Chatham Chest

  • General History
  • 1 min

By Crusader1307

The old Royal Navy tradition of The ''Chatham Chest'' was created in 1588 AD – as a means of collecting a fee leveled against all Ordinary Seamen. These funds would be collected prior to issuance of Pay and forwarded to The Chatham Dockyard, Kent, England. The funds were actually stored in a large metal and wrought iron framed Sea Chest – thoroughly secured by Padlocks, and under the direct control of The Dock Harbor Master.


''Legend'' cites that after the destruction of The Spanish Armada (1588) and subsequent War with Spain – disabled English Sailors petitioned Queen Elizabeth I for a Pension and long-term Care for such. She directed The Lord High admiral of England – Charles Howard to make legal address for the creation of such a fund. While no known examples of graft were known against The Chatham Account, for many years an unfair rate of pay withholding from Sailors was common. Amounts kept in arrears for The Chest went from one rate one year, and jumping to a higher rate the next. No system of checks and balances existed until 1673.


The high amount of Naval Pensioners rose dramatically during The Napoleonic Wars of the 19th Century, so much so that more and more disabled or ''20 year Men'' demanded medical care and billeting. The Royal Navy, under direction of Parliament in 1803 – began to ''make up'' for any needs as the Claims rose. In 1814, The Program was merged into standing programs created by The Greenwich Hospital (who took charge of all accounts, thus removing the need for a physical Chest). Greenwich would maintain the practice until 1869.