Spithead and Nore mutinies
The Spithead and Nore mutinies were two major mutinies
Mutiny is a conspiracy among members of a group of similarly situated individuals to openly oppose, change or overthrow an authority to which they are subject...

 by sailors of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 in 1797. There were also discontent and minor incidents on ships in other locations in the same year. They were not violent insurrections, being more in the nature of strikes
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

, demanding better pay and conditions. The mutinies were potentially dangerous for Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

, because at the time the country was at war with Revolutionary France
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

. There were also concerns among some members of the British ruling class that the mutinies might be the trigger to a wider uprising similar to the French Revolution.


The mutiny at Spithead
Spithead is an area of the Solent and a roadstead off Gilkicker Point in Hampshire, England. It is protected from all winds, except those from the southeast...

 (an anchor
An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, that is used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the vessel from drifting due to wind or current. The word derives from Latin ancora, which itself comes from the Greek ἄγκυρα .Anchors can either be temporary or permanent...

age near Portsmouth
Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom's only island city; it is located mainly on Portsea Island...

) lasted from 16 April-15 May 1797. Sailors on 16 ships in the Channel Fleet
Channel Fleet
The Channel Fleet was the Royal Navy formation of warships that defended the waters of the English Channel from 1690 to 1909.-History:The Channel Fleet dates back at least to 1690 when its role was to defend England against the French threat under the leadership of Edward Russell, 1st Earl of...

, commanded by Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 Lord Bridport
Alexander Hood, 1st Viscount Bridport

, protested at the living conditions aboard Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 vessels and demanded a pay raise.

Seamen's pay rates had been established in 1658, and because of the stability of wages and prices, they were still reasonable as recently as the 1756–1763 Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

; however, high inflation
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

 during the last decades of the 18th century had then severely eroded the real value of the pay. At the same time the practice of coppering
Copper sheathing
Copper sheathing was the practice of protecting the under-water hull of a ship or boat through the use of copper plates affixed to the outside of the hull. It was pioneered and developed by the Royal Navy during the 18th century.-Development:...

 the submerged part of hulls
Hull (watercraft)
A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. Above the hull is the superstructure and/or deckhouse, where present. The line where the hull meets the water surface is called the waterline.The structure of the hull varies depending on the vessel type...

, which started in 1761, meant that British warships no longer had to return to port frequently to have their hulls scraped, and the additional time at sea significantly altered the rhythm and difficulty of seamen's work. The Royal Navy had not yet made adjustments for any of these changes, and was slow to understand their effects on its crews. Finally, the new wartime quota system
Quota System (Royal Navy)
The Quota System , introduced by Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger in 1795, required each English county to provide a quota of men for the Royal Navy, based on its population and the number of its seaports — London, for example, had to provide 5,704 quotamen, while Yorkshire had to...

 meant that crews had many landsmen from inshore, who did not mix well with the career seamen (volunteers or pressed men
Impressment, colloquially, "the Press", was the act of taking men into a navy by force and without notice. It was used by the Royal Navy, beginning in 1664 and during the 18th and early 19th centuries, in wartime, as a means of crewing warships, although legal sanction for the practice goes back to...

), leading to discontented ships' companies.

The mutineers were led by elected delegates and tried to negotiate with the Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 for two weeks, focusing their demands on better pay, the abolition of the 14-ounce "purser's pound" (the ship's purser was allowed to keep two ounces of every true pound—16 ounces—of meat as a perquisite), and the removal of a handful of unpopular officers; neither flogging nor impressment was mentioned in the mutineers demands. The mutineers maintained regular naval routine and discipline aboard their ships (mostly with their regular officers), allowed some ships to leave for convoy escort duty or patrols, and promised to suspend the mutiny and go to sea immediately if French ships were spotted heading for English shores.

Because of mistrust
Mistrust means "to doubt, to lack confidence in". It does not necessarily imply any serious suspicion of malice or bad faith.This can happen in everyday life in situations where the parties otherwise trust each other, but find themselves questioning that trust...

