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Royal Naval Biography/Barrell, Justinian


Great-grandson of the late General William Barrell, fifteen years colonel of the 4th (King’s Own) regiment, governor of Pendennis Castle, &c. who died in 1749; leaving an only son. Savage Barrell, Esq. of Ashford, near Staines, who by his wife, the sister of General Rainsford, left issue three sons.

Mr. Justinian Barrell entered into the royal navy about the commencement of the French revolutionary war; and was a youngster on board the Brunswick 74, at the ever memorable battle of June 1st, 1794; on which occasion that ship was most dreadfully cut up, and sustained a far greater loss than any other of the British fleet; it amounted to no less than 44 officers and men slain, and 115 wounded: among the latter (and who soon afterwards died of his wounds), was her heroic captain, John Harvey, of whom we have spoken at p. 613 of Vol. I. Part II. From this period, Mr. Barrell served, without intermission, as midshipman and master’s mate, of the Russell 74; Kingfisher sloop, in which vessel he witnessed the capture of the French brig Egalité, of 20 guns and 200 men, and le Général privateer, of 14 guns and 104 men, on the Lisbon station[1]; Kent 74, bearing the flag of Lord Duncan, in the expedition against the Helder (1799); Zebra bomb. Captain Edward Sneyd Clay,[errata 1] attached to the Elsineur expedition, under Vice-Admiral Dickson, in 1800; Plover sloop. Captain Edward Galwey; and Santa Margaritta frigate, successively commanded by Captains Augustus Leveson Gower, Henry [errata 2]Whiteby, and Wilson Rathborne[errata 3]; until appointed by Admiral (afterwards Sir William) Young, acting lieutenant of the Dispatch, a fine new 18 gun-brig, in Aug. 1805.

Previous to the peace of Amiens, Mr. Barrell, while in charge of a prize, taken by the Plover, had a severe attack of yellow fever; and, after quitting the naval hospital at Barbadoes, was for some time a supernumerary on board the Melpomene frigate. Captain (now Admiral) Sir Charles Hamilton. In 1802, the Plover, owing to a strong lee current, which took the ship near six points out of her course, struck on Anegada reef, where she lay about thirty hours, during which her masts were cut away, her guns, carriages, and all heavy stores thrown overboard: she then floated, and by setting two small square sails, and steering with a raft which had been formed to save the crew in case of need, was got into Spanish Town Sound (island of Virgin Gorda), about nine leagues to leeward. From thence she proceeded to Jamaica, where Mr. Barrell, having passed his examination, and been recommended to Captain Gower, joined the Santa Margaritta, which ship returned home in Aug. 1803, and was subsequently employed on Channel service[2].

In the winter of 1805-6, the Dispatch encountered a long and heavy gale in the Bay of Biscay, and Mr. Barrell was the only officer who would undertake to represent to her commander, now Captain Edward Hawkins, the necessity of throwing some of her guns overboard. On his taking charge of the deck at four p.m., he accordingly went down to the cabin, and suggested the propriety of so lightening the vessel in that manner, as the only means of securing her safety for the night: the reply was, “I will be up directly;” and in a short time, ten guns were engulphed: the brig then became like a perfect life-boat, and continued so during the remainder of the gale. We should observe that, previous to this, every thing had been done to lighten her aloft, even to the lowering of the main-yard to within a few feet of the booms.

The Dispatch formed part of the squadron under Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis, at the capture of the French frigate le Presidente, Sept. 27th, 1806[3], the only shot which hulled the enemy, during a cannonade of exactly an hour’s duration, was the first fired, and that by Mr. Barreil.

After this cruise the Dispatch was commanded by Captain James Lillicrap, under whom Mr. Barrell continued to serve as acting lieutenant until the termination of the operations against Copenhagen, in 1807[4]; when we find him placed on Lord Gambler’s list for promotion. On his return home, he was placed in charge of the Princess Caroline, a Danish 74, full of stores, at Spithead, where he remained some weeks, with never more than 200 men, including troops, on board; and at times with only half that number. During this period, the weather being very tempestuous, the ship frequently drove, brought both bowers a-head, and compelled him to let go the sheet anchor. He at length conducted her into Portsmouth harbour; and, a few days after she was dismantled, received a commission, dated Dec. 19th, 1807, appointing him lieutenant of the Dispatch. Between the date of his acting order and this, no less than 800 midshipmen had passed over his head, by being placed on the list of lieutenants. We know of no other instance in which an officer ever held an acting order for nearly two years and a half, the greater part of the time on the home station. During this period Mr. Barrell had been occasionally employed on boat service; and on one occasion was nearly taken prisoner by a body of French troops, who came down to the beach unperceived, while he was endeavouring to bring off a grounded chasse-marée. In this instance, he appears to have behaved with great coolness, steering the boat, under sail, himself, and causing the whole of his crew to lie under the thwarts until out of danger.

