–1914
12. The West Indies and North American Bases: Buildings and Engineering Works, 1700–1914
13. South Atlantic and Australian Bases: Buildings and Engineering Works, 1700–1914
14. Feeding the Fleet: The Royal Victualling Yards
15. Naval Ordnance Yards
16. Care of the Sick and Wounded: Naval Hospitals
17. Barracks and Training Establishments