, especially over pardons for the mutineers, the negotiations broke down, and minor incidents broke out with several unpopular officers sent to shore and others treated with signs of deliberate disrespect. When the situation calmed, Admiral Lord Howe
Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe
Admiral of the Fleet Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe KG was a British naval officer, notable in particular for his service during the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars. He was the brother of William Howe and George Howe.Howe joined the navy at the age of thirteen and served...

 intervened to negotiate an agreement that saw a Royal pardon for all crews, reassignment of some of the unpopular officers, and a pay raise and abolition of the purser's pound. Afterward, the mutiny was to become nicknamed "breeze at Spithead".

The leader of the mutiny remained anonymous even after its resolution. Rumours during the time placed Valentine Joyce as the mastermind. Joyce was a quartermaster's mate aboard Lord Bridport′s .

The Nore

Inspired by the example of their comrades at Spithead, the mutiny at the Nore
The Nore is a sandbank at the mouth of the Thames Estuary, England. It marks the point where the River Thames meets the North Sea, roughly halfway between Havengore Creek in Essex and Warden Point in Kent....

 (an anchorage in the Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary
The Thames Mouth is the estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary, although physically the head of Sea Reach, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary...

) began on 12 May when the crew of seized control of the ship. Several other ships in the same location followed this example, though others slipped away and continued to slip away during the mutiny, despite gunfire from the ships remaining (who attempted to use force to hold the mutiny together). The mutineers had been unable to organise easily because the ships were scattered along the Nore (and not all part of a unified fleet, as at Spithead), but they quickly elected delegates for each ship. Richard Parker
Richard Parker (British sailor)
Richard Parker was an English sailor executed for his role as president of the so-called "Floating Republic", a naval mutiny in the Royal Navy which took place at the Nore between 12 May and 16 June 1797.-Early life and career:...

 was elected "President of the Delegates of the Fleet" due to his obvious intelligence, education and empathy with the suffering of the sailors. Parker was a former master's mate
Master's mate
Master's mate is an obsolete rating which was used by the Royal Navy, United States Navy and merchant services in both countries for a senior petty officer who assisted the master...

 who was disrated and court-martialed in December 1793, and reenlisted in the Navy as a seaman in early 1797. Demands were formulated and on 20 May, a list of eight demands was presented to Admiral Buckner, which mainly involved pardons, increased pay and modification of the Articles of War
Articles of War
The Articles of War are a set of regulations drawn up to govern the conduct of a country's military and naval forces. The phrase was first used in 1637 in Robert Monro's His expedition with the worthy Scots regiment called Mac-keyes regiment etc. and can be used to refer to military law in general...

, eventually expanding to a demand that the King dissolve Parliament and make immediate peace with France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. These demands infuriated the Admiralty, which offered nothing except a pardon (and the concessions already made at Spithead) in return for an immediate return to duty.

The mutineers expanded their initial grievances into the beginnings of a social revolution and blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

d London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, preventing merchant vessels from entering the port, and the principals made plans to carry their ships to France, alienating the regular English sailors and losing more and more ships as the mutiny progressed. After the successful resolution of the Spithead mutiny, the government and the Admiralty were not minded to make further concessions, particularly as they felt some leaders of the Nore mutiny had political aims beyond pay and living conditions of the crews on board ship.

The mutineers were denied food, and when Parker hoisted the signal for the ships to sail to France, all of the remaining ships refused to follow; eventually, most other ships slipped their anchors and deserted (some under fire from the mutineers), and the mutiny failed. Parker was quickly convicted of treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 and piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

 and hanged
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

 from the yardarm of Sandwich, the vessel where the mutiny had started. In the reprisals which followed, a total of 29 leaders were hanged, others sentenced to be flogged, imprisoned
Imprisonment is a legal term.The book Termes de la Ley contains the following definition:This passage was approved by Atkin and Duke LJJ in Meering v Grahame White Aviation Co....

 or transported
Penal transportation
Transportation or penal transportation is the deporting of convicted criminals to a penal colony. Examples include transportation by France to Devil's Island and by the UK to its colonies in the Americas, from the 1610s through the American Revolution in the 1770s, and then to Australia between...

 to Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. The vast majority of the crews on the ships involved in the mutiny suffered no punishment at all.

