top of page

Royal Naval Academy
Listed: Grade II*

Construction of The Royal Naval Academy building began in 1729. The academy itself was established in 1733, for just 40 recruits, to train as officers for the Royal Navy. The founders' intentions were to provide an alternative means to recruit officers and to provide standardised training, education and admission. A comprehensive syllabus provided theoretical and practical experience in the dockyard and at sea.

Graduates of the Academy could earn two years of sea time as part of their studies, and would be able to take the lieutenant's examination after four years at sea instead of six. The Academy did not, however, achieve the objective of becoming the preferred path to becoming a naval officer; the traditional means of a sea-going "apprenticeship" remained the preferred alternative. The vast majority of the officer class was still recruited in this manner based on family ties, and patronage. Family connections, "interest" and a sincere belief in the superiority of practical experience learned on the quarterdeck ensured that the officer class favoured the traditional model. William IV summed up this view when he remarked that "there was no place superior to the quarterdeck of a British man of war for the education of a gentleman".



Captain Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke, 1776-1841

Portrait by Samuel Lane.

Broke is shown here in full-dress uniform standing on the quarterdeck of HMS Shannon,

of which he was captain during its victory over the USS Chesapeake in 1813. 

He attended the Royal Naval Academy in 1791.

From the cupola structure atop the building, Vice Admiral Nelson would survey the fleet.

In 1806 it was renamed the Royal Naval College and in 1816 became the Royal Naval College and the School for Naval Architecture. It was closed as a training establishment for officer entrants in 1837. A distinguished Academy graduate was Philip Broke, who attended the Academy in 1791. He achieved particular fame as captain of HMS Shannon in its victory over USS Chesapeake in the War of 1812. Two of Jane Austen's brothers, Francis and Charles, attended the Academy in 1786 and 1791, respectively. Both went on to become admirals.

Another veteran of the War of 1812, Henry Ducie Chads, attended the Academy before joining the Royal Navy. He was First Lieutenant of HMS Java during her capture by USS Constitution. Command of the ship fell to Chads when her captain was mortally wounded near the close of the action. He was forced to surrender the heavily damaged Java.

DRAFT credit: Wikipedia/Royal Museums Greenwich/LP

bottom of page