BATTEN, Sir William (c.1601-67), of the Navy Office, Seething Lane, London and Black House, Walthamstow, Essex.
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Family and Education
b. c.1601, 2nd s. of Andrew Batten, mariner, of Easton in Gordano, Som. m. (1) lic. 23 Sept. 1625, aged 24, Margaret, da. of William Browne, Cordwainer, of London, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da.; (2) 3 Feb. 1659, Elizabeth, da. of one Turner, wid. of William Woodstocke of Westminster, s.p. Kntd. c. July 1648.1
Freeman, Merchant Taylors’ Co. 1623; freeman, Portsmouth 1638, Aug. 1660; j.p. Hants, Kent and Mdx. 1638-48, Kent July 1660-d., Essex, Hants and Mdx. Aug. 1660-d.; commr. for assessment, Kent 1661-3, Essex 1663-d., piracy, London 1662.2
Capt. RN by 1638; v.-adm. (parliamentary) 1642-7; r.-adm. (royalist) July-Nov. 1648.
Surveyor of the navy 1638-48, June 1660-d.; elder bro. Trinity House June 1660-d., dep. master June 1660-1, master June 1663-4.
Batten came from an obscure family. His father’s property was worth only £30 p.a., and in any case was mortgaged. His brother had been a master in the Royal Navy and later master of a merchant vessel. Batten himself, though apprenticed to the Merchant Taylors’ Company of London, had a long naval career. He became a navy commissioner in 1638, and in 1642 was appointed second-in-command of the fleet under the Earl of Warwick. ‘Notoriously friendly to the Presbyterians’, he supported Parliament during the Civil War and was conspicuous in the attack and relief of besieged ports. But after assisting the escape of some of the Members impeached by the army in 1647, he was forced to resign his vice-admiral’s commission. During the second Civil War he joined Prince Charles in Holland with the Constant Warwick, a frigate of which he was part owner. He was knighted by the Prince and appointed rear-admiral, but in November 1648 the seamen mutinied against him and he resigned. It is not certain when he returned to England. Some time before 18 Nov. 1654 he had petitioned Cromwell for his share (£161 6s.3d.) on the appraisement of the Constant Warwick, a petition which the treasurer of the navy was instructed to disregard. He wrote to Charles on 28 Mar. 1660 offering his services, and was reappointed surveyor of the navy. In this capacity he became closely associated with Samuel Pepys, whose diary contains many references to his corrupt practices. A proviso to the indemnity bill was introduced into the Convention on his behalf, but rejected on third reading.3
The mayor of Rochester, said to represent the ‘cathedral interest’, was ‘a great stickler against’ Batten’s election in 1661. Batten’s son had married the daughter of Stephen Alcock, a wealthy resident of Rochester, in 1657, and this connexion and the enfranchisement of freemen from Chatham may have helped to ensure his election. He was listed as a court dependant in 1664, but he was an inactive Member, being named to 18 committees, the only one of any political importance being for the five mile bill.4
Batten was able to pay off the mortgages of his property in Easton in Gordano, and besides his official house in London, acquired through his first wife a country house at Walthamstow, where according to Pepys he lived ‘like a prince’. In 1664 he had been granted permission to erect two lighthouses at Harwich; the terms of the lease were profitable, but at his death on 5 Oct. 1667 his debts were over £4,000. His elder son, a lawyer, was also a spendthrift, and all the landed property was sold within five years of Batten’s death.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Basil Duke Henning
- 1. PCC 77 Evelyn, 144 Carr; Guildhall Lib. mss 10091/10; C5/442/67; C8/202/10.
- 2. Information from Col. G. F. H. Archer, clerk to the Merchant Taylors’ Co.; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 352, 356; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 248.
- 3. Gardiner, Civil Wars, iii. 349, 360; Cal. Comm. Adv. Money, 945-6; CSP Dom. 1654, p. 398; 1660-1, p. 75; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 621; CJ, viii. 83.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1667, p. 117; M. V. Jones, ‘Parl. Boroughs of Kent’ (Lond. Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1967), 284; C8/249/47.
- 5. C7/26/85; C8/202/10; Pepys Diary, 31 Oct., 1 Nov. 1660.