In 1808, the Dispatch proceeded to the Jamaica station, where she continued under the command of Captain Lillicrap and his successor, Captain James Aberdour, for a period of three years. While there, Mr. Barrell, then first lieutenant, constructed a Pakenham rudder, with which the Brazen sloop of war waa steered from Cape Franpois, St. Domingo, to Port Royal, where it was ordered to be kept in the dock-yard for inspection. Previous to his return home, he had the temporary command of the Dispatch for three weeks in the Gulf of Maracaybo.

In Nov. 1811, the Dispatch having been paid off. Lieutenant Barrell joined the Loire frigate, then commanded by Captain Alexander W. Schomberg, but subsequently by Captains George W. Blarney[errata 4] and Thomas Brown, under which latter officer he served until appointed flag-lieutenant to Rear-Admiral Foote, at Portsmouth, in 1813. Up to this period he had been present at the capture and destruction of no less than thirty-nine French, Dutch, and Danish ships of the line, twenty-six frigates, eight corvettes, thirteen large brigs, one cutter, twenty-five gun-vessels, and several small privateers and row-boats.

On the 18th Feb, 1815, Rear-Admiral Foote struck his flag; and on the 8th of the following month, addressed the secretary of the Admiralty as follows:

“Sir,– I request you will be pleased to lay before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, the enclosed suggestions of my late flag-lieutenant, Justinian Barrell, on an improved mode of supplying and receiving stores.

“After much reflection, and some experience, I beg to assure their lordships that I most entirely coincide in opinion with Lieutenant Barrell, whose assiduity and uniform good conduct entitle him to my warmest commendation. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)E. J. Foote.”


Rear-Admiral’s Office, Portsmouth Dock-Yard,
31st, 1815.

“Sir,– Having, under your direction, many occasions of observing the losses and delays in conveying stores of all kinds from the dock-yard to H.M. ships, and the desertion, drunkenness, and irregularities among the seamen sent for this purpose, I beg to lay before you what has naturally occurred to me, from the mode of conveying stores from the ordnance and victualling departments, although the advantage to the King’s service is much more evident in the dock-yard stores, as will appear from the annexed Reference No. I.

“When stores are to be conveyed to foreign stations in ships of war, they are shipped in sailing lighters in a few hours by the dock-yard people, who are accustomed to the business; but the delay, confusion, and inconvenience incident to the warrant-officers drawing stores are so various, that they will most properly appear in Reference No. II.

“In my situation, it may appear presumptuous to pretend to calculate the additional number of lighters, or of labourers, to render ships’ boats and seamen unnecessary; but from the rough sketch which is made in Reference No. III., some idea may be formed of the expence: still less is it in my power to estimate the loss of stores and boats, with their gear; or of men, by desertion, sickness, and the upsetting or swamping of ships’ boats; but I am very much mistaken if those losses do not far exceed the expence proposed as a remedy.

“If the sending officers and men from Spithead to Portsmouth dockyard, and the shipping of stores from thence in open boats, are attended with losses and delay, the performance of the same service at the Nore, in the Downs, and Cawsand bay, is still more objectionable. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Justinian Barrell, Flag-Lieutenant.”

To Rear-Admiral Foote.

reference no. i.

“From the naval officers being unacquainted with the numerous and tedious forms required in the drawing and returning of stores (which are not even the same in all the dock-yards), much delay is caused to the party sent from the ship, and to those who issue the stores.

“Seamen sent to the dock-yard are deprived of their best meals; as it is impossible for men of different messes to take beef with them; or could it be cooked at the yard, if they did; on banyan days, pease only are boiled; and the privation of substantial food is often the cause of unintentional drunkenness; as a small quantity of strong beer will intoxicate a man whose stomach is empty.

“The men, in the winter months, frequently get wet early in the day; and not only remain so, but are obliged to sleep in wet cloaths, when prevented by bad weather from returning to their own ships, which causes desertion, drunkenness, and discontent.

