16th Century Royal Dockyards at Deptford

Woolwich and Deptford dockyards represented a significant investment in naval capabilities and demonstrated a recognition of the importance of having a permanent navy. While there were setbacks in the early 17th century, the legacy of these dockyards continued to shape England’s naval capabilities for centuries to come.

In the early 16th century, England experienced significant changes, with the Tudor dynasty taking hold of the monarchy. One of the most significant changes during this period was the establishment of the first Royal Dockyard by Henry VII’s father, also named Henry. This dockyard was located in Portsmouth and played a crucial role in developing England’s navy.

Portsmouth Dockyard

Portsmouth Dockyard was one of many established during this period. Soon after, the first dockyards were built on the Thames, and Deptford became the largest dockyard in the country. One of the reasons for this was its proximity to the Royal Palace of Greenwich, making it easy for Henry VII to visit and keep an eye on the progress of the dockyard. The location along the Thames also made it easily accessible from various parts of London.

With the establishment of the Royal Dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford, a large naval industrial complex was created, which was of immense importance to England. These developments were partly due to Henry VII’s recognition of the need for a permanent Navy. Many writers consider him the father of the modern British Navy, as he invested significant amounts of money into building and maintaining ships. While there was a slight decrease in naval spending after his death, it was not significant.

Elizabethan Navy

During Elizabeth’s reign, an important naval conflict with the Spanish highlighted the significance of England’s naval capabilities. However, things took a turn for the worse in the early 17th century. Nevertheless, establishing the Royal Dockyards represented a clear break from the past. In the medieval period, kings would only construct ships for a particular campaign, and they would be decommissioned or sold once the campaign was over. This new approach marked a significant change in England’s naval capabilities.

Listen to the full episode: Henry VIII’s Tudor Navy



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