George Boddy’s 1805 letter to the Admiralty

To follow up a previous post, here is the transcribed text of this most interesting and amusing (in my view) letter my ancestor George Boddy (c1761-1834), a shipwright & Timber Master, wrote to Sir Evan Nepean at the Admiralty.

The text of the letter is below the cut. Just a few comments first:

To me as a family historian, the letter reads as if George Boddy knew I wanted a summary of his career & family 😉 I feel very lucky that George wrote the letter & that I’ve found it.

Did this letter to Sir Evan Nepean help in getting George the recognition, money and help he sought? I don’t know (yet – more research required), but from other information about the Boddy family I suspect that in the end he did…

  • George’s son John Marlett Boddy (c1791-1875) went on to a career in the Admiralty. I suspect, but have yet to prove, that John Marlett is the former midshipman of HMS Conqueror referred to in this letter – he is certainly the correct age (14 in 1805).
  • Two of George’s grandchildren were apparently named after Sir Evan Nepean – Evan Nepean George Boddy (b1830) and Wentworth Nepean Boddy (b1835), sons of William Barnard Boddy (c1800-1884).

There are so many other things I want to comment on, but rather than ramble on, I’ll just let you read the letter for yourselves – its below the cut.

ADM1/4379 Loose letters from The National Archives, Kew 

ProB300: letter from George Boddy, Plymouth Dockyard, to Sir Evan Nepean  11 Feb 1805  

[Page 1]

Plymouth Dock Yard

11 Feby 1805

Right Honrble Sir Evan Nepean Bt

                        As an old & faithful Servant of  his Majestys I humbly beg leave to state a few particulars of my case entreating that your Honor will kindly take the same into your consideration —

 I have been 32 years in the service conscientiously exerting myself in the discharge of very laborious and oftentimes dangerous duty – God Almighty has been pleased to bless me with a capacity suited to my employments and I have thro’ life uniformly endeavoured to improve it for the good of the service and having always had a full determination to be honest and active in all my undertakings, I have of course met with my full share of Opposition from many that were not like minded with myself —

Your Honor knows of my exertions in getting the Pintles out from under water of H.M.S.Culloden at Spithead when she had lost her Rudder there by [s]aving a great loss of time & probably near £2000 in preventing her from going into Dock, being dismantled &c. Exerting myself on this occasion to the utmost of my power it excited the envy & jealousy of many selfish Men on board who wanted the Ship to go into Dock & who in revenge endeavoured to murder me —

Soon after this I was beset in Portsmouth Yard because I would not countenance idleness & [f…d] My Clothes torn off my back, I and my Servant was discharged to quiet a Rebellious mob and Sir Charles Saxton to save my Life in great kindness as a reward for my service recommended me to the Navy and Admiralty Board thro’ your goodness I was then appointed Converter of Timber in Salcey and Whittlewood Forests – Soon after  

[Page 2]

my arrival at the Forests I contributed in no small degree to the discovery & investigation of  gross Frauds to the amount of several thousand Pounds which had been practised by my predecessor John Collin[ri]dge and his Executor George Thomas who was prosecuted to conviction and sentenced to suffer death. A considerable Sum of money was recovered back again to Government principally by means of the unwearied attention I bestowed upon that affair. Mr Bicknell Solicitor to the Admiralty is somewhat acquainted with the great pains & trouble I took in the laborious investigation of this business —

My accounts with the Navy Board prove that I converted one third more Timber for the Service than any predecessor, in the same space of time; & at less than one half the expense to Government – besides putting a stop to many grievous Frauds of private Sails of Timber &c.

About 3½ Years ago, I was removed to Plymouth Yard I believe it was there by intended to better my situation but it proved a very heavy expence to remove my large family from Northamptonshire & altho’ I have now a most laborious employment as Foreman of the Shipwrights having several hundred men under my constant direction —

Wishing to render all the service I can to Government I have invented a Machine for getting out broken Pintles from under water when Rudders are carried away & I there by saved Government, August 1803, a considerable Sum perhaps not less than from 12 to £1500 besides saving the time of dismantling the Ship &c by my getting the Pintles out of the Sirius, Braces, without bringing her into Dock &c when she had lost her [R]udd[]  I have an especial Certificate of the value of this Machine Signed by Admirals – Sir John Colpoys – Sir Charles Cotton – Da[..]es – & by Commissioner Fanshawe, and nine Captains —

I have also invented a Beam for Ships Decks upon a new principal, which is much stronger – less expensive more durable and on a variety of accounts much better for 

[Page 3]

for the service than the old Beam – My invention is approved by Commissioner Fanshawe, the Builder & Assistants in the Yard and might prove of very great advantage to the service if generally adopted — 

On all occasions I have made it my study to [t/r]ender every service to Government to the uttermost of my abilities – My indefatigable exertions in directing & overlooking so large a Body of Men are well known to the Port Admiral & to all the Officers acquainted with his Majestys Yard at Plymouth – I feel rather pained to say so much of myself but having a Wife and eight Children I wish if possible to make some provision for them having also a Boy of 17 Years of age who is quite helpless thro’ fits – and another Son 14 Years of age (late Midshipman of H.M.S. Conqueror) who has received a hurt in the service which has produced a bad Rupture & has rendered him unfit for active employment in Life – I am therefore called upon in behalf of my large Family to make some appail to your Honor’s consideration in behalf of my useful inventions & my long and laborious services —

 With most dutiful respects

 I am 

Your Honors 

Mos devoted humble Servant 

George Boddy

Foreman of the Shipwrights

Plymouth Yard — 

PS. If a Moddle of the Machine for getting out Broken Pintles was kept on Board H.M. Ships when at Sea there would be no need for heaving down Ships at any part of the world for that purpose —


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