“To prevent these and many other irregularities, all demands, after being ’ approved,’ and warrant officers’ remains, should be lodged at the dock-yard, and the stores shipped by the dock-yard people, as in the ordnance and victualling departments; by which a ship would be completed in one-third of the time now taken by her own boats and their crews, whose daily labour frequently amounts to the loading one boat, which, after attempting to get off to the ship, is obliged to return with the stores damaged, and sometimes destroyed. I have seen eighty guineas’ worth of oil and paint completely destroyed in one boat; but the loss of valuable lives is a much more serious consideration.

“Bills of lading and a counterpart should be sent off with the stores, to be signed by the commanding and warrant officers; those papers are printed, and now in use as warrants, and might in a very short time be filled up as bills of lading.

“The dock-yard stores are the most valuable part of a ship’s equipment; and as sails, cordage, twine, &c. are materially injured by wet, or even by being put away in a damp state, their being taken on board the ship dry, without damage, and at a suitable time, is of great consequence, both in the preservation of the sea-store, and the expediting of the ship’s equipment.

“The yard-vessels, to prevent embezzlement, may be each under the command of warrant-officers of good character, being in ordinary or borne on the check, the boatswain and carpenter of the ship fitting attending as the gunners are directed to do at the gun-wharf, by the 39th and 47th articles of the Port Orders; viz. ‘Gunners only to attend at the shipping their stores at the gun-wharf, and sign indents, before the ships to which they belong proceed to sea. When gunners’ stores are returned, the captain or commanding officer is to cause the hatches of the hoy to be safely locked, the key sealed up, and given to the master for delivery to the officer of the department on shore.’

“A boat may be sent to the yard for present-use stores only, to prevent delay, in the same manner as is in practice for obtaining a small quantity of provisions, when so large a vessel as a lighter is unnecessary; and great attention should be paid not to detain this boat, by giving her the preference, which would prevent the detention exceeding one hour.

“All condemned and unserviceable stores should be returned before ships begin to refit; the clerk of the survey frequently complains of stores being returned by ships’ boats, at different periods, as opportunities offer i which makes the attendance of clerks necessary, when they should be on other duties, and occasions complex and irregular accounts.”

reference no. ii.

“When many ships and vessels are receiving and returning stores (and I have known from thirty to forty ships’ boats on this duty on the same day), it will occur without any neglect on the part of the dock-yard officers, or their clerks, that many warrant officers must be unattended to, as the store-keepers’ clerks attend both the issuing and receiving of stores, and cannot serve more than five ships at one time.

"The duty to be performed at the dock-yard causes the boatswain and carpenter to be absent from their ship when fitting or refitting, though the service would be much expedited by the personal attention of the former to his duty on board; more particularly as the rigging in his absence, is often undesignedly cut out to waste; and the shipwrights and caulkers frequently require the carpenter to point out defects; and his presence is indispensable to their executing their duty properly.

“The men sent with these warrant-officers to the yard (more particularly from small ships and vessels) reduce the working strength afloat so much as very materially to retard the equipment of the ship.

“The warrant officers must get the demands signed by the master attendant, or builder, and clerk of the survey, at whose office, notes or warrants to the store-keeper and timber-master, for the delivery of the stores are given; and these warrants to be signed the same as the demands, and numbered at the present-use store.

“The warrant thus far completed, the warrant officers proceed to drawing their stores, considering they have no farther difficulty to experience; but they have still to learn where every article is issued: At the paint shop a document, unknown to them, is required, namely, “a note for the paint and oil from a clerk at the storekeeper’s office,” taken from the warrant.

“The warrant officers, thus disappointed, go to the office for the clerk, whose duty, probably, has, at the same time, obliged him to be at the sail-loft, or at some of the store-houses, and are told that no other clerk can assist them without the direction of the store-keeper, who may be at the weigh-bridge, present-use store, or lot-yard; much time is lost by the warrant officers and their parties thus going over half the yard in quest of dock-yard officers, with whose persons they are unacquainted, and finding that they are losing time, they determine to try to get some other article, very likely a boat; away they go with their parties to the boat-house (which is at a considerable distance from the store-keeper’s office, and from many of the store-houses) where they are told they must go back to the lot-yard for a note, without which a boat cannot be delivered.

“Many stores, such as boats, boat-sails, plank, spars, treenails, wedges, tables, paint, oil, &c. are issued by persons at the store-houses, at a considerable distance from each other, “by notes” taken from the warrant, by clerks at different offices. It frequently happens that days, indeed weeks elapse, before the whole of the above-named stores are drawn; and, if the notes are lost (as is sometimes the case) a duplicate must be obtained; or if the articles are considered of little moment, and can be got off charge by expenditure, they shift without them, although they are solved on the warrant as delivered.

