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Sir  Anthony Deane (c.1638–1720?), by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1690Sir Anthony Deane (c.1638–1720?), by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1690
Deane, Sir Anthony (c.1638–1720?), shipbuilder, was born in Harwich, the son of Anthony Deane (d. 1659), master mariner. He served his apprenticeship as a shipwright under Christopher Pett, master shipwright at Woolwich and one of the family which dominated the naval dockyards of the period. The distinction between the ship designer, or ‘naval architect’, and the practical shipbuilder was not clear at that time, but Deane, having been bound to the master shipwright of a naval dockyard, would emerge from his training as more than a mere craftsman. He rose rapidly, and was assistant master shipwright at Woolwich by 1660, at the age of twenty-two.

Two years later Deane first met Samuel Pepys, later his great friend and patron and then a member of the Navy Board, who saw Deane as a possible rival to the Pett family. Pepys found him ‘a very able man, and able to do the King's service … [I] will commend his work with skill and vie with others, especially the Petts’ (Pepys, Diary, 18 Aug 1662). Pepys's diary contains many references to Deane, as he instructed Pepys in the art of shipbuilding. The shipyard at Harwich was reopened in 1664 and Deane was appointed its master shipwright, giving him his first chance to design and build ships. He became an officer in the militia in 1667 and used the title ‘Captain’ from then until he was knighted in 1675. He was promoted master shipwright of the larger yard at Portsmouth in 1668 and rose to become commissioner at Portsmouth in 1672.

Deane soon gained a reputation for fast vessels, whether building royal yachts or ships of the line carrying 60 to 100 guns. Pepys exulted in the speed of his ships: the seventy-gun Resolution of 1667, for example, was ‘the best ship by report in all the world’ (Pepys, 15 July 1668), and of the sixteen-gun Greyhound of 1672 it was said: ‘She steers singularly well, keeps a weather helm and never missed staying … We believe she will be as good a sailer as ever built in England’ (Johns, 181). Deane built three large ships, first rates of 100 guns and three decks, during his period at Portsmouth, as replacements for ships lost in the Dutch wars. One of these, the Royal Charles of 1673, had initial problems of stability, and this seems to have convinced Deane that ships of the line should be made more stable. In all, Deane designed and built twenty-five ships between 1660 and 1675, more than a quarter of the ships added to the navy in those years, and he built sixteen out of forty-four of the larger or ‘rated’ ships.

Deane's career as an active naval shipbuilder declined when he went to London in 1674 to become a member of the Navy Board as commissioner of the victualling accounts. The duties of his post were light, however, and he designed a few small ships and supervised the construction of thirty new ones ordered by act of parliament in 1677, setting the pattern for naval shipbuilding for the next seventy years. Under his supervision his son, Anthony junior, built two ships of a new type, called galley frigates, intended for use against the Barbary corsairs in the Mediterranean; these combined the advantages of rowing and sailing.

In 1675 Deane visited France on the orders of the king, to build two yachts for Louis XIV. This was held against him in 1679, during the exclusion crisis, when he was accused of giving information to the French and imprisoned in the Tower of London with Pepys. He successfully defended himself but left office in 1680. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1681, serving on its council, and made a substantial living as a commercial shipbuilder for five years, perhaps designing private yachts. In any case he demanded a salary of £1000 to return to the navy as a member of a special commission for the repair of the fleet in 1686. Pepys denigrated the other leading shipwrights in order to ensure that Deane was appointed. The commission appears to have been successful but its term expired in 1688 and Deane was not reappointed after the revolution of that year. He and Pepys were again imprisoned in 1689, but released in 1690. He dined with Evelyn that year, and apparently renounced much of the work he had done since 1664 on the design of ships of the line. He urged their abolition and replacement with small, fast frigates and fireships, reverting to the policies of his youth.

Deane took part in many experiments, for example in building the Nonsuch designed by Van Hemskirke, a renegade Dutchman. Pepys later recalled this as ‘the ridiculous proposition … of building a ship with regard to the grain of the timber, and laying the roots all one way’ (Chappell, appendix II, 301). Deane invented a cannon known from its stout form as Punchinello, and he experimented with the lead sheathing of ships' bottoms. His Doctrine of Naval Architecture was written in 1670, and gives the clearest account, before the eighteenth century, of how the hull of a warship was designed. The title page bears the inscription ‘written in the year 1670 at the instance of Samuel Pepys’, and it had found its way into Pepys's library by 1682, but perhaps that does not tell the whole story. The treatise contains many references to ‘the young artist’, and also expresses an intention to ‘leave nothing unfolded which may advance anything to the meanest capacity’. This was hardly flattering to Pepys, and may suggest that Deane intended it for publication, for the training of young shipwrights.

Little is known about Deane's family life, except that his first wife, Anne, died in childbirth in 1677 and that he married, on 22 July 1678, Christian, widow of Sir John Dawes. He cited his fifteen children as one of the reasons why he needed to be paid £1000 in 1686. In his early days he was often accused of arrogance, having a quarrel with the lord chancellor in 1664 over the felling of timber in his private estate; two years later he was accused by the captain of the Colchester of ‘having an uncivil tongue … in regard he was a tradesman’ (Johns, 171). He died at Charterhouse Square in London, probably in 1720.

Deane's reputation as a ship designer was much boosted by his friendship with Pepys, who lost no opportunity to praise him in his diary and elsewhere. According to Pepys, ‘He is the first that has come to any certainty beforehand of foretelling the draught of water of a ship before she is launched’ (Pepys, 19 May 1666). Deane mentions the system in his Doctrine, but does not claim its invention, and there is evidence that it was in common use by the 1660s. A different view of his qualities was provided by William Sutherland, a shipbuilder of the next generation, who wrote:
I could never learn that Sir Anthony was much of a mathematical practitioner, or a very great proficient in the practice, but had the art of talking well, and gave good encouragement to those men who was well known to be grounded in the practice part of building ships. (Hattendorf, 266)
A more balanced view might suggest that Deane was indeed the best shipbuilder of the early restoration period, but only marginally ahead of rivals such as Sir John Tippets and Christopher, Peter, and Phineas Pett, and not head and shoulders above them as Pepys suggests.

Brian Lavery


A. W. Johns, ‘Sir Anthony Deane’, Mariner's Mirror, 11 (1925), 164–93 · Deane's doctrine of naval architecture, ed. B. Lavery (1981) · Pepys, Diary · J. R. Tanner, ed., A descriptive catalogue of the naval manuscripts in the Pepysian Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge, 1–3, Navy RS, 26–7, 57 (1903–9) · S. Pepys, Naval minutes, ed. J. R. Tanner, Navy RS, 60 (1926) · The Tangier papers of Samuel Pepys, ed. E. Chappell, Navy RS, 73 (1935) · J. B. Hattendorf and others, eds., British naval documents, 1204–1960, Navy RS, 131 (1993) · J. L. Chester and J. Foster, eds., London marriage licences, 1521–1869 (1887)


BL · Bodl. Oxf., corresp. and papers · Magd. Cam., papers relating to naval architecture; various letters and MSS · NMM, corresp. · TNA: PRO


J. Greenhill, oils, c.1670, NMM · G. Kneller, oils, 1690, NPG [see illus.]