After the Nore mutiny, Royal Navy vessels no longer rang five bells on the last dog watch
Dog watch
Dog watch, in marine or naval terminology, is a watch, a period of work duty or a work shift, between 1600 and 2000 . This period is split into two, with the first dog watch from 1600 to 1800 and the second dog watch from 1800 to 2000...

, as that had been the signal to begin the mutiny.

Other mutinies and discontent in 1797

In September 1797, the crew of the mutinied in the West Indies, killing almost all the officers in revenge for a number of grievances including the throwing into the sea of the bodies of three men who had been killed in falling from the rigging in a desperate scramble to avoid flogging for being last man down on deck.

On 27 December, the crew of murdered their officers and took their ship into a French port in the West Indies.

Other mutinies took place off the coast of Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 and at the Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.There is a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa, because it was once believed to be the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the...

 and spread to the fleet under Admiral Jervis
John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent
Admiral of the Fleet John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent GCB, PC was an admiral in the Royal Navy and Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom...

 off the coast of Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...


In the arts

  • Herman Melville
    Herman Melville
    Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

    's novel
    A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

     Billy Budd, and the opera
    Billy Budd (opera)
    Billy Budd is an opera by Benjamin Britten, from a libretto by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier, was first performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London on 1 December 1951. It is based on the short novel Billy Budd by Herman Melville....

     based on it by Benjamin Britten
    Benjamin Britten
    Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

    , are set immediately after the main mutinies.
  • The Men They Couldn't Hang
    The Men They Couldn't Hang
    The Men They Couldn't Hang are a British folk punk group. The original group consisted of Stefan Cush , Paul Simmonds , Philip "Swill" Odgers , Jon Odgers and Shanne Bradley .- Controversy and success:Their first single, "The Green Fields...

    , an English folk-punk group, commemorated the executed leaders of the mutiny in the ballad "The Colours" (1988).
  • Mutiny by Julian Stockwin
    Julian Stockwin
    Julian Stockwin is an author of historical action-adventure fiction.-Biography:Born in 1944, Stockwin soon developed a love for the sea...

     is a fictional account of the Nore mutiny.
  • The movie H.M.S. Defiant is a fictional account of a similar mutiny at sea at this time.
  • The father of the protagonist of Frederick Marryat
    Frederick Marryat
    Captain Frederick Marryat was an English Royal Navy officer, novelist, and a contemporary and acquaintance of Charles Dickens, noted today as an early pioneer of the sea story...

    's The King's Own was hanged for his part in the Nore mutiny.
  • Much of the Dewey Lambdin novel
    A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

     A King's Captain is set during the Nore Mutiny as seen by the protagonist, Alan Lewrie
    Alan Lewrie
    Alan Lewrie is the hero and main character of Dewey Lambdin's naval adventure series of novels set during the American and the French Revolutions and the Napoleonic Wars.- Character :...


See Also

  • Chilean naval mutiny of 1931
  • HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën (1909)#Mutiny in the Indies
  • Royal Indian Navy Mutiny
  • Chilean naval mutiny of 1931
  • Kronstadt rebellion
    Kronstadt rebellion
    The Kronstadt rebellion was one of many major unsuccessful left-wing uprisings against the Bolsheviks in the aftermath of the Russian Civil War...

  • Wilhelmshaven mutiny
    Wilhelmshaven mutiny
    The Kiel mutiny was a major revolt by sailors of the German High Seas Fleet on 3 November 1918. The revolt triggered the German revolution which was to sweep aside the monarchy within a few days. It ultimately led to the end of the First World War and to the establishment of the Weimar Republic.-...

  • HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën (1909)#Mutiny in the Indies
  • Invergordon Mutiny
    Invergordon Mutiny
    The Invergordon Mutiny was an industrial action by around 1,000 sailors in the British Atlantic Fleet, that took place on 15–16 September 1931...

  • Revolt of the Lash

External links

  • Research guide B8: The Spithead and Nore mutinies of 1797 (from the National Maritime Museum
    National Maritime Museum
    The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England is the leading maritime museum of the United Kingdom and may be the largest museum of its kind in the world. The historic buildings forming part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, it also incorporates the Royal Observatory, Greenwich,...

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