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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Royal Naval Pay from 1793 to 1815

Royal Naval Pay from 1793 to 1815
References: Royal Maritime Society; Broadside; Craig V. Fisher; Naval Chronicle; Brian Lavery, Nelson’s Navy; Blake & Lawrence, The Illustrated companion to Nelson’s Navy.

I've put this table together from several sources, including that of extrapolating from the Naval Chronicle's description of pay rises to add to previous pay scales.  It's not complete I'm afraid but it is as complete as I can make it at the moment.  I think it is now the fullest table of pay in the Royal Navy on the net all brought together in one place with added information from dead tree sources.  Many thanks to the people who had already done a good bit of research to be a great starting point. 
Under the table is some random information pertaining thereunto and scales of half pay etc.  I'll address Prize Money and Pensions in another post.


1793 p.a
1806 p.a
1815 p.a.

Ordinary Seaman
Able Seaman
£16/8/- to £18
Captain of Maintop


Sailmaker’s mate

Petty Officers [bosun gunner, purser,] 1st Rate
Petty Officers [bosun gunner, purser,]
6th rate [sloop]
Petty officer’s mates [bosun, gunner purser’s clerk]

Quarter Gunner

Ship's Carpenter (1st Rate)

Ship’s carpenter (6th Rate)

Carpenter’s mate

Gunsmith [small arms]

Armourer [small arms/cutlasses etc]


Captain of Afterguard




Master (1st Rate)

Master (6th Rate}

2nd Master  line of battle ship

2nd Master brigs cutters etc

Master’s Mate (1st Rate)[also Passed Midshipman]

Master’s Mate (6th rate)

Surgeon more than 20 years
Surgeon less than 6 years

Physician Naval Hospital

£383/5/-  to £401/10/-

Assistant surgeon  qualified

Assistant surgeon, unqualified


Midshipman Ordinary
Volunteer 1st class

Volunteer 2nd class

Volunteer 3rd class


Lieutenant, flag ship

Lieutenant, 1st and 2nd rate
Lieutenant commanding prison ship

Commander of sloop, bomb etc 121 men down
Commander  75 men and less

Captain (1st  Rate)
£419 est
Captain (2nd Rate)
£292 £365
Captain (3rd Rate)
Captain (4th Rate)
182/10/- £255/10
Captain (5th Rate)
£146 £219
Captain (6th Rate)

Rear Admiral


Admiral of Blue or White[1797] or Red [1806]

Admiral of the Fleet [a singular entity]

Clerk (1st Rate)
Clerk (3rd Rate)
Clerk (6th Rate)



Officer’s servants

Mess Steward


Physicians and Surgeons were paid according to time of service up to 20 years.
Over 20 years - £25.4.0 per month
Over 10 years - £19.12.6    “
Over 6 years - £15.8.0        “
Under 6 years- £14.0.0       “
Physicians, who were more highly qualified earned even more.  The lower the rating of the ship generally the less experienced the surgeon.

Up to November 1814 backdated to July Clerks were paid as midshipmen.
A midshipman ordinary held the rank but not the post of Midshipman and was paid as an able seaman; a volunteer 1st – 3rd class was likely to go on to become either a midshipman or a master’s mate; a youth.

Certain officers had an allowance to pay servants at a rate of 19/- per calendar month; the number of servants permitted depended on the officer.   Which sum is calculated into the pay as shown above.
Captain:  8 servants = £91/4/0 p.a.
First Lieutenant, Boatswain, Gunner, Carpenter - 2 servants = £22/16/0 p.a.
Other Lieutenants, Cook, Purser, Chaplain, Surgeon, Master - 1 servant = £11/8/0 p.a.

Note that the pay of an ordinary seaman and able seaman had not changed between 1660 to 1797 at 19/- and 24/- per month.

A Warrant officer had to purchase their warrant at £65; Pursers had to furthermore provide surety to the Navy Board.