“The forms in returning stores are still more difficult. The foreman afloat, who is often examining some ship in the harbour, must be brought to attend with a survey clerk, a block-maker to examine the blocks, a blacksmith to overhaul pins, hooks, thimbles, &c. labourers from the store-keeper’s department to measure all cables, cordage, &c.; which is first to be inspected by a master-attendant; thus are the warrant officers pacing from place to place in search of people; frequently to no purpose. After the stores are thus examined and surveyed, a return note is made by the survey-clerk; this note the warrant officers have to get signed, and an issue-note or warrant, but numbered at the store-keeper’s office, by an issuing clerk, whose duty has probably taken him from the office; when the note is completed, storekeeper’s clerks receive the stores by it; many articles mentioned therein, the warrant-officers are told to take to distant parts of the yard, where they receive small notes for them, by which (being taken to the clerks) the stores are solved as returned. Many officers are not aware of such notes being required, and when they think they have done with the yard duty, they are often a day or two collecting them. The warrant officers being also ignorant of the particular places where stores are lodged, causes much delay; labourers employed in this duty would readily bring the proper persons to act together, and would know the store or place into which every serviceable or decayed article should be returned; the warrant-officers only attending to see the account taken of the stores.

“Only a few of the forms are here mentioned; there are many others too intricate to be described.

“Sea and Foreign stores can be shipped in one summer’s day (and from three to five ships attended to at the same time) by persons acquainted with the routine; due attention being paid by the issuing departments; whereas this duty is seldom accomplished by the officers and men sent from the ships, in less than four days.

“Of the warrant officers tried by courts-martial, I believe two-thirds are for neglect or irregularity when on dock-yard duty.”

reference no. iii.

“Seven lighters, of about sixty tons each, and one decked-boat belonging to the yard, were employed at Portsmouth dock-yard during the French war; instances frequently occurred in the winter time of one of these vessels being employed three weeks on a service, which might have been performed in less than one, if done under the direction of the dockyard people. During this delay, other ships were using newly drawn boats in endeavouring to get their stores off.

“As so much more expedition would be used by the stores being entirely shipped by dock-yard people, there is reason to believe that no more lighters, or decked boats, would be required; at all events four, of about twenty tons each, to convey present-use stores to the large ships, and sea and foreign stores to the smaller vessels, would be sufficient.

“It is presumed that no more than sixty additional labourers would be required; all heavy work being now performed by convicts.

“Lighters of sixty tons burthen were, I believe, hired during the French war, at 28/. each, per month, and vessels from fifteen to twenty tons would probably cost from 12/. to 15/. each. These vessels might be built in the dock-yard, and two men borne on the yard books as riggers, attached to each, allowing the whole to be hired–

Sixty labourers, at 17s. 6d. per week £2730
Four vessels, 15l. each, per month 720
Per annum £3450

“Of the many serious accidents which have befallen the crews of boats employed on dock-yard duty, the following came within the notice of oHicers now on the spot.

“Thirty-five men were lost in the Hibernia’s launch, and fourteen in the Dreadnought’s, at Plymouth, in 1808 and 1809. Fifteen were lost in the Bombay’s cutter, in the Downs, in 1809. About fifteen in one of the Caesar’s boats, at Plymouth, in 1798. The Impetueux’s cutter, full of stores, sunk alongside the Santa Margaritta, in Hamoaze, (on her way to Cawsand Bay); the boat, stores, and coxswain were lost. The Princess of Orange’s launch, loaded with cordage, sunk in the Downs, in 1810; two men were drowned, and the boat, and stores were lost.”

Extract of a letter from the carpenter of the Vallant 74, to her captain, dated March 8th, 1814.

