The Admiralty was the government bureaucracy that managed naval affairs, the operations of the Royal Navy. The term is also used to refer to the physical offices, specifically the Admiralty Building in Whitehall.

I have at least three direct forebears who served in the Royal Navy:

  • Rear-Admiral Rowland Mainwaring, my 4th great grandfather, 1783 – 1862
  • Captain Gordon Skelly, my 6th great grandfather, 1741 – 1771
  • Captain Thomas Latham, my 6th great grandfather, who died in 1762

Claude Champion Crespigny (1734-1818) was my fifth great uncle. He was Receiver of the Droits of Admiralty for over 50 years.

DROIT (Fr. for “right,” from Lat. directus, straight), a legal title, claim or due; a term used in English law in the phrase droits of admiralty, certain customary rights or perquisites formerly belonging to the lord high admiral, but now to the crown for public purposes and paid into the exchequer. These droits (see also Wreck) consisted of flotsam, jetsam, ligan, treasure, deodand, derelict, within the admiral’s jurisdiction; all fines, forfeitures, ransoms, recognizances and pecuniary punishments; all sturgeons, whales, porpoises, dolphins, grampuses and such large fishes; all ships and goods of the enemy coming into any creek, road or port, by durance or mistake; all ships seized at sea, salvage, &c., with the share of prizes — such shares being afterwards called “tenths,” in imitation of the French, who gave their admiral a droit de dixième. (1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Droit )

Until 1854 the receiver-general of Admiralty droits was attached to the Registry of the High Court of Admiralty. Prize droits of Admiralty were distinguished from droits of the Crown, the latter being granted to commissioned captors of ships and cargoes taken at sea. Disputes which arose from time to time between the Exchequer, as the department entitled to droits of Admiralty, and commissioned captors as to the right to a particular prize, were settled in the Prize Court.

An example of the return by the Receiver-General in 1812 is at page 790 of the 1812 Journal of the House of Commons.

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The Admiralty complex lies between Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade and The Mall and includes five inter-connected buildings. The oldest building is now known as The Ripley building after its architect, Thomas Ripley (1682 – 1758). It contained the Admiralty board room, which is still used by the Admiralty, other state rooms, offices and apartments for the Lords of the Admiralty.

Admiralty House is a mansion to the south of the Ripley Building, built in the late 18th century as the residence of the First Lord of the Admiralty from 1788. It served that purpose until 1964.

Admiralty Extension is the largest of the five buildings. Construction commenced in the late nineteenth century.

Admiralty Arch was commissioned by King Edward VII in memory of his mother Queen Victoria. It was completed in 1912. Admiralty Arch served as the official residence of the First Sea Lord and also housed various government offices, initially for the Admiralty.

The Admiralty Citadel is a squat, windowless World War II fortress north west of Horse Guards Parade.

AtoZ map A

The Old Admiralty Building, now known as the Ripley Building, is marked with an X