Daily pay was:

1700 naval captain from 8/- to £1 per diem ie  £146 to £365 pa
1809 naval captain from 12/- to £1/3/- ie £219 to £419/16/-

Seamen: 8 pence  = £12/3/4d pa [1806]
Leading Seaman: 1 shilling £18/5/- pa
Mates: 1 shilling, 6 pence £27/7/6d  pa
Masters: 3 shillings, 8 pence  £66/3/4d pa
Midshipmen: 4 shillings, 8 pence
Lieutenant: 10 shillings  £182/10/- pa
1st Lieutenant: 15 shillings
Commander: 17 shillings
Captain: 1 pound, 4 shillings £438 pa [Third Rate?]

However, a (large) portion of pay was kept back to be paid on decommissioning, primarily as an insurance against desertion and for other reasons.
There were some deductions from pay which were calculated thus:
6d per month was paid by everyone, officers and seamen alike to the upkeep of the Royal Hospital, Greenwich.
1/- per month paid by all warrant officers into the Greenwich Chest for the benefit of sick and hurt seamen.
3d per pound annually levied on all officers for the Officer's Widow's Fund.
In addition to this Billy Pitt's introduction of Income Tax in 1799 on anyone earning more than £60 p.a. removed even more. This was calculated on a sliding scale downwards with the highest rate being 2/- in the pound for salaries over £150 p.a.

A 6th rate captain will then be taking away (approximately) £255/19/0 p.a. (after deductions). Compare this to the captain of a first rate who would be paid £721/16/2.
A Lieutenant of a sixth rate might expect £100/15/0 and a Master £91/14/9. A surgeon (under 6 years) £60/8/9, while Carpenters, Gunners, Boatswains and Pursers would receive £48/13/6, this being calculated with the addition of the servant allowance

Any officer 'on the beach', either permanently (retired) or while awaiting a new ship or commission would be put on half-pay. They did not actually get half of what they might earn if employed but the rates were actually slightly better than that. For example a lieutenant at sea earned 6s per day while the lowest half-pay rate was 5s per day. There were some 3,000 lieutenants on the list and only the top 300 got the full half-pay of 7s per day. You will note that this is actually more than their sea-pay! Below that 700 got 6s per day and the rest got the 5s. The rates are calculated on a sliding scale according to seniority, not according to whatever rate their last ship was. So a captain recently made post would receive less than one with ten years seniority. It did not signify that he may have been on a higher rated ship than his senior counterpart. In 1815 half-pay was paid quarterly.
Half-Pay Rates (per day)
Captain 14/9  down to 10/6
Lieutenant 7/- to  5/-
Master 7/- to  5/-
Surgeon 15/- to 5/-
Purser 5/- to 3/-
Standing warrant officers did not get half-pay but were entitled to a pension.

Note: the merchants of Quebec paid £6-£8 per month to able seamen in 1814 more than 4 times the pay for an AB on the King’s ships.


  1. I posted links to these two naval blogs on

    I'm sure they will be interested.

  2. Appreciate that you're amalgamating data from different sources rather than being the originator of the data, but some of this doesn't look right to me. e.g. it states above that in 1797 a Commander of an unrated vessel earns almost double that of a Post Captain of any ship below 2nd Rate. If that had been the case the 1797 mutinies would probably have been led by Captains of 74's :-)

    1. hmm that does look odd; I will check and see if I copied wrongly.
      Of course it might well be in the wrong column and should be in 1806 [I have some data from 1808 as well when the captain of a 6th rater is earning £201/12/- pa] so I will go over all my books again - thanks for picking that up, I plead going bug-eyed over poring over forms.

    2. Keith, I've taken it out and updated with a couple of other bits I found in Brian Lavery, and I will continue searching. I have some lovely juicy tempting snippets about how much pay was increased in 1806 without all the data to know what that was added to ...

    3. this is the source I believe I used but my gut feeling says you are right

    4. Hi Sarah

      There's a good table in 'The Illustrated Companion to Nelsons Navy' (here on Amazon:

      I have a screenshot of it but can't see a way to post it here.

    5. Funilly enough I bought a copy on ebay and it arrived yesterday... thanks. I will see about getting round to updating

    6. ok, I have updated, and the Illustrated companion agreed with the former figure ...but I do have more