“From Cawsand Bay, with the wind northerly, and tide of ebb, a launch is often two or three hours getting to the dock-yard, the boat’s-crew wet and fatigued; by the time the old stores are landed, and laid out for survey, it is eleven o’clock, the carpenter informs the clerk of the survey, his stores are ready for examination; he tells the carpenter to get the foreman afloat to attend, and by the time he is, one of his clerks shall he there. The carpenter then makes the best of his way to the foreman afloat’s office, and finds no person there also[errata 5]; he then is at a loss, and asks the first person he meets, who readily tells him he is gone afloat; perhaps he is on board the ship the stores belong to, to consult the carpenter about the defects. In the afternoon they all go on board, winter time, dark, wet, cold, and hungry, and often times obliged to bear up for the guard-ship, and lie in their wet cloathes all night, the ship’s duty standing fast for want of men and boats; the rigging wants overhauling, provisions, water, beer, coals, &c. alongside the same day, and the commanding officer is under the necessity of sending some of the lighters away loaded, for want of hands to discharge them; the next day, if the weather permits, they are at the dock-yard again; perhaps the carpenter’s stores are surveyed, and by the time the old stores are taken to their respective places, and warrant out from demand, and properly signed by the master shipwright, and clerk of the survey, it is lime to go on board.

“The third day they are at the dock yard, and the warrant signed, the carpenter (a stranger) takes it to the store-houses; perhaps they tell him they are busy, and by the time he gets his plank, &c. they will serve him; that Mr. Richards will deliver the plank, Mr. Thomas the deals, and Mr. Randle the wedges and treenails: he is now at a loss to find either of those persons, as their duly calls them to many parts of the yard, neither he, nor any of his party know them if they meet them; and by this method it takes all the time the ship is refitting for the carpenter to draw his stores, and it is a mere impossibility that he can see the ship’s defects made good; and it may be said, as to the defects, that the ship is refitting without a carpenter, as he scarcely sees her by day-light. Although there are many inconveniencies to the service by the above method of drawing stores, yet there is no blame to be attached to any individual; for the foreman afloat must go to his respective ships, &c.

“I beg leave to propose a plan, that if a carpenter of the navy was appointed to survey the old stores, with the survey clerk, the carpenter to whom the stores belong, would have no more to do than to leave the demand, &c. properly signed, and the captain of the ship to nominate the day, the stores to be ready. There is the former and latter parts of the day lost, and so is every blowing day: I can venture to undertake, with six yard labourers, to complete a 74-gun ship’s stores in a day and a half, and so in proportion for other ships. If this should meet with approbation, the trial will be no expence, and in my humble opinion, the wear and tear of the boats, and their furniture, is more than double what will compensate for the labourers’ wages, and every man will have his dinner warm and comfortable, which was not the case before

“The mode of drawing stores at Plymouth is so very different from that at Portsmouth, that a person coming once in eight or fourteen months cannot know how to proceed.

“The following occurrence was related to me by the boatswain of the Scipion 74:–

“The Scipion, being complete for Channel service, sailed from Portsmouth to Plymouth in the early part of July, 1812, where she was ordered to fit foreign; the seamen having been paid, the commander-in-chief requested the commissioner would send the stores off without any other men than the warrant officers attending from the Scipion; the warrants being ready, the warrant officers landed at the dock-yard at half-past one o’clock, and by six their stores were all shipped (filling three lighters) by yard labourers, and sent off to the ship; the next day several lighters and launches full of stores for foreign yards were sent off in the same manner; the warrant officers attending and indenting for the whole.”

The manner in which this plan was received at headquarters will be seen by the following letter:

Admiralty Office, 10th Mar. 1815.

“Sir,– Having laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your letter of the 8th instant, enclosing one from Lieutenant J. Barrell, containing suggestions on an improved mode of supplying and receiving stores, I have their Lordships’ commands to signify their direction to you to express to Lieutenant Barrell their Lordships’ thanks for his communication. I am, &c.

(Signed)Jno. Barrow.”

To Rear-Admiral Foote.

In a private letter to the same officer from Sir George Hope, then a Lord of the Admiralty, there is the following passage:

“Although there can be no occasion to adopt, during peace, the plan suggested by your flag-lieutenant, it is certainly a subject well worthy consideration for a future war.”

Lieutenant Barrell was promoted to the rank of commander on the eleventh day after the date of Mr. Barrow’s letter. We should here observe, that he became flag-lieutenant to Rear-Admiral Foote with the clear understanding that he was not to expect promotion would be the result of his holding that appointment; the rear-admiral having then a nephew and other young friends depending upon the exertion of his influence in their behalf.

This officer married, in 1811, Miss Townley.

  1. See Vol. I. Part II. pp. 762 and 814.
  2. Captain Gower died at Port Royal, Jamaica, Aug. 22d, 1802, aged only 22 years: he was the fourth son of the late Rear-Admiral the Hon. Jon Leveson Gower.
  3. See Suppl. Part I. p. 176.
  4. See Suppl. Part. II. p. 227, et seq.

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